CATERHAM SEVEN UK FINALE AT SNETTERTON FEATURES CHAMPION-ELECT BYRNE ON THE SIDELINES
There’s been a recurring theme to every weekend in this year’s Caterham Seven UK Championship – John Byrne shows up, John Byrne dominates, John Byrne wins both races (usually with the fastest lap), John Byrne leaves, rinse and repeat. Although last time at Donington Park it didn’t quite turn out that way as his win streak was finally broken. Nonetheless, his results that weekend were effectively enough to make him champion-elect and earn him the prestigious title of the first ever “British Caterham Champion”, and while this weekend at Snetterton is likely to be his coronation at the final rounds, he won’t be behind the wheel to receive the crown.
Caterham’s premier championship has firmly established itself as one of the most competitive and exciting race series in the country. A grid of high quality, experienced drivers, most of whom have worked their way up through the Caterham ranks, winning races and championships along the way, ensures that the top level of Caterham racing is amongst the most exciting. The Seven 420R used in the Seven UK Championship is a dedicated race machine and is perhaps the fastest racing formula without the benefit of slicks or wings. As with all Caterham racing, close control of the regulations ensures a level playing field of machinery. Plus, after its successful introduction last year, the Championship also features a Superpole element of qualifying with bonus points for the top 3 fastest drivers in that session.
Much like his team boss Danny Winstanley chose to do a couple of years ago, the new provisional champion Byrne has decided that in the interests of preserving his lead on dropped scores, he will sit out the final two races and allow himself to gain back points to confirm himself as the number one once again. This will be his second title in as many seasons and it’s an impressive feat, but while his title will be confirmed this weekend, what this does do is give a prime opportunity for someone to step up in his place and try to dominate the weekend like John has done on many occasions this year.
The man most likely to take up that mantle is Henry Heaton, mainly due to the fact that he was the one that managed to prise the winner’s trophy from Byrne’s hand and become only the second driver all year to win a race. That success had been a long time coming and Henry has a golden chance to put in a commanding performance of his own. To break down exactly why Heaton can’t beat Byrne, John will gain back 50 points from his two dropped scores, meaning that even if Heaton managed to score the maximum amount of 55 points from this weekend (three for Superpole, two wins and fastest lap in each), his deficit to Byrne on dropped scores would only reduce by five points, confirming John as the champion by 12. That’s the best case scenario, but know how fierce the competition has been in the Seven UK ranks aside from Byrne, it definitely won’t be that simple.
Stephen Nuttall, still known by some as the Roger Federer of Caterham racing for his numerous titles in each of the four lower series, will hope that he can take his first win of the season provided he can beat Heaton. These two drivers seem very evenly matched on pace and despite the title being out of his reach on this occasion, it doesn’t mean Stephen will be pushing any less to end 2020 on a high note. An unfortunate retirement from Donington Park after getting caught up lapping the 310R leaders means he only needs to drop one score, that being a 7th place from Brands Hatch, and while puts him under pressure to perform, there’s no doubt that his abilities behind the wheel will shine through and he’ll produce race winning pace when it’s required. Jake Swann-Dixon, who has dovetailed Caterham racing in the last couple of seasons racing Mazda MX-5s and powerboats, has made a really strong step forward in his form this year and his brace of podiums at Brands Hatch are testament to that. One of his best moments was his endless battle back and forth with Rob Watts (6th in points) and despite losing out on that occasion, he still collected 3rd. If he finishes strong here and stays on for 2021, perhaps he could be one to watch.
Outside the title fight, more drivers will want to complete the 2020 campaign with some satisfactory results. It’s been a rocky transition to the 420R machine for outgoing 310R champion Gordon Sawyer, but stealing away a Superpole from John Byrne and even leading at Brands Hatch at one stage have certainly proven that there’s still more pace and potential to unlock from both Gordon and the car. Season regular Harry Cramer is back, while the return of another former Caterham champion in Mike Evans is a welcome sight after he made his comeback at Donington Park. Neil Fraser and Ian Sparshott help to round out the grid, as well as another returnee in Tom Eden, who is no stranger to these top-line Caterhams and will hope that he can make some kind of an impact on his fleeting return visit.