CATERHAM & BRITCAR BATTLE WEATHER LOTTERY AT BRSCC SNETTERTON FINALE
It was a weekend of all seasons of sorts for both Caterham Motorsport and Britcar Endurance as both paddocks completed their shortened 2020 campaigns at Snetterton, with typical Autumnal weather conditions affecting both days of racing and providing a real challenge for both cars and drivers.
There were effectively three Caterham titles to settle in Norfolk with the Seven UK crown provisionally wrapped up at Donington Park a couple of weeks earlier. The first of these titles was that of the Caterham Roadsport Championship, where Tom Wyllys and Blair McConachie entered the weekend level on points and with Wyllys missing Donington and allowing McConachie to claim both wins in the process meant it was still all to play for in the final two races. Wyllys clinched pole for the first race but a strong start from McConachie brought him level into the first corner and before long it was Blair ahead of Tom with Carl Jones and Harry Eyre in the lead group. The quartet swapped positions several times throughout the race in their own private battle at the front but eventually Eyre dropped off the back of the group, leaving the top three to put on a side-by-side-by-side photo finish as Jones snatched the win from Wyllys and McConachie, the podium covered by less than half a tenth of a second! A soaking wet circuit greeted the drivers for Race 2, but a fast-starting Eyre jumped into the lead early on while McConachie jumped Wyllys initially, before the Scot made a mistake running wide at Oggies to lose several places. Wyllys did his best to catch and keep up with leader Eyre but in the end Harry was able to pull away in the final laps to pick up the win, while 2nd place for Wyllys was enough to take the Roadsport title, his second crown in as many years. Race 1 winner Jones was 3rd while McConachie could only recover to 4th place after his earlier mistake.
Four drivers entered the Caterham Seven 270R Championship finale with a chance at taking glory, as Harry Cook, Ben Lopez-Appleton, Lars Hoffmann and Angelos Alvanos all prepared for battle. However, it was Andy Lees that initially took the lead at the start of the first race, leaving the title contenders to scrap it out amongst themselves behind him in the early laps. Cook found himself dropping back behind his three rivals and Alvanos’ chances took a knock when he was elbowed out of position by Andrew Murgatroyd, while ahead both Lopez-Appleton and Hoffmann found a way past Lees but unable to drop him as the trio continued pulling away. Still fighting hard for victory heading onto the last lap, Hoffmann eventually came out with the win with Lopez-Appleton just holding off Lees for 2nd place at the flag, but for Alvanos and Cook, they could only manage 5th and 7th respectively as they slotted in between Giuseppe Felet and Murgatroyd. Lopez-Appleton got the best start in a wet Race 2, but Hoffmann grabbed the lead moments later and wouldn’t be headed for the rest of its duration. With a spin for Lopez-Appleton also aiding his cause, Hoffmann charged to the final win of the season to become the 270R champion, with Alvanos and Lees joining him on the podium and BL-A only coming home down in 7th.
Arguably the most dramatic of the three title deciders on the day was the Caterham Seven 310R Championship with only five points covering the top four and everything to play for. James Murphy headed Greg Monks into the opening corners with fellow title rivals Tom Grensinger and Lewis Thompson hot on their heels, and the top two traded the lead in the first few laps to the benefit of the car behind. Murphy, Monks, Grensinger and Thompson all took turns in 1st place as the 30-minute encounter rumbled on with the contenders even going four-wide into Riches at one point, but a key moment took place in the closing stages when contact with Pete Walters sent Grensinger into the barrier exiting the Agostini hairpin, effectively curtailing his championship chances. Eventually, a drag race to the flag saw Monks steal victory from Murphy on the final straight with Thompson completing the podium. What followed for Race 2 were utterly atrocious weather conditions with heavy rain throwing one last catalyst into the mix, something Monks found wasn’t to his advantage as both he and Thompson spun at Riches at the start, leaving them on the back foot. Murphy had to win the race to stand any chance of becoming champion, but DPR teammate Matt Sheppard managed to work his way to the lead early on which appeared to be an advantage. Murphy gave chase and did manage to catch and pass Sheppard, but as it turned out the move came too late. A red flag was called shortly after the move was done thanks to three cars off the road at Coram in separate incidents, but the results were counted back a lap, handing Sheppard the win in the end with David Yates in 3rd. Meanwhile, Monks could only climb back to 9th, but that turned out to be enough to hand him the 2020 championship title in the most dramatic conclusion of the day!
