CATERHAMS CROWN CHAMPIONS AT DRAMATIC SILVERSTONE FINALE
The BRSCC Finals Weekend at Silverstone’s International circuit promised to be a nail-biting, emotional and heart-stopping affair and it didn’t disappoint. Five champions were set to be crowned amongst the Caterham Motorsport roster and typical of their drivers, they ensured that in many cases it came down to the last race of the season to settle the title.
Affairs were a little more straightforward in the pair of CarThrottle Caterham Academy Championships, with one race each on the Saturday for both groups. Justin Heap was able to secure the Green Group title after passing Larrs Alexander Hoffmann for the lead on Lap 3 and then extended a 3.6 second lead to take the race win and seal the title in style, followed home by Hoffmann and Ben Lopez Appleton in 3rd place. Over in the White Group, eventual champion Chris Moore had to settle for 3rd place to seal the deal as he came home behind race winner Dan Piper and 2nd placed Gregory Monks, after both Piper and Moore took turns at the head of the field.
To finish off the 2018 Academy season in fantastic style, a combined grid of 38 cars comprised of drivers from both Green and White groups set out for a final 20 minute race in the non-championship Autumn Trophy – the first race in which drivers from both groups raced each other on the same track. With wet and treacherous weather conditions greeting the drivers on the Sunday morning, it would be a true test of everything the Academy class of 2018 had learnt throughout the season. The bragging rights went to newly crowned Green Group champion Justin Heap, followed by his key rival Andrew Murgatroyd in 2nd place and Larrs Alexander Hoffmann in 3rd, making it a clean sweep of Green Group drivers on the podium.
There was no doubt that the most nerve-wracking of all the Caterham title fights on the line was without question the Draper Tools Caterham Roadsport Championship. Daniel French and James Murphy would go head to head in Race 1, and incredibly it would be Murphy that would steal the win with a last lap dive inside at Vale Corner to take victory away from French – and even then he would have no idea just how crucial that pass really was as the win gave him a four point lead in; Toby Clowes would take 3rd place in Race 1 too. The second race on Sunday saw French in a league of his own as he romped to a 26 second win, despite losing the fastest lap in the closing stages. But it was behind him for 2nd place that would really see the drama unfold. Murphy was unable to escape the leading pack of cars battling for P2 downwards and despite attempting to get away more than once, it would eventually be his worst nightmare. Exiting Stowe for the last time, Daniel Halstead spun in front of the pack and unbelievably tagged Murphy in the process, whilst the other drivers scattered in avoidance.
This left Oli Pratt inheriting 2nd place and likewise Neil Fraser in 3rd, while Murphy had to take the flag down in 12th place. However, because in effect it was his worst result of the season, he was able to drop it and gain back points from a previously dropped score, therefore incredibly still giving him enough points to remain ahead of French in the standings and clinch the 2018 Caterham Roadsport title. It was probably one of the most dramatic finishes to a championship in Caterham Motorsport history!
The honours in the ALACO Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship were settled in the first race on Saturday, as Team BRIT’s Jamie Falvey picked up the points for 4th place in the first race to become champion despite finishing off the podium. The victory in Race 1, meanwhile, ended up going the way of Castle Combe race winner Chris Bates, who picked up his first win back in Wiltshire in similar conditions. Pete Walters and Gary Smith took up the remaining podium places, while fellow title rival Jay McCormack had to settle for 5th. The second race, also on a wet track like the first, took place minus new champ Falvey in a bid to avoid any potential penalty points and secure the title without question. Rounding off another action-packed year in style, McCormack picked up the final race win of the season followed home by Walter and Smith, with the victory also securing vice-champion status for McCormack in the process.
An equally close affair in the points table occurred in the Santander Caterham Seven 310R Championship with at least four drivers in with a shout of taking top honours. A slightly mixed up grid for the first race meant that some of the contenders had to fight their way to the front, but not so much for Gordon Sawyer. Gordon ended up leading from lights to flag to add to his win tally, while crucially points leader Chris Hutchinson maintain his lead with 2nd place ahead of Alan Cooper. With Christian Szaruta, also bidding to be champion driving through from 13th place to 4th, it left Hutchinson leading Sawyer by just one point on dropped scores with Szaruta a further three back.
The all-important final race of the season looked as though fortunes might go Sawyer’s way, but sadly it wasn’t meant to be as he was slapped with a 5 second time penalty for track limits, leaving the trio consisting of outgoing 310R champion Lee Bristow, Tom Grensinger and Hutchinson battling over the podium places on the timing screens. Sawyer crossed the line on the road in 1st place, but Bristow would take the win from Grensinger, with 3rd place enough to keep Hutchinson ahead of Sawyer after his penalty and finally clinch the championship title he’d longed for since his Caterham journey began 6 years ago in the Academy in 2013.
