CATERHAM SILVERSTONE REVIEW


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Elliott Norris finally nailed that elusive maiden win at Silverstone last Sunday. Photo: www.rachelhorganphotography.com

Glorious sunshine defeated the threatened fog to welcome in the start of the 2012 Caterham race season on the full Grand Prix circuit at Silverstone last Sunday. With availability of days on the GP circuit few and far between, the four qualifying and eight races were all held on one day, making it the most hectic Caterham race event to date. It was also a day for lucky number eleven, with the three #11 cars in Roadsport, Tracksport and Supersport all winning races. There isn’t a #11 in R300s this year to complete the symmetry…

Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship

The season couldn’t have started better for the 2011 Academy Group 1 champion Elliott Norris. By winning Race 1 (finally getting the winner’s trophy that eluded him last year) and wrapping up the final step of the podium in Race 2, he’s staked his claim at the top of the leader board.

However, the forthcoming season will not be a walk in the park for Norris with a few key players having stepped forward keen to show they can steal his thunder. Alex Macindoe, in his freshly painted black and fluorescent yellow car, secured his first Pole for Race 1 and although he wasn’t able to convert this into a win at his home circuit, he still managed to fight of stiff competition from a closely fought battle between the top six cars to get a podium with third. In between Norris and Macindoe squeezed Rob Smith for second, which is how he snatched the place, having squeezed between them as they entered Club corner three abreast, taking the fastest lap along the way. But all three were nearly outclassed by the other Smith; Brad, who fell back after an error of judgment by Italian student Achille Corbellati saw Smith collected at Village on the last lap. Until then, he had led the majority of the race. This incident resulted in exclusion for the young Italian and a disappointing finish for Smith.

Race 2 mirrored Race 1 with the same pack of cars inseparable and a new leader at virtually every corner. This time Brad Smith was rewarded with victory and rightfully so after an amazing couple of races, but it was the epic comeback drive of Corbellati from the last place on the grid to second place at the line (along with the fastest lap) which was the story of the race and much admired by his fellow competitors. Norris heads the points table with Smith and Smith level two points behind.

Avon Tyres Caterham Tracksport Championship

McMillan Motorsport’s Mike Hart started his season at Silverstone on a much more positive note than he ended it here last year (when he mounted James Needham’s car and dashed his championship hopes). This time around he drove faultlessly and although only leading the race for a few laps, he made sure those were the laps that counted as he crossed the line to secure victory in both races.

As with the Roadsports, the leading pack during Race 1 each took turn to lead, swapping so regularly it was impossible to keep track. In the mid-race melee, Kurt Brady’s turn at the front was cut short after contact at Luffield, dropping him off the pack and opening the door for Academy 2011 graduate, David Robinson, showing he has the pace despite the lack of experience. At the flag, the lead four cars crossed the line together with Hart’s team-mate Jonathan Mortimer just 0.005s adrift for second, equally frustrated and delighted. Tim Mashman rounded out the Race 1 top three gaining his first ever Caterham podium and bagging some points for his Trackcars team.

Race 2’s action was a repeat of the earlier race, but with a slight shuffling of the order. Hart increased his winning margin to a whopping 0.045s, this time from Robinson, then Mortimer. Terry Langley started from the front row in Race 1, but failed to make the podium. However, with a fastest lap for the newcomer, he’s shown he will be one to watch. Meanwhile Brady set a new lap record, helping make up for his Race 1 disappointment. Hart leads the championship table, five points ahead of Mortimer who is just ahead of Robinson.

Avon Tyres Caterham Supersport Championship

Not to be outdone by the Tracksports, the Supersport pack welded themselves together for the duration of their races. Making use of Silverstone expansive tarmac, four cars abreast down the straights would funnel into two by two formation at the trickier parts, meaning who was in the lead at any given time (other than across the timing line) was anyone’s guess, including the drivers’!

Pole sitter Carlton Brown had to fend off the advances of Aaron Head, Jeremy Webb, McMillan team-mate Ben Gower and the Stancombe Vehicle Engineering duo of Lee Wiggins and Steve Day. As the race matured, the order settled down and Head would emerge ahead, slightly in front of former Roadsport champion Webb; the pair well ahead of the pursuing pack. Title favourite Wiggins would have been third had it not been for time penalties applied for using a little too much of Silverstone’s run-off areas. This promoted a gob-smacked Stephen ‘Bloke’ Collins onto the podium for the first ever time; an extra reward for his best ever drive.

Webb wasn’t to be outdone in Race 2 and overhauled Head to take the win, a tenth ahead of the Engineering student with Brown a couple of seconds behind. However, a blocking move by Head on Brown was seen as unsafe and their positions in the results were reversed Stewards’ office. Webb and Head are level on points at the top of the table with Brown four points behind.

BookaTrack.com Caterham R300 Superlight Championship

Last year’s R300 championship runner-up Paul Wilson, started his 2012 campaign in near perfection with a pole and two dominant wins, just the new lap record alluding the DPR Motorsport driver. This honour was taken by team-mate Mark Shaw who also went home with two second place trophies after the original second-place finisher in Race 1, Jamie Orton, was excluded for his part in a first lap incident that saw Ian Payne’s distinctive ‘Borro’ sponsored car sidelined for the weekend.

It wasn’t a good weekend for the Borro boys of SPY Motorsport as the sister Borro car of Ben Tompkins was also excluded for a last lap incident, in which his car was unfortunately heavily damaged as well. Orton’s Race 1 disappointment promoted Team Leos’ veteran Caterham racer Peter Ratcliff to third, having overhauled Flick Haigh in a terrific battle for what was fourth on the track.

Race 2 was less controversial and a repeat for Wilson as he disappeared into the distance leaving a pack of cars to squabble over second, each taking their turn in the spot. By mid-distance Mark Shaw had stamped his authority on it and built a gap, though Wilson’s lead was unassailable. Ratcliff, Paul Brannan, Magd Mohaffel and returning R300 superstar James Sharrock all took turns for the last trophy paying position until contact between Mohaffel and Ratcliff split the group. Brannan crossed the line third; just reward for the USA based driver flying to the UK to race!

However, if there was a drive of the day trophy to be awarded, it would surely have gone to Brannan’s Fauldsport team-mate Adam Balon, who drove from last on the grid into fourth position at the line; equalling his best ever finish but from his worst ever start position (after also being sidelined in race one). Wilson leads Shaw in the points table with Brannan in third.

For the official results PDF click Caterham Silverstone Results