2019 BEGINS FOR CATERHAM 270R CHAMPIONSHIP AT SILVERSTONE
The Motul Caterham Seven 270R Championship forms the middle step on the Caterham Motorsport roster, with most drivers competing in this championship already sporting at least a season’s worth of racing experience. The majority of drivers here will be fresh from their sophomore year in the Roadsport championship, with the competition continuing to intensify as rivalries that have waged ever since their beginnings in the Academy thrive more and more as they move up together. This weekend at Silverstone on the National circuit, 33 drivers will begin the season in the hope of questing for the title.
The Caterham 270R race car sees the original Academy machine the drivers began with two seasons ago feature all of the relevant Roadsport upgrades from last year, but this time the vehicle receives quite possibly the most significant overhaul in its competition life. The windscreen and headlights are removed to ensure the car becomes completely track focused while an uprated ECU map brings a 10hp increase and a higher rev limit; stiffer track spec springs and dampers are also fitted to complete the “race car” transformation. With professional team support and driver experience also permitted, this is seen by many as Caterham’s “coming-of-age” championship.
Almost everyone from last year’s Roadsport contest makes a move up the ladder together, which means that we could be in store for the same dramatic title contest that ended so spectacularly at Silverstone last year. Eventual champion James Murphy had to survive a heart-stopping final lap incident that appeared to steal defeat from the jaws of title glory. However, while main rival Daniel French ran away with the victory, he crucially missed out on the fastest lap point, allowing Murphy’s eventual 12th place to enable him still to claim the title by just a single point on dropped scores.
With attention now focused on 2019, Murphy’s main task will be to go back-to-back on championship victories and will undoubtedly go into the season as a favourite. He never left the podium places more than twice all season, with one of his best drives coming from the back to 3rd place in Thruxton’s first race earning him the nickname “Superman”. As for French, one of 2017’s Academy champions, his fortunes were somewhat similar albeit arguably his results were more consistent, having never finished lower than 5th all year with six wins to his name. Only his dropped scores forcing him to lose more points than Murphy was all that stopped him becoming champion. This season, he will be fired up to bounce back and with his car in good shape following the Team Enduro, don’t bet against him for a second.
Not many championships have the company’s CEO choose to compete themselves, but that’s precisely what Caterham have with Graham Macdonald. After he decided to take to the track two years ago in the Academy, Graham has been mightily impressive in his grasp of the cut and thrust style of racing Caterhams provide. He probably won’t thank us for pointing out that his only win so far came in the Group B segment of the Academy Autumn Trophy in 2017, but he’s come close to a first championship race victory on so many occasions. With his car now sporting the blue and white of the Scottish saltire, surely third time’s the charm for the boss to reach the top step – even if he is 54 (Sorry, Graham)!
Joining this trio will be a selection of formidable names all ready to pounce on the smallest mistake any of them will make. Daniel Halstead did an excellent job to clinch 4th place in the standings despite non-scoring in three consecutive races at Castle Combe and Thruxton, but did put a win to his name at the European rounds at Zandvoort for good measure. Tom Allen was another driver to miss out on points three times, but made up for it with an impressive string of podium and top 5 finishes with a best of 2nd place in the wet at Castle Combe. Matt Sheppard’s bright yellow racer was also a constant contender for victories and will hope to build on a best of 2nd place at Snetterton from last year.
Another driver who will undoubtedly be fired up to continue his form will be Oli Pratt, who revisits the site of his Super Team’s victory in the Team Enduro race just a few weeks ago. Racing alongside sibling Martin and Roadsport’s Tom Power, Oli was able to show formidable pace in his upgraded racer, meaning that perhaps he may be a dark horse throughout the season if he’s ready to keep this run of form up beyond the 4-hour race. Plus, don’t count out the prominent duo of Justin Heap and Chris Moore, the reigning Academy champions from 2018 who have decided to make the jump two steps up the ladder to test their mettle. Will it be a wise choice or a rude awakening for both drivers in their sophomore year? We’ll be keeping a close eye on them to see how they cope with the heightened competition they’re set to face.
If last year’s Roadsport contest was anything to go by, these guys should certainly be in line to put on the same level of incredible racing they produced throughout 2018. With the drivers now able to benefit from running with teams and outfits of their choice this season, we should be in for another fantastic year of competition as the 270R Championship aims to deliver once more.