2014 SEASON REVIEW: AVON TYRES CATERHAM TRACKSPORT CHAMPIONSHIP
Stephen Nuttall, the Roger Federer of Caterham racing!. Photo: www.snappyracers.com
Tracksport was a new name for the Caterham Motorsport ladder for the 2012 season, although the car and championship remain unchanged since its introduction (as Supersport) in 2010. Unlike the lower categories, there is no restriction on professional team support or driver experience. Most are Caterham racers with several years of experience, making this a fiercely fought championship.
To us Brits, tennis players are judged purely on their performances at Wimbledon; which is why history will not be kind to Andy Roddick. Despite the former world #1 being one of the sport’s top earners during his career and reaching the final of Wimbledon no less than three times, Roddick had the misfortune of being at the peak of his career during the reign of one of the all-time greats: Roger Federer; who beat him every time.
And so it is for Welshman Pete Fortune. There is no doubting the skill of the 56 year-old, who has racked up a number of victories since starting the Academy in 2012; but a championship title remains elusive thanks to Stephen Nuttall. Nuttall and Fortune have provided some of the closest wheel-to-wheel action over the last two years, but the advantage has swung the way of the man from Stockport who racked up a third successive championship this year, marking him out amongst the Caterham Elite.
Initially, it looked as if the battle would go to the wire, but when Fortune missed a race weekend, he had to make every subsequent round count (drop scores allowing a weekend to be missed without destroying a driver’s championship). Unfortunately, a disastrous return dropped him immediately out of the running.
But Fortune was not the only driver able to take the fight to Nuttall and a new star emerged during the 2014 season. Young Spanish driver, Andres Sinclair, who like his fellow competitors has progressed up from the 2012 Caterham Academy, really shone in the Tracksport specification car. In fact, Sinclair crossed the line first at Snetterton, but his joy was short lived as it became clear it was not the only line he crossed during the race and he fell-foul of the season’s new track limit rules. Sinclair’s time penalty handed victory to Nuttall. But Sinclair still made the podium more times than any of the other challengers and when Nuttall, with the championship secure, chose to sit out the final weekend, Sinclair drove to victory and was ultimately rewarded with second in the championship.
Flying Dutchman, Richard Noordhof was the only other driver to win outside of the Nuttall, Fortune, and Sinclair group, taking the final race of the year. Noordhof had threatened a podium performance previously, most notably with a front row start at Donington, but had always failed to capitalise, usually through a self-inflicted mishap. Meanwhile, consistent strong performances paid off for Nick Portlock. Although a race win still eludes him, there has never been anyone happier to finish third in a championship.
The Tracksport cars have typically made their way up from the Academy from ’09 onwards. They have now developed into race focused machines, with stiffer suspension and removal of the windscreen and lights (though they can be quickly refitted for road use), so they look very similar.