2017 SEASON REVIEW: AVON TYRES CATERHAM ROADSPORT CHAMPIONSHIP
The Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport championship is the next step on the Caterham ladder for Academy drivers & cars from 2016. With light modifications and a change to track orientated tyres, this enables them to enjoy another year of racing with the friends they have battled against in the hugely successful Academy series. 2017’s Roadsport grid was comprised of a combination of drivers from the two 2016 Academy groups, joined by novice drivers entering, or rejoining Caterham racing.
Pete Walters had been marked as one to watch at the start of the Roadsport season, following an Academy year where he had become steadily faster, picking up a win at the season’s final round. Sure enough, the 37 year-old proved to be the overriding force in Roadsport in 2017, taking half of the available wins during the season on his way to his first title.
However, it was his nearest rival, energetic Irishman Jay McCormack that started the year most strongly, winning the first race, whilst Pete Spencer won the second. But when the championship moved on to Spa-Francorchamps, Walters began to dominate and took the next four wins.
The fourth of those victories came following a restart of Brands Hatch’s second race of the weekend. Walters and McCormack had thrilled the crowd with a dramatic side-by-side dual, that lasted without break for a lap-and-a-half of the first race start, until the relatively inexperienced drivers touched wheels on the exit of Graham Hill. It was enough of a clash to break McCormack’s steering, leaving him stranded mid-track and sending the chasing pack scattering. In the confusion, Pete Spencer, Eric Tiv and Caterham’s Commercial Director, David Ridley all made heavy contact with each other and the barriers, bringing the race to a stop, whilst Anthony Taylor managed to thread his car through the eye of a needle to emerge from the pile-up unscathed.
There was to be more drama at the following round at Donington, after a collision at Redgate when Anthony Taylor’s luck ran out and he collected the spinning Caroline Everett. A successful Code 60 period ensured no further damage and the race quickly back underway, but post-race, no less than eight drivers received a one-minute penalty for breaching the Code 60 speed rules (although every driver on the grid was actually over the limit to a greater or lesser degree). Walters win was instead handed to a rather embarrassed Geoff Price who had crossed the line eighth.
Things got back to normal (which meant Walters winning again) at Oulton Park, although the Kent driver only managed one victory that weekend with perpetually second-placed Tom John finally breaking his duck to take his first ever, and long expected, win; at a circuit he claims he likes the least. The 42 year-old’s victory added to his tally of podiums that would come to a total of ten for the year, matched only by McCormack (Walters scored nine, though seven were wins). Walters and McCormack would go back to sharing the wins at each weekend for the last two rounds of the year, but by the final event at Silverstone, Walters had built up sufficient margin to give him the advantage; he needed only follow McCormack home in both races to secure the crown. Ever the racer, Walters pushed hard and won the first encounter, taking the title there and then. McCormack took the second race win and both fastest laps, for the runner-up spot whilst John finished third. Academy champion Ben Gillias rounded out the top four.
The road-legal Roadsport race car is a simple development of the 125bhp Ford Sigma powered 2015 Academy car; its performance significantly enhanced by the addition of a rear-anti roll bar and Avon ZZS road legal track tyres.