BRSCC, CATERHAM & CO PUT ON A SCORCHER AT SNETTERTON
The late June sunshine was just as hot and intense as the action on track this past weekend, as the BRSCC East Anglian Centre took to the Snetterton 300 circuit amidst beautiful weather conditions. With title battles beginning to take shape and favourites starting to emerge, the second half of the campaign will be all important as every single point counts from here on in. One small slip and it could be game over!
The beginners of the Caterham Academy kicked off the action on Saturday with the White Group lining up in the first race of the day. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for things to kick off as a red flag incident left two cars stranded exiting Wilson hairpin on the opening lap, forcing a restart. Once racing did get underway properly, it was left to Tom Wyllys and Blair Mcconachie, the two main men in the championship battle, to slug it out for the race win. Wyllys was going for a clean sweep of the first three circuit races but on this occasion it was not to be, as Mcconachie stole the lead and halted the streak with victory to leave Wyllys in 2nd place; James Fowler collected the final podium place.
Over in the Green Group later in the day, a similar story played out at the head of the field minus any red flag dramatics. Alexander Conway and James Venning went back and forth as they traded turns for the lead lap after lap. The skirmish was concluded when a mistake from Venning saw him drop down to 3rd place, leaving Conway to take the win on the road. However, a post-race 5 second penalty for Conway saw him demoted to 2nd place, leaving Dimitri Melas to inherit his first Caterham race win, with Venning maintaining 3rd place to the flag.
Will Rossetti wasn’t quite satisfied with maintaining a front row place on the grid for the first Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport race, as he quickly turned this into a lead which he would fail to relinquish. He put on a display that emulated his race win at Silverstone to take the flag by a rather un-Caterham like winning margin of 6 seconds, leaving his rivals behind to dice over the remaining podium places. In a sprint to the line, Ben Buckley pipped Ben Lopez-Appleton to 2nd place by just 0.059 seconds in one of many photo finishes. The second race saw the race stopped after two separate incidents on the opening lap, including a dramatic rollover for Fraser Jones which thankfully he walked away from relatively unscathed. In the race itself, four drivers took turns in the lead in an intense encounter. A spin for Race 1 winner Rossetti on Lap 3 dropped him down the pack and eventually saw him end up 19th, while at the front the fate of the race fell into the lap of Stuart Bell, another Silverstone race winner, as he beat Angelos Alvanos to the line by just a tenth of a second in a nail-biting finish, with Lopez-Appleton continuing his climb up the points table with another solid 3rd place.
Any regular person who gets injured just before a race weekend may take the sensible option of sitting out for the weekend to recover. However, no-one seemed to inform Daniel French of said option when it came to the Motul Caterham Seven 270R Championship. A broken finger sustained on Friday while working on his car forced Daniel to make an emergency hospital trip, but despite the advice of doctors he elected to soldier on and race. What followed was nothing short of heroic as despite qualifying 8th whilst overcoming severe pain from his injury, French quickly worked his way into a two-way fight for the lead with 2018 Roadsport title rival James Murphy. A back and forth struggle emerged with Matt Sheppard keeping a watching brief in 3rd place as the two cars traded the lead almost endlessly. However, it was once again the sprint to the chequered flag that decided the result. Timing his move to perfection, French incredibly snatched the win away from Murphy by just 0.006 seconds, with the closely tailing Sheppard ensuring the top 3 was covered by no more than 0.130 seconds! So exhausted was French, that his fellow podium finishers had to help him out of the car after the race, such was the effort of battling through the pain.
French therefore picked up pole position for Race 2 with the chance to do an incredible double, but this time instead of a one-on-one duel it turned into a 5-car battle that saw positions changing every few corners each lap. Incredibly, French was able cross the line in the lead for more than half the race, but it was only late in the second half of the race that others took their turn. James Murphy, Gregory Monks and championship leader Justin Heap all made it to the head of the group at least once and with Chris Moore joining the group in the final couple of laps, six cars headed to the flag with a chance of victory. In another photo finish, Heap beat French and Monks to the line as all three cars covered less than a tenth on the timing screen! Now the question is – will French’s broken finger heal in time for the next rounds at Donington Park.
The Santander Caterham Seven 310R Championship saw a chance for Gordon Sawyer to get his dominance of the series back on track after Oulton Park blotted his copy book with a 7th place and a DNF. Despite missing out on pole, with that honour going to Jay McCormack, Sawyer was able to quickly burst to the front of the field and then proceeded to partake in a race long face-off with Matthew Lambert. Try as he might, Sawyer did everything he could be ensure he would be racking up his 5th win of the season, but in the end he timed his run onto the Senna Straight just a little too late and in his efforts to steal the win away, Lambert ended up keeping him at bay by 0.027 seconds. Behind them, a scrap for 3rd place that began in the opening laps ended with a little skirmish on the final corner. Jay McCormack’s tyres were past their best and as the cars behind stacked up in their efforts to pass, Pete Walters ended up getting a little too over-excited saw his race conclude landing on top of Andrew Perry’s right rear wheel. Both drivers were OK, but both cars needed work before Race 2.
