DONINGTON PARK MAY 8-9 PREVIEW: CATERHAM SEVEN 310R CHAMPIONSHIP
The Caterham Seven 310R Championship is set to kick off 2021 at Donington Park this weekend, as a majority of this year’s drivers get set for the fourth year with their cars since they began all the way back in the Academy some three seasons ago. As anticipated, many of the names here have made the natural step up from the 270R grid and will be keen to see how they stack up with the latest upgrades.
Caterham’s penultimate step on the ladder sees the ultimate evolution of the Academy car, with drivers and cars now typically entering their fourth year of competition; many with the benefit of professional team support. Looking identical to the Seven 270R that sits below it, the improvements are all under the skin. A power hike to 152bhp is accompanied by a limited-slip differential, whilst retaining the Seven 270R’s track-biased suspension and Avon ZZS tyres. The result is considered by many to be the best balanced and most enjoyable Caterham ever.
There’s the very real prospect that we could see another driver grab their third Caterham Motorsport title in as many years, as Germany’s Lars Hoffmann prepares to add the 310R Championship to his success in Roadsport in 2019 and last year in 270R. The formidable European racer proved his pace once again in 2020 with three wins on the way to the title, but he was given plenty of pressure and competition from those around him. He will be hoping the extra power under his right foot means he’ll be able to hold his form and advantage, but as we know there’s going to be a few of his adversaries that will have something to say about that.
The two most notable of those adversaries are those which shared the end-of-season podium in 2020, as Ben Lopez-Appleton and Harry Cook are back for more. Harry managed to get his season off to a flying start last year with three wins from the first four races before Ben took up the mantle and repeated that feat across the next two weekends. In fact, both of them were mainly responsible for preventing Hoffmann from scoring more than one win all season until the Snetterton finale when Lars did the double to become champion. We anticipate the championship battle may well end up between these three drivers this time – unless others have ambitions to spoil their fun.
Andy Lees is always a spectacular driver to watch on track as wherever he is, he’s usually doing something to entertain those watching. Don’t mistake that for a lack of pace, though, as while he wasn’t able to snatch a winners’ trophy for himself last year, he made sure to keep his rivals honest by claiming four podiums and a further two top 5 finishes, which means that his 5th place in points was certainly justified and will be a good marker for him to try and beat this time. Similar ambitions will be in the mind of Andrew Murgatroyd, a race winner in his own right too and someone who will want to experience that winning feeling again after also missing out in 2020. He also came close, taking two podiums of his own, but Andrew will be very much looking forward to putting himself right in the middle of a title fight once more. Keep an eye on Giuseppe Felet too as he also showed flashes of pace at times last year and will be hoping to make further progress.
But looking to give them all a little bit more grief than expected will be drivers that have more than a year’s worth of 310R experience under their belts already. Former Roadsport champion Pete Walters looks set to be locked in for the season and bidding to earn his second title, while Chris Moore knows what it’s like to be in the hunt for championship glory and won’t be afraid to use that expertise to get his elbows out and secure some of his own. James Wingfield stays on as the best-placed driver from 2020 returning to the grid after both last year’s champ Greg Monks and the formidable James Murphy move into the Seven UK ranks. Perhaps an improvement from P5 in points could be on the cards for Wingfield this time. Other 310R returnees also include Harry Landy and Gary Curtis too.