2018 SEASON REVIEW: DRAPER TOOLS CATERHAM ROADSPORT CHAMPIONSHIP


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The Draper Tools Caterham Roadsport championship is the next step on the Caterham ladder for Academy drivers & cars from 2017.  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. 

Academy runner-up James Murphy started the year on a high with a brace of wins at Snetterton, setting the scene for a year-long battle-royale with pre-season favourite, reigning Academy champion Dan French, that would culminate in a spectacularly close Silverstone finale.

Hertfordshire’s French managed ‘only’ one podium on the opening weekend but would get back to his winning ways when the championship headed north (really, really, north) to Knockhill for the first time since 2005, sharing the two available victories with Murphy. The pair did the same again at Brands Hatch.  It was not until the mid-season round at Zandvoort that Murphy went away from weekend without a winner’s trophy.  By the time the season had rolled around to the last weekend at Silverstone, the pair were separated by just a single point, Murphy having the advantage. 

With drop scores playing their part, and a win for Murphy in the first of the weekend’s encounters, it all came down to the final race.  The only way French could bag a second successive title would be to win the race and score the additional point for fastest lap.  This would bring the two level, taking it to a tie-breaker that French would win thanks to his six wins versus Murphy’s five.  And while Murphy languished outside the top ten during the race after collision, French did exactly that; led the race wholly unchallenged and had fastest lap.  Until four laps from the end.  Benefitting from the tow(s) of a gaggle of cars fighting over the distant second place, frequently-fast Tom Allen snatched the fastest lap of the race from French and in doing so, changed the outcome of the championship.  Murphy was champion by one-point (345 vs 344), that change in fastest lap meaning French was runner-up by two-hundredths of a second.

The two had dominated the year with some notable exceptions.  Whilst they took eleven wins, they were not the only winners this year.  James McCall stunned everyone by being the master slipstream tactician at Thurxton, winning both races in his only two visits to the podium of the year; seventh was his next best finish.  Daniel Halstead was the first driver to displace Murphy and French from the top step with his long-awaited win at Brands Hatch in the second weekend.  But perhaps the most impressive winner was the combined force of the weather and barriers at Castle Combe, which did its very best to deplete the field in all in the Caterham championships, Roadsports no exception.  In treacherous conditions on the Saturday of the fifth weekend, French led a spread-out field with Matt Sheppard and Halstead behind until Sheppard speared off the track at Club and into the barriers, followed immediately by Halstead, colliding heavily with Sheppard’s stricken car.

More bad luck was to befall Halstead’s freshly rebuilt car just a few racing laps later at Thruxton, resulting in yet another DNF and as such, ending his challenge for the remaining championship podium position leaving the way clear for Caterham CEO to go into the last round unchallenged for the position.  Macdonald, duly finished the year third and at 54-years-old, became the oldest championship podium finisher in Caterham Motorsport this year. Halstead still picked up fourth for his troubles.

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.