FRANTIC CATERHAM SEVEN 310R BATTLE MOVES SOUTH TO BRANDS HATCH
Out of the five championships on the Caterham Motorsport roster this season, it’s clear that the Caterham Seven 310R Championship is shaping up to be the tightest battle out of them all in 2020. With some incredible racing from the first two weekends, Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit is next up with at least four drivers staking a claim for the crown at this stage and more potentially about to do the same if they succeed this weekend.
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.
James Murphy, nicknamed “Superman” by some and a former Roadsport champion, has the points lead after two weekends with a very strong start to proceedings thus far. With two 2nd places and a fastest lap at Cadwell Park followed by a win and a 4th place at Thruxton, this all gives him 93 points, just one ahead of current closest rival Greg Monks. A former Academy title contender a couple of seasons ago, he has proven to adapt to the higher rungs of the Caterham ladder pretty quickly. Having never finished lower than 4th so far including a win in the first race of the season at Cadwell, Greg must feel that this year is his best chance to win the championship and if he can keep this run of form up, those chances will increasingly look better and better provided he can keep Murphy and co at bay.
Lewis Thompson has certainly been a revelation amongst the 310R ranks this season and Thruxton was a big statement thanks to finally achieving his first race win after just missing out at Cadwell and being denied in the end last year at Spa-Francorchamps. Lewis now has the bit between his teeth and looks ready to go after another victory and his speed and racecraft are getting better and better with each weekend he completes. It may not even be a surprise that, if he has the fortunes he desires, he stands a chance of leaving Brands Hatch as the new championship leader. One man who will try and stop him is Tom Grensinger, who wants to go better than the 3rd place he ended up in at the climax of 2019 in the points standings. With a car run by Toyota’s BTCC squad Speedworks, Tom knows he has the equipment underneath him to get the job done and he’s performed well at Brands Hatch in the past too. Perhaps this could be a good omen for his fortunes this time around?
Each of the top four drivers have a win on their 2020 records so far, so the next highest driver who doesn’t is 5th placed man Chris Moore. Having been in title contention before, he’s no stranger to tough competition and he proved that he can still run with the best of them when he remained around the head of the field all weekend at Thruxton. However, he hasn’t quite had the same fortunes as those above him and a 5th place has been his best finish so far, something we’re confident that he feels definitely isn’t representative of what he can really do. Expect him to want to turn that around pretty quickly this weekend. Matt Sheppard is another driver who is a proven race winner and knows how to race with the best of them in the pack, but again hasn’t quite been able to show what he can do and his results seem to reflect that so far. The downside of having such a competitive field is that some drivers can at times get lost in the shuffle when vying for places and as a result, they end up finishing in positions that they wouldn’t normally expect to be in. Therefore Matt will need to keep his head up and carry on pushing to maintain a regular spot towards the head of the grid.
Moore and Sheppard are actually locked into a close four-way battle for 5th place downwards in the points standings against James Wingfield and Don Henshall. James is another who many know is quick on his day, but just hasn’t been able to really showcase that as much as he’d liked to over the first two weekends. A 5th place at Cadwell is his best result so far but he will know that there’s more to come and more that he can achieve. Henshall, on the other hand, has been a slow burner over the last couple of seasons and appears to be finding a groove. This was proved by his excellent 3rd place in the first Thruxton race, also setting the fastest lap in the process as well, proving that he can hang with the quickest guys on the grid when everything comes together for him. That said, Don isn’t set to be racing this weekend, so he will end up dropping down the table a few places and will have ground to make up when he returns.
Now, what of our racing CEO Graham MacDonald? Well, he used Thruxton to prove that he’s absolutely ready to take his first championship race win on UK soil after he spent most of the two races in Hampshire around the head of the field and even leading for a good portion. There’s no doubt Caterham’s modern-day version of TVR’s Peter Wheeler, who was a keen racer of his own Tuscan race cars himself, isn’t just the boss in a fast car – he’s proving to be a formidable racer and someone who can definitely take it to the rest of the pack. He just needs a little more good fortune and maybe, just maybe, that first UK win could come this weekend. Who knows…