John Byrne, meanwhile, was already champion-elect in the Caterham Seven UK Championship and decided not to trouble himself with the final two races of the year, which meant someone would finally be able to take another race win for themselves. It all boiled down to Henry Heaton and Stephen Nuttall in their battle to score the runner-up position in the points and the pair started Race 1 on the front row together. Heaton headed Nuttall for most of the race but a late move from Stephen gave him a chance at his first win of the year. Even though Heaton stayed close to the end, he couldn’t repass and Nuttall clinched victory, while Gordon Sawyer distanced himself from the scrapping pack behind him to take an easy 3rd. With a wet track for the second race, conditions were trickier, but an early pass by Nuttall on Heaton gave him the lead for the majority of the race, as Heaton slipped back through the top five. Sawyer incredibly caught and passed Nuttall in the closing stages, before a mistake at Hamilton saw him lose the lead on track, but thankfully a red flag to stop the race came to his rescue as the result went back a lap and allowed him to take his first Seven UK win. Nuttall remained 2nd and an incredible drive from Ian Sparshott saw him take a much-deserved podium finish with 3rd.
That wasn’t the end of the Caterham activities, as there was one more standalone race that saw this year’s Academy graduates back on track yet again. This time, a vast number of the drivers had already upgraded their cars since the Donington finale and were present in the first ever 2021 Roadsport Challenge to give them a taste of what to expect next year. Many of the front runners from both Academy groups were in action and had to tackle the same wet conditions that many drivers also had to tackle throughout the day. White Group champion Taylor O’Flanagan took an early lead leaving Green Group champ Tom Cockerill and Domenique Mannsperger to duke it out for 2nd place in the early stages, eventually seeing Germany’s Mannsperger take the place and break free to chase after O’Flanagan. Having shown his wet weather prowess at the start of the season, Mannsperger managed to tail his champion rival for several laps before passing him at Agostini after O’Flanagan made a mistake. Domenqiue then drove on to take his third win in a row with Cockerill in 2nd and O’Flanagan managing to salvage 3rd after his mishap.
All of the above took place on the Saturday, leaving the circuit clear for Sunday’s racing action from the Britcar Endurance paddock for their season finale. The Trophy category went first, with a couple of cars choosing to sacrifice their grid position in favour of changing on to wet tyres given the changing conditions. The title contending Ginetta of Charlotte Birch and Adriano Medeiros plus the Peugeot RCZ of Rob Smith and Charlie Campbell both made this choice, as did Richard Higgins in his Porsche 996, leaving the head of the field at the start to be dominated by front wheel drive VW Sciroccos and Renault Clios. Throughout the race, two safety cars occured allowing Higgins to rise highest of the three wet tyre starters, and his pace after his mandatory stop allowed him to claim the lead and the win at the flag, followed by the Birch/ Medeiros Ginetta in 2nd place and the Smith/ Campbell Peugeot in 3rd. In that first race, the BMW of Oliver Smith suffered an incident which put him out of the race and with Smith also in contention to win the championship, he needed a mega final race.
Smith would start from the back as the Race 1 positions decided the grid, but it didn’t take him long to pick off half the field in the opening lap before steadily making up places one by one throughout the 50 minute encounter. As key rivals Anthony Hutchins and the Birch/Medeiros were forced out due to mechanical issues, the potent little Smart ForFour of Jon Packer and Rob Baker took the lead through the pit stops, as did the Porsche of Higgins before he stopped late, but by that time Smith had already sailed through into a lead he would not lose. Smith duly won the race and the Britcar Endurance Trophy title, with Higgins in 2nd and the Baker/Packer Smart completing the podium.
Over in the Endurance category, a pair of Praga R1Ts were ready to battle a Ferrari for the crown and qualifying suggested it was advantage Praga with front row lockout thanks to the driver pairings of Jack Fabby and Gary Townsend in one car and Danny Harrison and Jem Hepworth in the other. However, it was the Paul Bailey/ Ross Wylie Ferrari 488 Challenge that powered into the lead at the start of Race 1 followed by the Radical RXC Coupe of Ben Dimmack and Steve Burgess, with the top two cars switching places early on. Both were duped by the charging MacG Racing Taranis of Jonny MacGregor, who ended up leading most of the way but began to fade in the closing stages, eventually being caught by Harrison’s Praga which then went on to win the first encounter. MacGregor maintained 2nd place, while Fabby brought the second Praga onto the podium ahead of the Ferrari.
MacGregor bounced back at the start of the final Endurance race of the season, taking the lead from the start but stood to lose it not long after the end of the first lap after a mistake at Murrays, giving Hepworth in the Praga and the Radical a chance to pass. MacGregor’s race would end midway through with an oil leak, but not before the conditions changed enough to force everyone to make early pitstops to change tyres as a brief but light shower of rain dampened the track. As the circuit dried again, the Praga pair of Harrison and Fabby took over as the dominant duo at the front and managed to hold on to win with Fabby’s car taking the flag first ahead of Harrison, whose 2nd place gave both he and Hepworth the Endurance title. A hard-charging Ross Wylie made the most of his slick tyres to take a strong 3rd place in the Ferrari.