A CATERHAM CACOPHONY AIDS THE SILVERSTONE SEND-OFF
If anyone thought that the racing amongst Caterham Motorsport’s championships this season had been intense, they apparently weren’t expecting just how much more heart-stopping they could become when they descended on Silverstone’s International circuit. The BRSCC Finals Weekend crowned many champions and settled many scores as the 2017 season came to a dramatic close.
Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald marked the end of his first season racing with a win in the Caterham Academy Autumn Trophy – Photo: SnappyRacers
With their first year of racing just about in the bag, the CAR Magazine Caterham Academy Championships came to Silverstone with two new champions guaranteed. The Green Group title was all but assured for Daniel French heading into the weekend, and thankfully he didn’t need to take to the podium to clinch it. The victory was left to James Murphy, who drove out to a slightly un-Caterham-like 9-second lead by the flag, with Neil Fraser and Toby Clowes. As for French, he brought it home in a simple 4th place to secure the Green Group crown.
The White Group saw points leader Andy Morgan, and Tom Allen take turns at the head of the field before young Tom Grensinger hit the front to lead the rest of the way home. Grensinger picked up his second win of the season with Chris Bates finishing 2nd and Allen 3rd. A few cars back, Morgan couldn’t better 7th place, but that turned out to be all he needed as he would still become White Group champion by 11 points in the final standings. An excellent end to the Academy’s first year! Well, it wasn’t quite over just yet.
Sunday morning brought the first of two unique races known as the Caterham Academy Autumn Trophy – the first time that drivers from both Green and White Groups would get to race each other on track at the same time, giving us a glimpse as to what we could expect in next year’s Roadsport Championship. If the race for Group A (odd-positioned championship finishers) was anything to go by, it’s going to be VERY entertaining! A breakaway pack of 8 drivers charged away at the front, never separated more than a couple of seconds per laps and putting on a storming display of racecraft. With six different leaders during the 15 minutes, Tom Allen would see off both Academy champions to win, with Daniel French beating Andy Morgan as they filled out the podium.
In the Group B race for even-numbered championship finishers, there was further cause for celebration. Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald managed to break away from the pack with Saturday race winner James Murphy, with the pair swapping places lap after lap. Eventually, MacDonald slipped past on the last lap and defended well into the final few corners to finally pick up his first ever circuit racing win. Murphy took a valiant 2nd place with Tom Grensinger completing the rostrum. We hear Graham hasn’t stopped bragging about it in the Caterham office since! Well done to all of this year’s Academy drivers, and we look forward to seeing you in Roadsport in 2018 – and of course our brand new class next year too!
Speaking of the Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship, that was sewn up on Saturday afternoon, as Pete Walters would clinch it in excellent style; that didn’t mean he wasn’t made to work for it. All race long, both Walters and critical rival Jay McCormack traded places and ran nose to tail, keeping everyone on tender hooks until the end. Despite McCormack’s best efforts, including smashing the lap record by 0.4 seconds in the process, he couldn’t overhaul Walters who took the win and the championship in emphatic fashion. McCormack was pleased with P2, while Tom John had to overcome a frantic six car squabble to make the final podium place. McCormack would get his revenge in Race 2 by having to overcome a safety car and another wheel-to-wheel duel with Walters, beating the new champ to the flag by just 0.097 seconds with Anthony Taylor taking his first podium in 3rd.
One of the more dramatic situations was found in the ALACO Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship, where the title ended up going to the final race to be decided. Russ Olivant went into the weekend just about poised to become champion, but Rob Watts and co were out in force to try and stop him. That said, only placing 9th in Race 1 didn’t help matters, especially when one of his principal adversaries Alex Jordan would take the win from Andrew Perry and Gary Smith, with Watts also taking P5. With Olivant needing 7th place and Watts desperately requiring a win plus the fastest lap to help his cause, nerves were being tested come Sunday afternoon. The title picture changed lap after lap, especially when Olivant dramatically spun at Stowe corner, pushing him down the order and forcing a fightback. While Watts had to dig deep to dice for the lead, Olivant was working out in his head just what he had to do to win. Eventually, Perry would win Jordan and Watts, but for the latter, it wasn’t enough; Olivant only scored 11th place, but it was sufficient to become 270R champion. Talk about a nervous time for all!
But if you thought that was dramatic, that was nothing compared to the intense and unfathomable situation withing the ITC Compliance Caterham Supersport Championship. In what potentially could have been the series and the cars’ swansong, Henry Heaton, Tim Dickens and Mike Evans went into the weekend separated by just 1 point on dropped scores. With everything to play for, Race 1 saw an early but brief safety car further heighten tensions, but during green flag racing, all 3 title contenders took turns at the front. They would occupy the podium together with Dickens the winner from Evans and Heaton, leaving a two-point spread heading into the final race.
What followed on Sunday was genuinely a contender for one of the best and most unbelievably stress-inducing Supersport races ever seen; rather fitting if it was to be quite possibly the last ever! With any of the three title protagonists needing to head the other two to win, it became a rapid strategic game of chess with two rouge pawns thrown in for good measure – Christian Szaruta and Ian Payne. Both would mix it up as the five cars formed a tight pack at the front of the field and every lap brought about another lead change. There would be more than 20 in total across the 30-minute race as the quintet regularly swapped around, but right down to the last few corners it was anyone’s guess. In the end, it would all fall to Mike Evans who won the race and the championship with Dickens 2nd and Payne 3rd. Arguably, the best race of the entire weekend and possibly even the season!
