CATERHAM & CO KICK OFF 2019 AT SILVERSTONE
Just a few weeks ago, Caterham Motorsport ran its first ever Team Enduro event here at Silverstone, with many drivers using it as an ideal competitive shakedown before the main season started. Now, this weekend the majority return to the Home of British Motorsport and bring the rest of the party with them. The championship seasons officials start here this weekend, with four of Caterham’s five-strong roster descending on Northamptonshire.
As ever, a new season bring a new bumper entry from the Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship, with 39 cars set to contest the National Circuit’s 1.64 mile layout. This will be a mix of both Green and White Groups from last year’s Academy as front runners from each will get their first true chance to see how they shape up against one another. Interestingly, they will do so without both of last year’s champions Justin Heap (Green) and Chris Moore (White), as both have chosen to move straight into 270Rs this year. The highest placed driver from 2018 to move into Roadsport will in fact be Germany’s Lars Alexander Hoffmann with fellow Green Group top 3 finisher Andrew Murgatroyd for company too. Incredibly, none of the top three from White Group are present, but this will still leave the way clear for the likes of Alan Venters, Craig Menzies, Tom Power and Glenn Moule to step up to the plate. Add in Tom Brown, Will Rossetti, Angelos Alvanos and Ben Lopez-Appleton into the mix and you have a recipe for a very interesting yet unpredictable season ahead in the Roadsport ranks.
Up another step in the Motul Caterham Seven 270R Championship, the drivers expected at the front of the field this year read like a who’s who of stars from the previous two seasons in the Academy. As well as the aforementioned Heap and Moore from last season, both Daniel French and Andy Morgan enter their third season of racing both spoiling for a fight. They may well get on as their task will be to grab the gold from last year’s Roadsport champion James Murphy, a.k.a Superman thanks to his performances last year. All are proven race winners, but more could come from the contenders snapping at their heels behind them. Add in Greg Monks (also making a jump from the Academy), Matt Sheppard, Toby Clowes, Daniel Halstead, Oli Pratt and Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald to the mix, and you can expect the battles in this championship to be endless and highly entertaining.
Another packed grid comes from the Santander Caterham Seven 310R Championship, which takes place without reigning champion Chris Hutchinson as he takes a sabbatical. In fact Gordon Sawyer is the only driver from last year’s top 3 to stay on, but don’t think for a second his chances of winning the title got any easier. Into the mix come the ever charismatic and quick Jay McCormack, 2017 Roadsport champion Pete Walters, Lee Bristow, Tom Grensinger, Donald Henshall, James Beardwell, Nathan Bell and Andrew Perry. Plus, the 2016 Academy White Group champion Ben Gillias makes a return after a year away, but his racing activities elsewhere will keep him sharp for the season ahead. This has all the makings of being a fascinating contest!
At the top of the Caterham tree is the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship, where the cars here are purpose-built, thoroughbred race cars. While double champ Danny Winstanley may have elected to swap the steering wheel for the pit wall to run his own team, that doesn’t mean the quality of driving talent has decreased in his absence. If anything, the influx of fast drivers has only enhanced it! William Smith, Tim Dickens and Henry Heaton (all former champs in the lower ranks) return from 2018, but their competition just got a lot tougher. Enter last year’s 270R champion Jamie Falvey, Russ Olivant who carries two titles to his name and, just to spice things up a little more, the return of Aaron Head who won this championship twice in 2014 and 2016 (back in the Superlight R300 days). This will be the fastest Caterham racing you’ll see all season!
In support of the phalanx of Caterhams in the paddock comes the BRSCC Fiesta Championship racing with MRF Tyres, which heads into a new era thanks to a brand new class structure. What were Classes C and D have merged to create one main class, pitting the Mk6 Ford Fiesta STs against the Mk7 Fiesta Zetec S models. While Sam Watkins, David Nye, Jake Dawson and Tom Hutchins will fly the flag for the Fiesta STs along with Zachary Lucas, the Zetec S contingent by former champion Alastair Kellett along with John Cooper and Luke Bannister. This will be a true test of the efforts made to bring both cars as equal as possible, so the racing should be close and intense.
Over with the BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship racing with MRF Tyres, last year’s champion Magnus Kriklywi makes an appearance in a bid to retain his #1 status, but is expected to be pushed hard by the experienced Olly
Turner. Alfie Glenie, Abby Lock and Ted Potts will be hoping to make further progress in their second full seasons, while newcomer Joel Wren carries a year of junior racing under his belt so expect him to get up to speed quickly across his first weekend in the championship. This series for 14-17 year old junior drivers has spawned a multitude of top graduates that have gone on to compete successfully in touring car and GT racing, and the next star of the future could be on the grid here this weekend.
Looking to start 2019 bright and breezy on Sunday will be the Teekay Couplings Production GTi Championship, one of the most cost effective ways to race a VW Golf GTi. A very impressive Mk5 class line up shows the efforts made to grow the contingent since they first arrived in 2015, with last year’s class champ James Colbourne ready to defend the crown. His main competition will come from Simon Hill, Martyn Walsh, Adam Hance, Paul Blackburn, James Howlison and a newcomer in the form of the experienced Dawn Boyd. Over in the Mk2s, Tim Hartland has stolen the #1 away from Chris Webb, who won’t wish to be without it for too long. Both will likely be given the runaround by race winner Pete Milne as well as Luke Haberman and Matthew Eccles during their battles.
Also in support will be races from two clubs taking to the track on separate days. Saturday sees the appearance of the Classic & Modern Motorsport Club’s Southern Saloon Car Series, where favourites to pick up the overall win will include the pair of Ford Escort Cosworths of Rod Birley and Malcolm Wise, along with the fast Peugeot 308 TCR of Steve Rothery and the Intermarques pairing of Mick Robertson and Paul Cocksedge. On Sunday, the Track Attack Race Club takes their place with another stacked entry in the Nippon Challenge, Tricolore Trophy and Multi Marques. The Renault Clios of Tony Hunter and Nick Gwinnett will be favourites here, along with Clive Haynsford’s mega Mazda RX-8 from Multi Marques and Robbie Durant and Rich Hockley from the Nippon Challenge.