Unlike the other championships on the roster, the fate of the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship had effectively already been sealed before this weekend had even begun. After his stellar results at Thruxton, champion-elect Danny Winstanley chose not to compete in the final rounds in a scenario identical to that of 2017, where he’d built up enough of a points lead to allow him to skip the final meeting and therefore end up dropping zero points as a result of two non-starts. With this in the bag, it left a scrap for 2nd in the standings between William Smith and Sean Byrne on the cards in the two races left in the season. However, neither of them would end up winning a race – instead it was left to John Byrne (no relation to Sean) who would dominate both races at quite some margin.
John’s first race victory of the weekend on Saturday saw him take the top spot by a staggering 17 seconds, leaving Stephen Nuttall to collect 2nd place ahead of Smith with the final podium place in 3rd. With the conditions significantly better for the second race on Sunday, Byrne wasted no time in doing it again, this time stretching out an even bigger lead and taking the flag by a massive 22 seconds, while Smith took 2nd place to secure P2 in the points standings. Another happy driver was Henry Heaton who ended a tricky first season in 420R racing with his podium in the championship to round off the year. With a roster that had to shut entries at the start of the season due to sold out grids in every single championship, Caterham Motorsport can be proud to call 2018 one of their best seasons to date in general and confidence within the paddock will be high for next season.
Elsewhere on the timetable, the BRSCC Fiesta Championship racing with MRF Tyres provided three thrilling races of their own as they also tackled a mixture of circuit and weather conditions. The wet track conditions helped suit 20Ten Racing’s Samuel Watkins as he was able to take his first victory of the season to make up for a less than satisfactory outing last time out at Thruxton. He picked up an unchallenged win from the front row ahead of teammate Ollie Hunt with his first ever Fiesta podium, while defending Class C champion David Nye collected 3rd. Originally, Simon Horrobin had taken 2nd, however a time penalty post-race pushed him down to 5th in the result.
Prior to the start of the second Fiesta race of the weekend, a minute’s silence and tribute were held in memory of John Bateman, a former Fiesta racer who sadly passed away recently while racing at Donington Park. With everyone carrying John in their thoughts all weekend, the drivers went out to race two to ensure the show they put on for the rest of the meeting was in his honour. In what turned out to be an incredible drive from the back of the Class C grid, privateer entrant Jake Dawson climbed his way from 14th on the grid to the race lead and eventually a superb first Fiesta victory on the road, with Class C and overall points leader Harry Gooding in 2nd and Myles Baker in 3rd. However, the stewards decided to hit Dawson with a 6 second penalty that cruelly took his race win away, handing it to Gooding as a result with Baker and the pair’s JamSport team boss Jamie Going making it a team 1-2-3 on the podium. For race three, Gooding would ensure he went one step higher on the rostrum with another win to strengthen his championship lead, followed home by Simon Horrobin and David Nye in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
For Class D, defending overall and class champ Jamie White was able to pick up two dominant class wins in the first two races, leading home both Zachary Lucas and Luke Bannister on the podium in both occasions. In the third race, however, it would be another familiar adversary that would deny another clean sweep as the returning John Cooper, running the late John Bateman’s race number of 42 as a tribute to his fallen friend, put the technical problems in the first two races behind him to take victory in John’s honour, followed by White and Lucas in the process. Class A was fairly straightforward, as Mark Court took one step closer to his class title ambitions with a perfect sweep of three unchallenged victories.
Over in the BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship racing with MRF Tyres, they had to deal with some of the worst conditions in qualifying on Sunday morning before their pair of races later that day. When race time rolled around, on both occasions it was Race Car Consultants’ young Danish charger Magnus Kriklywi who would go on to pick up a perfect pair of victories, both from pole position, as he continued to strive to put one over title rival James Waite and closed the gap after dropped scores to just a single point between the pair heading to the final rounds at Brands Hatch in October. Josh Steed banished his disastrous fortunes of Thruxton to pick up a pair of superb 2nd place finishes, while 3rd place in both races was shared by Isaac Smith in Race 1 and initially James Waite in Race 2, before a driving standards penalty pushed Waite down the order and handed Nathanael Hodgkiss his third rostrum result of the season.
On Sunday afternoon, we were also joined by Sports 2000, as the final round of their Endurance Championship was settled with a 50-minute race. A lead battle had developed between Tom Stoten and David Houghton and while Stoten lost the lead during the mandatory pit stop window, Houghton sadly was forced to retire shortly afterwards with engine problems. Therefore Stoten was left to take the overall and Duratec class wins followed by Nick Bacon and Derek Bell class winner Roger Donnan. Mike Fry would take the honours in the Pinto category.