CATERHAM SEVEN 310R CHAMPIONSHIP PREPARES FOR NORTHERN TRIP TO CROFT
It’s safe to say that the Santander Caterham Seven 310R Championship got off to an energetic start at the 2019 season opener at Silverstone a few weeks ago, with more of the kind of racing we’ve become accustomed to seeing over the past few years. Tight, close and frantic pack racing with no clear favourite for victory appearing until the very last lap. With the opening two races of the year now in the bag, the drivers venture north as the championship heads to Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire. This weekend will be the first time the Seven 310Rs have visited this venue in their current guise with the last event in 2016 hosting the Supersport Championship, the previous incarnation of the current series.
The Caterham Seven 310R race car is vastly transformed from its original Academy form with all of the previously fitted upgrades from its progress through the ranks of Roadsport and Seven 270R. Its transition into a 310R is complete when the car receives a further power increase to 152hp as well as the addition of a limited slip differential, allowing drivers to experience a more precise level of fine-tuning their car’s setup and handling. It’s the final step before drivers look to move into the top-level 420R Championship, as the drivers get to enjoy what is touted by some as “the best balanced and most enjoyable Caterham ever.”
Silverstone was able to produce something in the Seven 310R Championship that only the 420Rs could match that weekend – a double race winner. That honour fell to Gordon Sawyer, who narrowly missed out on the 2018 title and set about righting that wrong straight away from the opening race. His two wins helped him top the table with 70 points, although he missed out on the bonus points for fastest laps in both to give him the four extra he needed for a perfect score. Sawyer will be hoping to keep this momentum up on a circuit that certainly does possess some of the same traits that Silverstone’s National layout also features.
Multiple race winner Jay McCormack lies in 2nd place just 5 points back, collecting a 2nd and 3rd place from the opening weekend to put himself firmly in contention for the championship once again. Jay has been in this position on more than one occasion and is usually one of the more consistent drivers in the field, given that his previous campaigns from Academy upwards have seen him fighting for the title every single year. While he’s come close on three occasions now, perhaps it’ll be fourth time lucky at a circuit which he won the previous visit to Croft back in his Academy year. Maybe that serves as a good omen for his fortunes this weekend? Whatever happens, the likeable and charismatic Irishman will still be smiling, that’s for sure!
Gordon and Jay are just two of several top drivers who have had to battle their way up the Caterham ranks to reach this level of competition. 2017 champion Lee Bristow began his third season in the championship. 3rd and 5th places were his reward for his efforts on the opening, but his 3rd place in the points table won’t remain as he will be absent for this round. James Beardwell is also a third-year student of the Seven 310R and lies 4th, showing just how much progress he’s made since he made the giant leap from Academy in 2017. Pete Walters has become something of a perennial rival to the likes of McCormack in recent seasons and sits 5th in the standings having taken 6th and 4th respectively at Silverstone. Andrew Perry, the 2015 Academy White Group champion, is just behind him in 6th as he was only able to muster 5th and 8th in the opening two races, while Nathan Bell, Tom Grensinger, James Wingfield and Harry Senior complete the top 10.
There are more notable names outside the top 10 hoping to bounce back after a somewhat average opening weekend by their standards. One of which will be Ben Gillias, another Academy White champion in 2016, who moved up to Seven 310R after a year away from the paddock racing elsewhere. His return saw him realise the competition had stepped up a level and he will hope that Croft allows him to place higher in the order this time. Caroline Everett has shown flashes of pace previously and will be hoping her race pace continues to evolve, while the likes of Don Henshall, Doug Christie and Matt Topham (who picked up a race win last year at Thruxton in 270Rs,) are no strangers to running near the front of the field in previous years. All of them will also be looking to make moves through the pack as the weekend progresses.
As the 310Rs have never raced at Croft before, an inaugural lap record is there for the taking, and the recent resurfacing work made by the circuit will only aid them further. All in all, this ensures that lap times will be quicker than ever and also give our drivers some added grip and confidence and they all chase the coveted top step of the podium. Onwards to North Yorkshire!