Thankfully for Sawyer, it was back to business as usual in the second race as he grabbed the lead from the start and was able to stretch out a 1.4 second margin by the end of the opening lap. Sawyer then made the most of the clear air to further extend his lead while the rest of the pack squabbled over 2nd place. By the chequered flag, Sawyer’s 5th win of the season was secure with a lead of just over 6 seconds, much akin to Will Rossetti’s Roadsport success the day before. Whilst he romped to victory, Pete Walters and Andrew Perry put their last lap escapade from Saturday behind them and both shot through the field almost effortlessly as they charged into 2nd and 3rd place respectively, despite starting towards the back of the grid – two incredible drives!
In the top-line Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship, John Byrne must have felt that he was experiencing Oulton Park all over again as a fuel pump problem put him out of the Superpole shootout, forcing him to change cars and start Race 1 from the back of the grid. At the front, former double champion Aaron Head took the three points for setting fastest Superpole time, but didn’t get to hold on for too long thanks to an opening lap incident which took out both Stephen Collins and Sir Chris Hoy. With fluid left on the circuit, Head was one of the drivers to run through it, but wrongly mistook the slide he suffered as a punctured tyre. Heading into the pitlane just before the safety car appeared, Head dropped to the tail of the field as a result before making a second visit just before the green. When racing resumed, William Smith took over the lead but immediately came under pressure from Tim Dickens and the pair traded the lead. In the end, Dickens timed his move perfectly on the last lap and pipped him to the post to pick up his first 420R win. With Smith 2nd, Henry Heaton completed a 2013 Academy reunion on the podium.
As for John Byrne, more technical problems saw him retire after just one lap in Race 1, forcing him to once again start from the back of the grid. But, just as he had at Oulton Park, Byrne made sure he didn’t hang around and carved his way through the pack in next to no time. Another first lap collision left Rob Watts out of the race and the safety car leading the field through the pitlane while the track was cleared. When racing resumed, Byrne had already climbed halfway through the field as Smith led the way from Dickens and Heaton. Lap by lap, Byrne picked off the cars in front one by one until he was in touching distance of the top 5. With three laps to go, Byrne was able to catch and pass leader Dickens to with three laps to go and from there he was never headed. Byrne completed another fantastic back to front drive with Smith and Dickens coming home behind him. However, the stewards felt that along the way both Byrne and Dickens had transgressed at some point throughout the race and were both given time penalties that moved them down to 2nd and 4th respectively, giving Smith the win and promoting Heaton to 3rd as a result.
Away from Caterhams, the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship began the second half of its season in Norfolk with a small change in the form book. Group A produced a brand new pole sitter in Joe Wiggin, topping his qualifying group and lapping quicker than top Group B pace setter and title contender John Langridge. Wiggin got the jump at the start of Race 1 and held off advances from points leader Will Blackwell-Chambers and Langridge to drive on and take his first MX-5 Championship victory. Langridge collected 2nd place with Wiggin’s Tucker Motorsport teammate Jack Brewer equalling his best career result from Angelsey last time out with 3rd place. Moving into Sunday, Wiggin went on to make it two out of two in the second Group A race, but this time was able to pull away a little further and created a lead double that of his win the previous day. This left Langridge and Brewer to dispute 2nd place again, with the latter coming out on top on this occasion. Wiggin then drove on to seal the deal and complete the hat-trick, putting in his most dominant drive of the weekend and pulling away from another 2nd place duel between Langridge and Brewer, with the podium ending up a carbon copy of Race 2.
The Group B contingent first saw Richard Wootten fend off an early challenge from Owen Mills to take victory in the first race with Mills 2nd and Oliver Jenkins in 3rd place. Charlie Rawles then extended out a gap in the early stages of Race 2 before rookie Fraser Fenwick put the pressure on in the closing stages, but alas Rawles held out to take the win with Clive Chisnall picking up a brilliant 3rd place. The weekend came to a close with Bryn Griffiths picking up the final Group B honours with Australian driver Tim Dore collecting a personal best 2nd and Jenkins picking up another 3rd place.
The first Mazda MX-5 Super Series race produced yet another race winner, as long time Mazda stalwart Jeremy Crook put his new BC Cars Motorsport prepared MX-5 to good use to lead both from the start and after a safety car restart thanks to Alex Miller’s stranded car on the kerbs at Nelson corner. Shortly after, an incident involving Natalie Brookes left her car in the middle of the track at Wilson hairpin, bringing out the red flag and declaring the result with Crook taking his first overall race win from Matt Pickford and Simon Orange. Turning to Sunday, it was all about one man as Bradley Kent stormed into the lead from the start, held on throughout another safety car period and then stopped Crook from collecting his second win by claiming his first Super Series win; Orange was able to pick up another 3rd place. Then in Race 3, Kent was untouchable as he left the rest of the pack for dust and won by an astonishing 13 seconds, leaving Orange and Patrick Collins to contest the podium places behind.
Simon Hill had a minor scare in the first Teekay Couplings Production GTi race of Sunday’s action, as an error midway through Coram on Lap 2 saw him take to the grass and drop to 5th. The championship leader wasn’t keen on staying there, however, as he charged back through to reclaim the lead from defending Mk5 champ James Colbourne to complete something of a “Great Escape” as he won Race 1. Thankfully, Race 2 was more straightforward as Hill completed a lights to flag to notch up his 8th victory of the 2019 season, firmly putting him in line to wrap up the 2019 Mk5 class title before the end of the season. The Mk2 honours all weekend were held by defending class champ Tim Hartland, with Chris Webb and Luke Haberman taking a brace of 2nd and 3rd places respectively.