KNOCKHILL JUNE 12/13 RACE WEEKEND PREVIEW: CATERHAM SEVEN 310R CHAMPIONSHIP
The opening Donington Park races for the Caterham Seven 310R Championship were certainly eventful and exciting, especially as for that first weekend of 2021 they were to share the grid with the faster Seven Championship UK cars. However, this weekend at Knockhill Circuit in Fife they are back to their usual standalone grid with the regular two race format compared to the three they contested a few weeks ago. This weekend will be an interesting test to see if those who were on form at Donington are able to carry it over on a circuit that carries a few similar qualities.
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.
The man who was happiest of all from the first weekend was Pete Walters, a former champion who is keen to add another big trophy to his collection this year. Two wins and a 2nd was near perfect for Pete as it left him some eight points ahead of the rest, and he certainly benefitted from a late red flag in the closing stages of Race 3 when those around him fell foul of incidents. Pete has the knowledge and experience to win a second title and he will be using all of it to his advantage here at Knockhill. His rivals already have some work to do to as he was the most consistent finisher and holds an initial seven-point advantage coming into this weekend.
Next up in 2nd is James Wingfield whose two podiums were enough to help him sit higher in points due to the misfortunes of others. James appears to have made some impressive progress over the last 18 months and has made a step up in pace and consistency that has certainly been noticeable and the ambition here at Knockhill has to be for him to keep up this improvement. Last year’s 270R champion Lars Hoffmann certainly had a season opener to remember, but not necessarily for all the right reasons. While he did drive superbly to win the second race, his chances of taking the third were scuppered after a late incident while being lapped by the leading Seven Championship UK cars left him tracking through the gravel and finishing a lowly 9th.
His win helps him sit at the top of a current three-way tie for 3rd place on 62 points with Harry Cook and Andrew Murgatroyd, two more proven race winners that have been chasing Hoffmann and co over the last couple of season and have been able to put one over on him on more than one occasion. Cook scored a 3rd place at Donington as his best result, while Murgatroyd couldn’t better 4th, but either way each driver will hope more silverware accompanies their long journey back from Scotland.
Throughout the current second half of the top ten in positions 6 to 10, there are drivers who are certainly more than capable of troubling the front runners themselves, but just didn’t seem to have the luck at Donington Park to help them begin in the best possible way. Drivers such as Doug Christie, Ben Lopez-Appleton and Giuseppe Felet all had their own reasons for not quite being on the pace of the leaders, be it lack of speed, getting caught up in incidents or just simply not able to make up places in the opening laps quick enough to keep them in touching distance. Outside the top 10, you also have to include Andy Lees who failed to score in two of the three races and despite grabbing a 2nd place in Race 1, he lies in 15th place with a mountain to climb once more.