DONINGTON CATERHAM REVIEW
Four Caterham championships enjoyed double-headers at last weekend’s Superstars meeting at Donington Park. Caterham Motorsport Co-ordinator Jenny Grace rounds up all the action;
Paul Wilson’s dominance of the R300 championship was confirmed last weekend with a perfect set of results for the DPR Motorsport driver: Pole, two wins, fastest laps in both races and a new lap record. However, the competition is getting closer.
Wilson backed up pole with a strong start in Race 1 and a committed run down Craners on cold tyres to instantly pull out a lead that became unassailable. James Sharrock headed the four-car pack for second, before being overhauled by Mark Shaw pushing the Fauldsport driver into the clutches of Ian Payne. The trio pulled clear of fifth place man, Peter Ratcliff, as they continued to exchange the places. As the race drew to a close, Payne’s distinctive ‘Borro’ backed car finally squeezed out from between Shaw and Sharrock to take second and find a little breathing space. Sharrock then made a move on Shaw stick on the Melbourne loop, enabling him to make a welcome return to the R300 podium behind SPY Motorsport’s Payne and a victorious Wilson. Shaw finished fourth, fractionally ahead of a great drive from Sharrock’s team-mate Flick Haigh.
Race 2 came to a very early halt after Jonathan Ramsay rejoined the track at the Esses at considerable pace, backwards, leaving Martin Amison and Jonathan Mitchell unable to take avoiding action. After the restart, Wilson’s supremacy came under serious threat as Payne and Sharrock both challenged for the lead and matched the pace of the Newbury man, Payne even nosing ahead briefly. However, when Shaw joined the party, having recovered from a poor start, the pair were forced to defend and once again Wilson pulled clear. Shaw quickly overcame the pair and put some air between them and himself to look safe in second. Meanwhile, Sharrock’s second place was pinched by Payne at the last corner, demoting him off the podium, with Flick Haigh once again rounding out the top five. Wilson now has a clear advantage in the points table over team-mate Shaw.
Aaron Head heads the championship with a fantastic set of results from Donington Park: Pole position, two fastest laps, a race win and a second place.
Stancombe Vehicle Engineering hotshot, Lee Wiggins, hunted down the motorsport engineering student for the entirety of the first race desperate not to let the youngster escape. Whilst Wiggins challenged for the lead and momentarily took it, he also had to defend heavily from a pack of cars hunting like starving wolves behind. The black and dayglo orange car of DPR Motorsport’s driver Craig Currie was prominent in his mirrors, as was the all blue machine of fellow team-mate Steve Day. Jeremy Webb and Sean Byrne rounded out the top six, which were as close to one another as you can be without contact. The train of cars thrashed around the GP circuit swapping positions continuously attacking and defending in unison. Head held the lead for the remaining few laps although the slightest mistake at Goddards from #19 (race number reflecting his age) meant Wiggins could pounce and steal victory. Head kept his foot in and fought off Currie by a hairs breadth 0.060 as they crossed the line.
Race 2 was more about the battle for third as Head and Wiggins up front had rather isolated races, Wiggins was over seven seconds adrift of the leading man, Head and over twenty two seconds in front of the third place scrap. Old hand Webb, a former Roadsport champion, played the defensive game holding off advances from Day, Currie and Trackcars front runner Byrne. Currie and Day vanished into a dust cloud as the pair’s closely fought battle came to an abrupt stop in the Coppice gravel trap ahead of Byrne. Webb dug his heels in and wouldn’t let Byrne through despite his advances. This allowed PGM’s Fraser Greenshields and PIM’s Anthony Sidney-Woolett to close up. However the last lap board appeared leaving the contenders no time to alter the order meaning Webb was able to take the last step on the podium behind the young spirited Head and the veteran Mr Wiggins.
Five different winners from just six races and the lead trio just one point apart gives a good guide to how close the competition is in the Tracksport championship.
Despite finishing qualifying in the gravel, James Needham took pole. He failed to make use of it though, instantly displaced by Kurt Brady and David Robinson. Not to be beaten, Needham set about superseding Robinson, commencing thirty minutes of nail-bitingly close action. The squabbling brought the cars of Stuart Leonard and Terry Langley into the mix, until the latter hit debris on the track, puncturing a hole in his radiator and forcing him into retirement. Meanwhile McMillan Motorsport’s Jon Mortimer had established himself in the lead pack, despite a poor qualifying, and was now in the hunt for the trophies. In pushing themselves on for the final podium positions, the pursuing pack managed to reel in Brady at mid-distance, with Needham briefly taking the lead into Craners. Whilst the two battled, a wily Mortimer bided his time, finally pouncing in the run to Macleans on the last lap and holding position to the flag. Unaware it was the last lap, a surprised Needham was robbed of second in the last corner by Robinson. Novice Leonard came home an admirable fourth, having outgunned Brady (fifth) in the final laps.
On Sunday, the lightest of touches between John Toshack and Will Scully resulted in Toshack veering into the pit wall, bringing Race 2 to an early halt. Following the restart, fellow Aussie Kurt Brady scampered off into the lead, leaving the rest to argue over the scraps. Jon Mortimer asserted his authority with an audacious move around the outside of Needham into Redgate, dropping him to the third, albeit briefly. Mortimer made the move stick into Goddards, helped by a wheel-thumpingly frustrated Needham missing a gear on the exit. The order remained unchanged at the flag, with Robinson a very close fourth and Leonard fifth. Mortimer now leads the points table with a six-point advantage over Robinson.
Elliott Norris has stamped his authority over the Roadsport Championship with a twenty-six point advantage over his rivals.
Although the usual suspects appeared on the podium, Donington Park has brought some new title challengers to the fore. Rob Smith clinched his first pole position and Paul Thacker joined the victory parade with a second place in Race 1. Thacker would have been third in Race 2, but this wasn’t to be after receiving a ten second penalty for collecting Norris in a rather ambitious late brake manoeuvre at Goddards. Norris dominated Race 1 and was able to create a seven second lead, a rarity in Caterham racing. Poleman Rob Smith ran a little too wide at Coppice with a trip through the gravel dropping him down the order and his misfortune continued when he was collected by Mark Lewis, re-joining after an off track excursion at the Old Hairpin, leaving him in the barriers. Meanwhile a titanic scrap emerged for second position between Thacker, Brad Smith, Jake Bradshaw and Alex Macindoe, each taking it in turns to lead the battle. Thacker managed to get in front when it counted and secured second with Macindoe diving down the inside of the Melbourne hairpin to steal third away from Bradshaw.
Race 2 was even closer, with nothing separating the top six cars until Rob Chappell and Jake Bradshaw locked wheels at the Melbourne loop, taking each out of the race. This didn’t deter Thacker, Macindoe, Norris and Smith sticking to each other like glue as they battled on. Norris tripped his fuel cut-off switch on the Melbourne kerbs, dropping him to 8th once he’d recovered power and commenced a fight back with utter determination, quickly bringing himself back into contention. Meanwhile Macindoe stood his ground and was able to keep his nose in front as they crossed the line taking a well deserved victory. Brad Smith was promoted to second once Thacker’s penalty was applied and Norris remarkably finished third. While Norris has a strong lead in the points race, second place is now neck-a-neck between Macindoe and Brad Smith.