LEWIS TAKES TWO AT THE HATCH IN CATERHAMRACER.COM 420R SERIES


Matthew Lewis made sure he had enough resilience to fend off all comers last Friday as he drove superbly to a pair of victories in the Caterhamracer.com Caterham 420R Series at Brands Hatch, the penultimate meeting of the inaugural series.

Multiple race winner Harry Senior made sure he stated his intentions early once again by grabbing the pole alongside fellow series victor Matthew Lewis, while the usual suspects David Rowe and Steve McMaster were perched behind them on the second row ahead of Guy Crawford and Tom Wyllys. Other drivers had work to do from deep in the pack including Paul Fernihough in 9th, Steve Arnell back in 15th and James Murphy struggling once again over a single lap and forced to start from 16th place. They were also joined at the back of the field by Jaroslav Cerny of the Czech Republic, who won the second Grid B race to earn a spot on Grid A, and is also the man who designed and worked on the physics for the Caterham Academy and 420R mods used in both series.

Lewis wasted no time in harassing Senior from the start as the pack charged into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time. Rowe was also getting feisty early doors too and passed Lewis around the outside of Druids for 2nd place, leaving the order at the end of Lap 1 as Senior, Rowe, Lewis, McMaster and Wyllys. Rowe dared to go high, wide and handsome through Paddock to pass for the lead to no avail, but that was the least of his worries as moments later at Clearways an attempted inside move on Senior failed, leaving him spinning onto the grass and to the back of the field. Lewis, still with good momentum, pulled alongside Senior on the pit straight and managed to grab the inside line through Paddock Hill to complete the move and grab the lead. Behind them, McMaster and Wyllys saw a battle between the pair come to an end when the latter tagged the rear of McMaster, putting him loose and leaving him in the path of Chris Bates who hit the wall exiting Graham Hill Bend, both also tumbling down the order.

Lewis and Senior began to break away from the rest of the field, using the sizable hole in the field caused by the McMaster-Bates incident to their advantage. The main benefactor from the opening mishaps had been Guy Crawford, who found himself running 3rd ahead of the 2019 Caterham Academy White Group top 3 (not in championship order) of Wyllys, James Fowler and Blair McConachie.  Wyllys moved past at Druids, but Crawford’s move to repass him only brought Fowler into play, leaving the drivers three abreast with Crawford stuck in the middle and the next corner at Surtees approaching. Sure enough, three into one didn’t go as Wyllys and Crawford collided while Fowler and McConachie scampered away.

As the top two continued to move away and build a five-second lead, McConachie managed to muscle his way past Fowler for the final podium place with Belgian sim racer Tim Vanhee also catching the pair and making it a three-way dice for the position. Fowler moved back past again at Druids, but McConachie stuck to his tail and looked to have the place again through Surtees, but running wide only put him under threat from Vanhee and a charging Jaroslav Cerny who had driven superbly from the back of the grid to the top five. Adding to the excitement, they were joined by Crawford, Mark Bennett, Paul Fernihough and Wyllys, although the latter did drop down the order with a mistake in the closing stages.

Senior, meanwhile, kept up his relentless pressure on Lewis as the end of the race loomed. He tried to make his intentions known at Paddock Hill Bend but wasn’t able to pull off a move. A couple of laps later, Senior attacked again into Druids but Lewis held his line and denied any opportunity once more, but Harry was determined to keep on fighting until the flag. Corner after corner in the final two laps, Senior never left Lewis’ mirrors as he kept on pushing to get through. He tried again on the outside at Druids and then inside at Graham Hill Bend unsuccessfully, and despite a set up onto the pit straight, Lewis had enough power off the final turn to hold on to the win. McConachie took the final podium place with Fowler and Cerny completing the top 5, followed by Vanhee in 6th, then Crawford, Fernihough and great recovery drives from both McMaster and Rowe respectively.

Front row positions were swapped for the second race, with Lewis again grabbing the holeshot into Paddock Hill Bend, while up at Druids both Cerny and Fowler got together, with the Czech driver carrying on and Fowler spinning down the field. Lewis ended the first lap still in the lead but yet again under threat from Senior with McConachie chasing them both down, and this time Senior wasted no effort in grabbing the lead into Druids as the top three began to draw away with Cerny and co trying to catch up. Eventually, both Cerny and Vanhee would join the train, creating a five-car battle for the top places.

Behind them, another multi-car scrap was going on for 6th downwards, which didn’t quite end as intended heading into Paddock. Four cars ended up getting entangled with each other, with Crawford firing off into the gravel, McMaster and Murphy ending up spinning halfway down the hill and Rowe caught up as the innocent bystander in the crossfire. The quartet quickly rejoined the race, albeit swamped by the likes of Fowler and Arnell as they took full advantage and inherited several places as a result. There were further fisticuffs a couple of laps later when a mistake from Fowler at Paddock saw him run wide, but when attempting to retake his line, Rowe seemed uninterested in making way. The pair touched wheels, Fowler broke loose and ended up receiving hits taps from McMaster behind him, sending him into a spin and down to 11th.

Back at the front, Lewis managed to squeeze alongside at McLaren to try and pass Senior and the pair sprinted down the pit straight with McConachie in tow. They remained side by side into Paddock and then three abreast into Druids where McConachie’s attempt to snatch 2nd place almost worked. Lewis gave Senior a taste of his own medicine and hounded him over the next couple of laps as he continued to bombard him with a number of passing attempts, as McConachie, Vanhee and Cerny all trying to join in the fun behind them. But both Senior and Lewis quickly tried to create a gap, the latter lucky to hold a big slide exiting Paddock and remain in the tow. Thankfully, Cerny, McConachie and Vanhee were too preoccupied fighting with themselves to be able to trouble the leaders in the last few minutes of the race.

Then, crucially, Senior finally cracked –  a lapse in concentration forced a mistake at McLaren, leaving the door open for Lewis to glide past on the exit and into a lead that he wouldn’t lose for the remaining couple of minutes.

So after an exhausting second 15-minute encounter, Lewis completed a strong night’s work with his second win of the evening by over a second, but in those final minutes, 3rd place became the hottest commodity on track. Cerny managed to work his way past McConachie, but then lost out to both him and Vanhee at Druids. Cerny took 4th back at Paddock on the final lap from Vanhee, but McConachie managed to put the final podium place out of reach as a result. Rowe completed a fairly uneventful drive to 6th place from Arnell in 7th, with McMaster, Crawford and Murphy rounding off the final top 10 positions.

Scott Woodwiss