For the first time in the Caterham 420R Series, two different drivers won a race each on the same evening as Steve McMaster clinched his first win of the series at a virtual representation of the new Zandvoort GP circuit in the Netherlands while Matthew Lewis added a third to his tally after his double success at Knockhill the previous week.

Backing up his pace in testing on the server during the week, McMaster planed his Caterham 420R onto pole position for the first race of the evening with Lewis joining him on the front row after lapping just a tenth of a second slower in qualifying. James Murphy had held the fastest time for a most of the session after putting in a rapid banker lap but was edged down to 3rd to start alongside four-time race winner Harry Senior, while DPR Motorsport team manager David Rowe and Mark Bennett comprised Row 3 behind them.

Rowe ended up getting away from the grid a little too perfectly when the first race began, as it was later discovered his lightning launch had in fact been a jump start before he exited the race after a handful of laps. Lewis, meanwhile, was able to grab the holeshot into Tarzan for the first time with McMaster holding off Rowe for 2nd before Gerlachbocht, while Senior and Murphy briefly bounced off each other at the remodelled Hugenholtz hairpin but continued unscathed. Murphy quickly took 3rd from Rowe into Scheivlak, and almost lost another to Senior at the Audi S had both Harry and an ambitious Mark Bennett not outbraked themselves respectively, dropping to 7th and 13th before the end of the opening tour.

It was quickly apparent that Lewis and McMaster had the measure of the rest of the field as they quickly pulled away together as the leading pair pulled clear by almost two second by the the time reached one third’s distance. McMaster stayed on the tail of the leader and applied the pressure as much as he could, and this appeared to have the desired effect when Lewis clipped the inside wall at Tarzan, sending the Knockhill winner spinning down to 6th place. While it did indeed give McMaster the lead, the brief hold up avoiding the incident put Murphy onto his tail immediately, but over the next couple of laps McMaster was able to edge away by a few tenths per lap to build a one second cushion with two minutes to go. By this point, the early battles throughout the field had somewhat dissipated and from here it was simply a run to the flag.

To that end, it seemed all too easy in the end for McMaster as he reeled off the last lap to take the flag and become the third different winner in the series in the process. Murphy ended up two seconds back in the runner up spot, his first podium of the season, while an incredibly impressive debut from Guy Crawford saw him avoid all of the chaos around him to clinch an excellent 3rd place on his first start. Lewis recovered from his incident to claim 4th with Chris Skillicorn rounding off the top 5, while further 420R sim rookie performances from Chris Bates and Blair McConachie put them 6th and 8th, sandwiching James Fowler with Paul Fernihough and Bennett coming home behind them.

Lewis attempted to make up ground from the start of the second race immediately, as he attempted to shoot the gap between the front row men of McMaster and Murphy, the three drivers ending up parallel with each other as they sprinted to Gerlachbocht. Lewis relieved McMaster of 2nd place before Hunzerug and didn’t take long to do the same to Murphy as he slipped past heading to Tarzan for the second time. McMaster saw this as an opportunity to relive their battle from Race 1 and attacked through the Renault and Vodafone corners before conceding to the 2018 Roadsport champion at the Audi S.

McMaster didn’t fancy giving up just yet and dared to try and pass Murphy again into the Rob Slotemaker corners, only to end up with all four wheels on the grass. Another look at the reprofiled Arie Luyendyk banked final corner came to nothing, but while he was busy focusing on what was in front, he didn’t count for the rookie Crawford to try and snatch 3rd into Vodafone, albeit to no avail. At last, McMaster completed the move through Tarzan to claim 2nd but by this time Lewis was already 2.5 seconds up the road. Whilst the leaders had been at play towards the front, David Rowe had been making progress up the field after starting at the back of the grid and found himself in 9th place when he came across the trio of Bates, McConachie and Skillicorn arguing over 6th, while Harry Senior elected to run away one place ahead of them. The argument boiled over at Gerlachbocht when McConachie nerfed Bates into the barriers on corner exit, checking everyone up behind and putting Rowe onto the back of the group. He quickly troubled Skillicorn for 7th, which in the end saw him lose the car heading towards the last corner and gifting the place to Rowe as a result. Wasting no time, the next target would be McConachie for 6th and a late dive heading into Tarzan spooked the 2019 Academy White Group runner-up enough to put him loose and gift Rowe the place with ease.

Despite McMaster pushing hard and clawing back a second, it wouldn’t be enough to dethrone Lewis from the lead as he collected his third win of the series, while Murphy made sure he left the evening with two podiums by taking 3rd. Crawford again put in an fine effort to take 4th ahead of a distant Harry Senior, and Rowe’s hard work was rewarded with 6th place from the back of the grid ahead of McConachie, Fowler, Bennett and Andy Steele.

While the Academy Series cars will occupy Zandvoort next, the 420Rs will move on to the fastest circuit in the UK as Thruxton gears up to welcome the drivers virtually, to a circuit that is incredibly quick but also very tricky to master at the same time.

Scott Woodwiss


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