By Mick Palmer
Former BTCC racer and four-time National Hot Rod World Champion Carl Boardley has announced that he will return to Touring Car racing in 2023 – in the TCR UK Championship.
The ex-Team HARD and Laser Tools driver will campaign a CUPRA Leon Competición TCR with SEAT/CUPRA veterans Zest Racecar Engineering.
“I’ve had various things bubbling along for a little while now although this has all come to a conclusion very quickly,” Boardley stated. “I’m very happy to be returning to Touring Car Racing and making my debut in the TCR UK Touring Car Championship this year.
“My racing has to be enjoyable first and foremost,” he continued. “I have a young family at home and our businesses take up a lot of time so committing to a Championship is a big thing, however, make no mistake, we are aiming straight for the ‘pointy end’ of the grid and will look to hit the ground running for round one. Looking from afar to date, the championship appears to have moved on considerably recently and I’m very happy to be a part of the grid in 2023.”
Alongside those four crowns at the top end of Hot Rod competition, Boardley was no stranger to the TOCA bill before his move to Tin Tops. A number of seasons in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup saw him rack up nine wins, and a second (2018) and third (2016) in the final standings.
His Touring Car career began with a one-off move to the BTCC at Knockhill in 2018 during his final Ginetta season – in a Team HARD VW CC. That outing morphed into a difficult first full season in the championship in the front wheel drive car, before a switch to RWD with an ex-WSR BMW 125 for 2020, and an Infiniti Q50 for 2021 – where more regular points scoring results came.
Despite being billed as a sabbatical year Boardley was entered into two rounds for 2022, both with outfits utilising a TOCA TBL each that he owned. At Croft he managed to drive from the turn one assembly area to turn two before a mechanical failure ended his meeting on the Friday evening in the Q50 he previously raced in 2021. At Brands Hatch he raced a Team HARD CUPRA León without seeing the chequered flag. The squad used a Boardley License for the 2022 season before making a permanent move for that slot for the 2023 season. At the time of writing Boardley still holds a TOCA TBL for the upcoming season.
The partnership with Zest should be fruitful. With three full seasons of Touring Car experience in the bag, Boardley joining up with the Malcolm Cleland run outfit will see the pairing become favourites for race wins and podiums.
“We are massively excited to get this across the line with Carl and to renew our involvement with the TCR UK grid,” Cleland said. “Carl and I have ‘crossed paths’ a few times during his time in the BTCC and after discussing the path we both wanted to head for this year, it was clear we would be great together.”
Zest, who became known for running SEAT machines, made their name with the SEAT Leon Cup Cars on which TCR is based, in both sprint and endurance races. They first appeared in the TCR UK class of the former Touring Car Trophy with Guy Coleclough in 2019, before giving 2022 runner up Isaac Smith his championship debut in 2021. The team also bought Jamie Sturgess in his TCR Golf GTI to the series in that season. The partnership with Sturgess has seen Zest run his TCR machine in many championships over the past few years with success in 750 Motor Club and Castle Combe competitions. The team are also no strangers to the TCR UK paddock having run Ryan Bensley in the TCR supporting Civic Cup in 2022.
Cleland added: “The championship has evolved a lot over the last couple of years into one of the most competitive around and although the car has only just landed in our Silverstone-based workshops, it’s now full steam ahead to get both ourselves and Carl acclimatised to the car and the way it works ahead of what we hope will be a very successful season.”
Boardley will begin his pre-season testing program in the coming days in preparation for the season kicking off at Snetterton on April 8th/9th.