The British Truck Racing Championship blasted into action at Brands Hatch this past weekend (April 8/9) with four drivers standing on the top step of the podium across Division 1 and Division 2.
Lifting the curtain on the 2023 season in front of a packed crowd at the famous Kent venue, the heavyweight behemoths served up a sensational five-race Easter extravaganza of wheel-to-wheel thrills and spills around the 1.2-mile Indy circuit.
Division 1 saw the two most successful drivers on the grid – Ryan Smith and Stuart Oliver – make their mark on the title fight by sharing the spoils on offer, with Smith clinching a hat-trick of wins whilst Oliver scooped victory in the other two contests.
A similar trend took place in Division 2 over the course of the weekend as Adam Bint and John Powell ignited their championship challenges by standing on the top step of the podium on more than one occasion; Bint doing so three times whilst Powell triumphed twice.
Smith and Oliver lead the way
Heading into the new season one of the biggest questions was whether reigning seven-time champion Ryan Smith could clinch an eighth successive title in his brand-new – and only just built – unmissable Daimler Freightliner.
In typical ‘Smith style’ those questions were very quickly dismissed as the Mansfield racer lifted the curtain on the season with a virtuoso performance on Saturday; clinching pole position and two wins.
At one stage in qualifying it had looked as if Tom O’Rourke would top the times however a post-session technical infringement relegated him to a pit-lane start – which opened the door for Smith to punch in a scintillating lap late on to top the times.
Smith converted his front-row start into a commanding lights-to-flag victory in the first race of the year despite having to contend with a red flag stoppage following an incident between Jock Borthwick, Steven Powell, Bradley Smith and Michael Oliver at Druids.
Controlling the pace out front, the 41-year-old was perfection personified to open his account for the new season, leading home David Jenkins and Simon Reid.
Race two saw Smith double up with a carbon copy drive. Again contending with more red flags – two this time – the popular racer held off the race-long advances of ten-time champion Stuart Oliver and Jenkins to clinch victory.
The weekend’s third contest – which took place in front of a bumper crowd on Easter Sunday – saw ten-time champion Oliver come to the fore with a decisive drive at the wheel of his Volvo VNL.
Starting third, the Hexam-based driver threaded his way past John Bowler and Craig Reid on the run down Paddock Hill Bend and up to Druids and then scampered off into the distance; leaving Jenkins and Simon Reid to battle over second and third.
Oliver’s second win of the weekend came in what is already being touted as an instant classic. Hitting the front early on, Oliver was soon hunted down by Smith and Jenkins and from mid-distance fans were treated to a captivating back-and-forth three-way duel.
Despite coming under immense pressure from both drivers lap after lap, Oliver delivered a calm performance to remain out front and take the chequered flag.
Smith hit back in the weekend’s fifth and final race, albeit not before there was an early red flag following contact between O’Rourke and Michael Oliver, which left them both beached in the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap.
Once the clear-up was complete and the action resumed, Smith powered his way to the front of the field and once in the lead, he cantered to victory ahead of Simon Reid and Bradley Smith.
Bint and Powell share the spoils
Despite being small in numbers, the Division 2 contingent unsurprisingly served up plenty of entertainment over the course of the weekend for the bumper crowd; some of which began during Saturday morning’s ultra-competitive qualifying session.
In what proved to be a frenetic shootout for top spot, times continued to tumble and when the clock finally ticked to zero it was former champion Adam Bint that snared pole position ahead of John Powell, Craig Evans and Jim Bennett.
Bint didn’t put a wheel wrong in the season-opener as he claimed a commanding victory ahead of Powell, Evans and Bennett. Unfortunately, Paul Rivett was to be a non-starter as his NAPA Racing UK squad battled to fix a mechanical issue on his blue and yellow MAN.
Rivett would make the start of race two however he could do nothing to stop Powell from opening his 2023 win account. Getting the jump on pole-sitter Evans as the lights went out, the DAF driver produced a measured drive to triumph in what was ultimately a shortened, red-flagged contest.
Returning to action on Sunday morning, Powell doubled his account for the weekend in race three after Evans saw an almost certain – and what would have been maiden – win slip through his fingers with just a handful of laps to go.
Showing the metal of a former title winner, Bint hit back in races four and five with two more emphatic wins, the second of which came after a tremendous tussle with Powell, whilst there was also good news for Rivett as he tallied his first rostrum finish of the year.
To view the full classification of results from all British Truck Racing Championship sessions at Brands Hatch, CLICK HERE.
All five races from the 2023 season-opener are now available to view on the British Truck Racing Championship YouTube channel HERE.
The British Truck Racing Championship is next in action on May 20/21 when the series travels to Pembrey Circuit for the popular Convoy Cymru event.