CATERHAMS ENJOY AN ADRENALINE-FUELLED SPA WEEKEND
Combined races meant a cacophony of Caterhams approaching the La Source hairpin! – Photo: SnappyRacers
Every year, the BRSCC takes a trip outside of the UK for a European thrash around one of the continent’s finest circuits. On this occasion it really was as all 5 of Caterham Motorsport’s top championships made the journey to one of the world’s greatest temples of speed – the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Starting proceedings would be the Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship with a 36-car strong grid in attendance. With drivers taken at least 3 minutes to complete each lap over the 20 minute time limit, it meant that there was ample opportunity to make passes and gain places. In the first encounter of the weekend, it would be a 4-way tussle between Tom John, Ben Gillias, Pete Walters and Jay McCormack, with the first of those taking pole by almost ¾ of a second. Come the race, the quartet would switch places on numerous occasions, until eventually it would be Walters that ended the race on top at the flag, with John second and Peter Spencer completing the podium.
The second Roadsport race the next day saw Walters lead off from pole and never headed all race, as he seemingly broke the tow on those scraping for 2nd place onwards behind him. Both Spencer and Eric Tiv were in the mix this time, although the latter would sadly fail to see the finish. After another round of position swapping, eventually Walters completed the double while McCormack took 2nd ahead of 2016 title rival Ben Gillias, who had to recover from starting 7th and eventually make his way onto the podium.
From then onwards, the remaining 4 championships would be paired off and race on track at the same time, depending on speed difference. First up were the ITC Compliance Caterham Supersport Championship and the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship, with the latter starting in front of the former with a row’s gap in between. With a 420R front row of Danny Winstanley and Jack Sales, neither would in fact lead the opening lap with that honour falling to 2016 vice champion Lee Wiggins. The leaders then played a game of hot potato with top spot as William Smith, John Byrne and Winstanley all shared the lead throughout. However, it was Andres Sinclair who led when it counted to win from Winstanley and Byrne at the flag.
In the first Supersport race, Dan Gore and Chris Hutchinson made up the front row as Hutchinson would go on to lead the opening 3 laps. Pole man Gore then took over for a lap before Christian Szaruta threw himself into the mix along with Henry Heaton. After more lead changes, the pack sorted itself out with Heaton coming out on top in the end from Mike Evans with Hutchinson 3rd.
In the second race, the 420Rs would see Byrne and Winstanley constantly trade the lead between them lap after lap until eventually the latter’s mean green machine just held on for the win by a fraction over 0.1 seconds. Race 1 winner Sinclair spent the duration hovering amongst the top 5 before eventually claiming the final podium place. Meanwhile, Christian Szaruta quickly jumped into the Supersport lead before Hutchinson and Mike Evans each held it for a lap in something of a strategic game of “Motorsport Tag”. Then at half distance, it incredibly fell to Ben Tuck whose team had spent the previous night rebuilding the car after an incident at the start of Race 1. Starting from the rear of the field, Tuck put on an incredible charge to lead on lap 7 and would stay in the leading group throughout. However, Mike Evans would be the hero in the end as he crossed the line to claim his first ever Caterham win, with Tuck a sensational 2nd and Szaruta 3rd.
The 3rd and final group would be another combined affair with both the Alaco Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship and the ITC Compliance Caterham Seven 310R Championship on track at the same time. For the faster 310Rs, Lee Bristow would start their first race on pole ahead of Alexander Koeberle and Alistair Calvert. Koerberle took the lead and remained the for the first half of the encounter until Lap 6, when Chris Rankin held on throughout the majority of the second part. A frantic last lap scramble would incredibly end up going the way of Academy graduate James Beardwell, who had done phenomenally well to take his first win since making the massive leap to the 310R Championship in only his second year of racing! Rankin and Bristow would follow past the flag right in his wheeltracks, the trio finishing less than 0.7 seconds apart.
Back with the 270R contingent, Alan Cooper and reigning Roadsport champion Russ Olivant took the start from the front row with Olivant leading through Lap 1. Nemesis Daniel Quintero would usurp his lead and, despite a brief intervention from Rob Watts on the penultimate lap, managed to head the top 3 at the chequered flag with Watts and Olivant making sure the podium was only separated by less than 1 second.
For the majority of Race 2, it would be all about Lee Bristow as he proved to be the class of the 310R field despite consistent pressure from the likes of Rankin, Koeberle, Alistair Calvert and more. Koeberle and Calvert would tumble down the order and out of the picture eventually, as Bristow would go on to win the race by a rather un-Caterham-like 5.8 seconds with Rankin 2nd and Steve McCulley stealing 3rd place. Back with the 270Rs, Quintero drove as if he was in a league of his own by dominating the race from start to finish and making it two from two, despite Alex Jordan closing in to just over half a second by the end. Olivant would grab the final podium place a further 2 seconds back.
On the whole, it was a magnificent weekend’s racing in Belgium with approx. 130 Caterhams in attendance and for once at Spa, the weather gods smiled graciously on us with great conditions for the majority of the weekend, even if there was just a sprinkling of rain towards the beginning. Then again, it wouldn’t a typical race meeting at Spa without a little wet weather! You can find the breakdown of the weekend’s results via the RIS Timing page here – SPA CATERHAM EUROFEST.
Caterham Motorsport also graciously paid tribute to former champion Paul Wilson, who sadly passed away on Friday after battling illness. As a mark of respect, the front row of the 420R grid for their races was left vacant. The BRSCC would like to extend its deepest and sincerest thoughts and condolences to Paul's family and closest friends during this difficult time.