NAILBITING FINISHES IN CATERHAMRACER.COM ACADEMY SERIES RACES GIVE LEWIS AND ROWE VICTORIES


A mere nine one-thousandths of a second, or 0.009s in digits, was the total combined winning margin across two sensational races in the Caterhamracer.com Caterham Academy Race Series at the newly remodelled Zandvoort GP circuit in the Netherlands, as both Matthew Lewis and David Rowe held on to victory by mere inches respectively in both races.

Sending a signal that he was back on form, Harry Senior managed to snatch pole position from the grasp of DPR Motorsport team manager David Rowe, but only by just under half a tenth of a second with James Murphy and Matthew Lewis less than a tenth behind them on the second row. Guy Crawford continued his strong form by taking 5th quickest time, albeit at least half a second off the four cars in front of him and with Will Rossetti starting alongside.

Senior survived a small brush with Rowe on the run to Tarzan for the first time to hold the lead with Murphy and Lewis in close pursuit and immediately, the top four began to make a break with Rossetti attempting to go with them. Rowe began to pressure Senior for the lead into Schievlak and then at Turn 10, but the five-time series race winner Senior held firm as behind them, Lewis deprived Murphy of 3rd at the Hans Ernst chicane. With Senior leading the opening lap, Murphy came back at Lewis exiting the last corner and completed the move back into 3rd at Tarzan as the pair attempted to keep up with the top two.

It didn’t take long for the lead pair to once again become a lead quartet as they closed up at the chicane, with Murphy managing to squeeze out Rowe for 2nd on the exit but both cars ending up side-by-side. As the four cars charged to Tarzan as a collective, the two DPR drivers eventually resolved itself in Murphy’s favour, who then immediately went on the attack for the lead through the Slotemaker Esses to no avail. Contact at Turn 10 due to Rowe missing his braking point caused Murphy to spin down to 12th place after his fine efforts in the opening laps and this immediately put him under threat from Lewis. The pair made contact twice down the pit straight, the second hit elbowing Lewis onto the grass as Rowe defended the place. With Crawford closing in fast to join the battle and Senior attempted to escape up the road, Lewis knew he had to get a move on and managed to put Rowe to bed once and for all moving inside at Tarzan for 2nd place and electing to put his foot down to chase after leader Senior.

Lewis managed to use the clear air around him to quickly chip away at Senior’s lead advantage and brought it down to less than a second on the penultimate lap while Rowe and Crawford did their best to keep in touch. Starting the final lap, the gap was down to just under half a second and a chance of potentially stealing a race win was firm in Lewis’ grasp. Approaching the Hans Ernst chicane, Lewis was on Senior’s tale and the additional pressure seemed to get to Harry as he locked up at corner entry to seemingly gift Lewis a victory in the final moments of the race. But staying in the draft through the final corner, Senior pulled alongside on the sprint to the line and in a drag race to the flag, both cars crossed the line together in a photo finish. While Senior was initially shown to have stolen the win back, the timing screen corrected itself to show that Lewis had only just held on to victory by a mere 0.003 seconds. David Rowe completed the podium a second back in 3rd place followed by impressive drives from Guy Crawford and Blair McConachie respectively to round off the top 5. Steve Arnell and Will Rossetti were next across the line with Mark Bennett close behind, while James Fowler and Andy Steele finished up the top 10 placings.

The battle for the lead resumed immediately at the start of Race 2 with Senior challenging Lewis on the outside at Tarzan as they the first half of the field through the opening corners, but behind them, a chain reaction caused several cars in the second half of the pack to come together and fall back from the rest as they recovered. However, one man to benefit from it all was James Murphy, who had retired from the first race to start at the rear of the field, but managed to combine a good start with avoidance of the mayhem in front of him to make up a staggering 11 places through the opening corners to place 12th by the time he reached Scheivlak. Meanwhile, the top two had been caught by Rowe by the end of Lap 1, making it a trio for the lead as the race began to progress forwards.

Senior clinched the lead on the second lap from Lewis with Rowe and a catching Guy Crawford in hot pursuit but heading into Tarzan at the start of the following lap, the top 3 cars closed up as Senior and Lewis ended up side by side but made contact on turn-in, eventually causing Lewis to spin and putting Rowe into the lead at Senior’s expense. After a lap of pursuit, Senior decided to attempt making a move on Rowe into Tarzan again to no avail, but the next corner at Gerlachbocht he clattered into the side of the DPR Motorsport team boss but held back to allow Rowe to continue in front. Trying again into the esses, Senior drew alongside and slipped past to retake the lead, only for both drivers to once again run side-by-side down towards Tarzan. Behind them, their battling was reintroducing Lewis into the mix who was also bringing Will Rossetti and Mark Bennett into play, creating a six-pack at the front for the podium places.

Going into the final two laps, Rowe was determined to stick to the rear of Senior’s car and did so as the minutes ticked down to the finish, but sure enough, a vigilant Lewis caught up to them as the final lap began. Not wishing to waste any more time, Rowe attacked into Tarzan and a small bump to the rear of Senior’s car nudged him wide, allowing him to grab the lead. Senior almost seemed to return the favour at the next corner and Rowe just survived the resulting lurid slide, while Lewis played the role of opportunist and peeked around the outside at the Hugenholtz hairpin. All three ran nose to tail through the next few corners as they prepared to run for the chequered flag, as Lewis attempted to grab 2nd place from Senior, but exiting the final corner the trio were bunched together again. Senior moved out to try and get his nose in front, but Rowe had enough momentum to just pip him to the line and grab his first Academy Series win, but only by 0.006 seconds. Lewis was just over a tenth behind to complete the top 3, with Crawford only a second away as he clinched another 4th place ahead of Will Rossetti, with Mark Bennett rounding off the top 6. While the focus had mainly been on the leaders, James Murphy had worked his way through the pack to eventually finish in 7th, ahead of Blair McConachie, James Fowler and Mark Rider.

Scott Woodwiss