The ITC Compliance Caterham Seven 310R Championship was settled in slightly more straightforward circumstances, with champion-elect Lee Bristow making sure he was able to wrap it all up in perfect fashion. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have to work for it, as he was pressed all the way by Chris Rankin in 2nd place for just about the entire encounter. Come the chequered flag, Bristow’s win was more than enough to confirm the title was coming home with him with Rankin just behind, while 3rd place came to Caterham returnee Nathan Bell, racing for the first time since switching to the Mazda MX-5 SuperCup this year. Bristow elected to call it a season early by sitting out Race 2 to avoid any the risk of any penalty points, leaving Rankin to assume the top spot himself. Incredibly, he would turn in a lights-to-flag performance with a superb win, while 2nd and 3rd were picked up by James Houston and Richard Lambert respectively.
Another driver sitting out the finale was Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R champion Danny Winstanley, who was an interested spectator over the weekend watching his main rivals battle for the spoils this time. His main adversary Lee Wiggins went into what could be his final Caterham weekend for a while with an eye for the victory, but the rest of the pack had something to say about that. The first 420R race was an absolute cracker, as the leading train grew larger and larger with every lap. As the likes of William Smith, Stephen Nuttall, Elliot Norris and more chased after Wiggins in the early laps, none of them counted on Jack Sales to storm through so quickly from 18th on the grid! Despite being as high as 3rd at one stage, Sales couldn’t better 5th as Wiggins won from Norris and Nuttall.
More of the same came in the second race on Sunday with even more incredible racing amongst an ever-growing train of leading cars. While Nuttall, Sales and Smith all took turns in the lead at one stage, Wiggins once again showed his class by completing a poignant double with Smith and Nuttall following him home.
Thus, another incredible year for Caterham Motorsport finished with racing that entertained from start to finish. It’s a testament to the hard work put in by Abi Hay, Lucy Hart, Simon Lambert and everyone within the organisation, as well as former co-ordinator Jennifer Mouratsing too for her early season efforts. We look forward to more of the same in 2018!
The “supporting cast” of sorts also knew how to put on an entertaining display, starting with the Excool BRSCC OSS Championship. Before racing even began, there were dramas as main frontrunners Mike Jenvey, Josh Smith and even Matt Manderson all hit mechanical issues during qualifying. This forced them to either run in a backup car or struggle through into Race 1, where Jenvey would retire with engine issues. His crucial rival Duncan Williams kept his title hopes alive with an overall victory from Matt Manderson and Richard Wise, while Jenvey was forced to put in an all-night shift back at the workshop changing the engine. Returning on Sunday morning with a point to prove, Jenvey’s effort was rewarded with some small fortune, as Williams was next to suffer engine dramas in Race 2 with retirement halfway through. It allowed eventual Class A champion Patrick Sherrington to take his first overall OSS win aboard his MCR, with old friend Jenvey 2nd and Wise 3rd.
But, cruelly, fate decided the first corner of Race 3 would choose the direction of the title as Williams became caught up in someone else’s incident and, with the #10 Juno out on the spot, all Jenvey had to do was finish. That he did with relative ease, winning the last race outright to confirm himself as a double OSS champion, followed by Wise and Sherrington. Jenvey can now carry the #1 once again into the 2018 season, after another superb year for the always fast, elegant and noisy OSS Championship!
The last BRSCC title of the weekend was settled in the Teekay Couplings Production GTis, with the Mk2 Championship’s 16V crown still to be decided heading into their pair of races on Sunday. Chris Webb had to make sure the #1 wasn’t going home with anyone else but him, while Dan Gibbs had other ideas. This was made all the more interesting when PGTi returnee Peter Milne raced his way to a 16v win in Race 1 with Webb 2nd and Gibbs 3rd. Knowing that he had to finish strong, Webb gave it everything in Race 2 to end the season as champion, winning emphatically from a charging Nick Porter in 2nd and previous winner Milne 3rd. In the 8V class, confirmed champ Matthew Eccles took Race 1, but incredibly lost out to Luke Haberman on the last corner of Race 2 in a dramatic finish.
As for the Mk5 contingent, Simon Hill once again showed his speed and class with Race 1 victory, followed by a personal best result for Altay Ali in 2nd place with James Howlison taking 3rd. Hill’s luck would take a nosedive in Race 2, leaving the way clear for Paul Blackburn to pick up his first ever PGTi victory in fine fashion. Ali pressed him all the way as he once again took P2 with Adam Hance completing his year in 3rd.
Last but by no means list, our friends at Track Attack Race Club appeared on Sunday with their own Autumn Trophy races, marking a fun end of season thrash for many of their competitors. With a field full of a variety of makes and models. Nick Gwinnett took his first ever circuit win aboard his Renault Clio in Race 1 from Bob Hosier’s SEAT Leon and Elliot Dunmore’s MINI. Later that day in Race 2, Tony Hunter confirmed why he carries the #1 on his own rapid Renault Clio with victory in the second race from the Toyota Celica of Lee Mabbett and another 3rd place for the MINI of Dunmore.
A massive thank you goes to all of our drivers, teams, Club personnel, officials, marshals and spectators throughout 2017 for making it one of the most intense and exciting years on track for the BRSCC, with the premise of 2018 being even bigger and better!
You can find the full breakdown of results from Silverstone here via TSL Timing – SILVERSTONE RESULTS