CATERHAM 270R SHAPES UP FOR SNETTERTON IN NORFOLK
The beginning of this year’s 2019 Motul Caterham Seven 270R Championship set a precedent that this season would be the most competitive, most exciting and most unpredictable that Caterham Motorsport had ever seen and produced, and with four different race winners at this stage and many more lining up to clinch their own glory, Snetterton in Norfolk marks the half way point of a breathtaking 2019 campaign.
The Seven 270R is firmly established as the ‘coming-of-age’ championship for those progressing out of the Caterham Academy, through the Roadsport championship and now into a third year of Caterham racing. Unlike the lower categories, there is no restriction on professional team support or driver experience. The Seven 270R race cars have typically made their way up from the Academy ‘17 (or slightly earlier). They have now developed into race focused machines, with stiffer suspension and removal of the windscreen and lights (though they can be quickly refitted for road use) giving them a very similar look to their Seven 310R big brother.
Looking at the way championship leader Justin Heap has performed so far this season, you’d be forgiven for laughing at the fact that this is merely his second season of racing full stop. However, last year’s Academy Green Group champion chose to make the somewhat daring leap past Roadsport and straight into 270R. But as a manic Silverstone season opener proved, it was an inspired choice especially since Justin came out on top of a sensational 29-car race long dice to clinch victory. Incredibly, Heap hasn’t finished outside of the top 5 all season which means that his current 13 point lead heading to Norfolk shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but looking at those chasing him down makes his current position all the more impressive.
Daniel French, a former Academy champion and last year’s Roadsport runner-up (just), is one of two drivers in the field that has more than one win to his name so far this season; although even he would agree they were more than lucky. Both wins came from Oulton Park, the first following a red flag; the race stopped by one of French’s wheels falling off and coming to a rest mid-track, but the Hertfordshire driver limped home, meaning he was classified on countback, at which point he had been leading. The second win was marginally more traditional. He crossed the line second, just behind James Murphy, but the latter picked up a five-second track-limits penalty and French inherited the win.
The other two-time winner this season is Daniel Halstead, who saw success a few weeks earlier at Croft. You’ll always find him Halstead and French contending for victory and Snetterton should be no different as Halstead returns here having taking pole in qualifying last year and both drivers visiting the podium once in Roadsport in 2018. Can either go one better this time and add to their win tallies this weekend?
Neil Fraser and Greg Monks, a fellow 2018 Academy graduate like leader Heap, currently round off the top 5, with Fraser having taken two 3rd places at Silverstone and Croft while Monks also has a podium to has name having secured a rostrum visit at Oulton. Next comes last year’s Roadsport champion James Murphy, who may have been expecting a better start to his season than that which he’s experienced so far. A sole 3rd place at Silverstone is his best result so far, while three 5th places are all that save him from sitting further down the table thanks to a retirement at Croft. The man they occasionally dub “Superman” will need to produce a heroic effort to climb back up the table to catch the leaders.
Toby Clowes has work to do down in 7th in points, while Matt Sheppard came out on top of an epic three-wide finish in Silverstone’s first race but after an up and down Croft weekend, two 2nd places helped catapult him back to 8th place. James McCall and James Gilmour complete the top 10, while outside it Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald has shown flashes of potential race winning form and pace, but misfortunes have sadly prevented him transforming that speed into results. This in turn means that he too has a mountain to climb from 18th place and Snetterton will hopefully see the start of his fightback.