Reigning Champions announce eight driver line up for MINI CHALLENGE UK Trophy

23 Mar 2023

Graves Motorsport can today announce an 8 strong line up for it’s season campaign in the MINI CHALLENGE UK Trophy Championship which it won last year with Nelson King.

Four returning drivers, Nicky Taylor, Alex Solley, Ben Jenkins and Alex Keens will be joined by Jack Byrne and Frankie Taylor, the former winning last years ‘Rookie Cup’ for first year drivers. Two rookies who will be contesting for that honour this year will be James Black and Daniel Armstrong.

As well as winning the outright championship the Graves team had other notable successes in the 2022 trophy championship with a 1-2-3 podium lockout at Pembrey. Whilst Nelson King notched up eleven wins his team-mates were never far behind with another thirteen-podium finishes throughout the year. Sam Pearce has been promoted to team manager and engineering for the 2023 season.

Norwich-based Nicky Taylor heads the line up after finishing fourth in last year’s series, his outstanding pace netting him six podium finishes and two fastest laps in 2022. Fourth year Motorsport Engineering student Alex Solley is another returning driver, showing what he was capable of by claiming pole position at the final event of the season and leading much of first race. Ben Jenkins also set a race fastest lap at Thruxton, his top ten qualifying pace ultimately not landing the Yorkshireman the results he dearly craved. Alex Keens joined the team for the final three events of the year netting himself a ninth place finish at the final round at Brands Hatch after significant progress over the three events.

2022’s rookie champion Jack Byrne from Wexford in Ireland joins the team after running as a privateer entry in his debut season. An impressive tally of eighteen rookie wins, three podium finishes and fastest laps netted him fifth in the overall standings. Frankie Taylor also joins the team having experience in a variety of series. He scored five top ten finishes at three different circuits last term and is hoping a switch to the championship winning Graves outfit will help to push him up to the podium positions.

Two drivers wanting to keep the rookie crown in the Graves camp are James Black and Daniel Armstrong. James initially joined the team as a mechanic aspiring to race himself. Having competed in the Britcar Trophy Clio Cup class for the past 2 years he now joins the MINI Challenge as a driver having mechaniced for Alex Solley last year. James and Daniel are both members of the Motorsport UK Academy Futures programme. Daniel comes into his first season of car racing with a stellar Karting CV, winning the UKC Open in 2022 as well as being seeded 8th and 6th in the Rotax British Championships in 2020 and 2021.

Team manager David Graves said, "I am delighted that four of our drivers are returning with the aim of keeping hold of the MINI CHALLENGE Trophy title that we won last year. A real highlight of that was the first event where we took our first ever 1-2-3 finish, both Nicky Taylor and Alex Solley were massive parts of that and our success last year. Ben Jenkins showed the pace we know he is capable of, especially at Thruxton where he was challenging well inside the top 10. Alex Keens showed a lot of promise in the last few rounds last year and I strongly believe both he and James Black will be strong contenders for the rookie cup this year, hopefully taking the title that Jack Byrne impressively won last year, indeed challenging the very front runners at the end of the season. Daniel Armstrong is starting his car racing journey and made huge progress in our recent two-day test at Pembrey."

The team have been out in force testing at Pembrey Circuit in South Wales testing ahead of the first round of the championship at the team’s home circuit, Brands Hatch. They will be aiming to start the 2023 season as they did in 2022 over the weekend of the 8th and 9th April.