NORFOLK CALLS CATERHAM 420R’S TO SNETTERTON


The top-line Avon Tyres Caterham 420R Championship never ceases to amaze spectators at any venue it competes at, and 2019 has certainly lived up to that statement so far. From three race weekends, we’ve seen some of the best racing action the championship has delivered in recent years and now the paddock travels to a venue that really lends itself to the style of racing that Caterhams always delivers – Snetterton in Norfolk.

Caterham’s premier championship has firmly established itself as one of the most competitive and exciting race series in the country. A grid of high quality, experienced, drivers, most of whom have worked their way up through the Caterham ranks, winning races and championships along the way, ensures that the top level of Caterham racing is amongst the most exciting. The Seven 420R is a dedicated race machine and is perhaps the fastest racing formula without the benefit of slicks or wings. As with all Caterham racing, close control of the regulations ensures a level playing field of machinery.

If you took a look at the results so far this season, you’d be forgiven in thinking that it should be John Byrne leading the way in the championship battle and for most of this season, that’s certainly been the case. However, fortunes at Oulton Park were mixed for Byrne as mechanical problems in Race 1 saw him rack up a surprise DNF. But you can never keep a good driver down and thanks to a mega effort from his team, his engine was changed and after just making it onto the grid for Race 2, he stormed through from the back of the field to take a win that will certainly make him worthy of the title should he go on to be successful.

The man that heads the way in his place is current main rival David Henderson. Benefitting from Byrne’s retirement, Henderson collected his second win of the season to add to that which he’d secured at Croft. Thanks to the lack of a DNF, Henderson is able to hold a slender 1 points lead over Byrne as the championship reaches the half way stage this weekend. When it comes to outright pace, Byrne may well have the overall advantage, but never underestimate Henderson’s evident ability to carry on scoring as many points as possible whilst his rivals falter around him.

Giving chase in 3rd and 4th place come two drivers that have yet to secure a 420R win in their careers, yet surely must be on the cusp given their current upward trajectory. Both Tim Dickens and Henry Heaton have raced each other since they took their first steps on the Caterham ladder back in the Academy, and that intimate knowledge of each other’s racecraft has meant one driver was never too far away from the other on track at any given track. Both have seen the podium with Dickens scoring two visits to Henry’s sole appearance at Oulton Park, but given that both are always in the lead pack it surely must be a matter of when rather than if they will stand on the top step of a 420R podium this season.

Next come two drivers that, it’s fair to say, many people expected much more of this season, yet haven’t delivered the kind of results that their past successes would afford them to command. Former double champion Aaron Head returned to the championship he’d dominated twice before in 2015 and 2017, but after spending a year racing a classic Porsche he found a rather different landscape to the one he’d left behind. Currently without a race win and sporting three podiums to date, Head may feel a win is imminent but already knows he has to work much harder than he may have done in the past to obtain it. The same could be said for William Smith, last year’s 420R vice champion who has also gone winless so far in 2019 and despite a high of two podiums at Croft, couldn’t avoid retirement at Oulton Park to force him down the table. He’ll have quite the task to bounce back from 6th in points.

The rest of the top 10 is filled with drivers that have certainly showed plenty of pace and potential at various stages in the season so far. Rob Watts has done well to show improved from at times to wind up in 7th place at this stage, while both Justin Armstrong and Chris Aubrey have both proven themselves to be able to keep pace with the leading pack but regularly found themselves just falling short of a top 5 finish. Richard Ainscough completes the top 10 having achieved a season’s best 3rd place at Oulton Park and will hope to carry his strong back to Norfolk.

Also, keep an eye out for former six time Olympic gold medal winning cyclist turned racing driver Sir Chris Hoy, who has become a regular in the 420R paddock ever since trying his hand for the first time last season. A former European Le Mans Series champion, Hoy isn’t short of talent and has already shown plenty of progress so far this year as he’s allowed himself to hang around the leading group on more than one occasion. As he continues to get stronger, could Snetterton produce his best result to date?

New for 2019, the 420R Championship will feature a SuperPole shootout after the main qualifying session, with the top 10 drivers heading out on track in reverse order at intervals to set one flying lap each. The results of the SuperPole shootout will set the top 10 starting positions for Race 1. Fastest time will score 3 points, 2nd fastest gets 2 points and 3rd receives 1 point.

Scott Woodwiss