Steve McMaster and Harry Senior added further to their tallies of race wins in the Caterham 420R Series, as the pair got the better of the fast and tricky Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire on Friday evening.

Senior began the evening back on typical form with pole position in qualifying with Matthew Lewis, one of Harry’s main rivals across both the 420R and Academy series, lapping less than a tenth of a second slower on the front row. Steve McMaster and David Rowe took up the second row behind them ahead of a new name on the grid in Steve Tozer, a former Academy champion that took to virtual racing quickly with the 5th fastest time on his first attempt.

An equal launch from the first few rows allowed everyone to get away cleanly, with Senior sweeping across into Allard to hold onto the lead from Lewis as the pack charged to the complex for the first time. McMaster, Rowe and Tozer followed them in tow through Campbell, Cobb and Seagrave, with the latter pair dicing side by side all the way through the back of the circuit and through Church corner for 4th place. The leading quintet closed up on the second lap and began an epic battle for the leading positions, with Rowe looking up the inside of McMaster at Goodwood as Lewis attacked Senior for the lead. Lewis got his nose in front with Rowe steaming up alongside as the group approached Church, before Senior moved to the outside of both to approach the fastest corner on the circuit three abreast. Rowe made a lunge at corner apex, only to run out wide to allow Lewis and Senior to switch back inside while nose-to-tail, and with McMaster latching onto the rear of Rowe’s car, the quartet ran two-by-two on the sprint to the Club chicane. Both McMaster and Senior move out to put themselves four-wide as the braking zone approached, and Senior just came out on top at the end of the lap, despite a tap from Rowe sending him sideways under braking.

Senior broke away with Lewis, who in turn attempted a pass for the lead at Campbell, as Tozer re-joined the scrap for 3rd place between Rowe and McMaster. However, moments those two drivers made contact, causing Rowe to lose car lengths to the leaders and McMaster to drop down to 5th. Lewis took another look for the lead at the chicane to no avail but stayed close on the following lap and slotted through at the same place. Senior wasted no time in retaking the lead with a superb outside move through the complex, but again Lewis dared to look inside Church as the scrap continued to swing back and forth, allowing the three cars battling for 3rd to close in. Tozer exited from the battle after running wide exiting Goodwood, leaving Rowe and McMaster to draw alongside each other for 3rd with the former stealing the place as a result.

Then, a pivotal moment in the race – in Senior’s attempt to move out from Lewis’ tow and pull alongside, a net code issue caused contact between the pair, with Lewis’ car flying off into the grass. On his attempt to rejoin the track at speed, Lewis ended up sideways in the path of Rowe and pushing him all the way down to 9th place, now way down the order with his chances of victory over. With Senior’s win all but assured, the focus was on the tussle for 3rd between Rowe and Tozer, but this resolved itself when Tozer exited the last chicane very crossed up as the car broke loose over the kerbs.

At the chequered flag, Senior clinched his 5th 420R win in the series with McMaster claiming 2nd and Rowe 3rd, with Tozer a distant 4th after his mishap in the closing stages. James Fowler took one of his best results by finishing in 5th, while Matthew Lewis having to settle for 6th place as he managed to recover three places in the short space of time remaining. Paul Fernihough, Mark Bennett, Domenique Mannsperger and Blair McConachie completed the top 10 finishers.

Senior managed to get a better start than race one to grab a few car lengths on the rest of the pack by the time they arrived at the complex. A few cars hit strife down in the mid-pack behind them as they were sent spinning, but at the front Senior had McMaster for company followed by Tozer, Lewis, Rowe and Fowler. McMaster made an early challenge for the lead at the Club chicane but had to sit back in 2nd place, while Tozer had a wild ride as he bounced off the barriers exiting the chicane before getting caught up with Fowler on the exit of Allard, putting the 3rd placed man from the 2019 Academy White Group down to 10th.

With the top three starting to break away, the main scrap was for 5th position between McConachie and Tozer, but it came to an abrupt halt at Church as the pair came together, and the resulting slide midway through Church corner caused everyone behind them to hit the brakes, thankfully with no contact from anyone. Another incident at the Club chicane saw both he and Mark Bennett fall further down the field and outside the top 10, leaving them with plenty of work to get back through the order with a third of the race gone. At the front, there was more incident between the top three as Senior wandered into the path of McMaster while looking for the lead and he was left in the barriers. When he did rejoin the circuit, he was still 3rd but now several seconds behind the top two and without much chance of victory.

The leaders went side by side through the complex as Lewis attempted to slip past McMaster, but Steve was wise to the attack and held his line throughout and remained in front. Lewis drew alongside again approaching Church and made it stick, but with McMaster coming back at him on the exit Lewis had to get defensive and held on. Senior, meanwhile, now had Rowe and McConachie for company as they battled for 4th place, and soon enough a hard-charging Paul Fernihough thrust himself into the mix, splitting the pair. Rowe decided he wanted the place back and calmly drove around the outside of Fernihough to retake 5th, as James Fowler lurked behind in 7th place.

By this stage, Lewis and McMaster were almost 5 seconds ahead of the rest of the field in a private battle of their own for victory. McMaster put in a new fastest lap to remain on Lewis’ tail and remained there for the next couple of laps as the time ticked down. However, Lewis yet again would hit strife as he ran too hot into the Club chicane, spinning away the lead and handing it to McMaster as he began the penultimate lap. Lewis was quick to recover and only lost a couple of seconds in the process, but the damage was done and he had to settle for the runner-up spot.

McMaster coolly rounded off the final two laps of the race to claim his second 420R win of the series, while Senior recovered well to take the final step on the podium behind Lewis after his early off. McConachie and Rowe completed the top 5 ahead of Fowler and Fernihough, while Tozer, Crawford and Steele rounded off the top 10.

Scott Woodwiss


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