SEVENS RACE SUPERBLY AT DONINGTON’S CATERHAM FESTIVAL
The 420R Championship were deemed as the most magnificent Sevens from the entire Festival weekend – Photo: SnappyRacers
This past weekend saw plenty of festivities and celebration both on and off the track as Donington Park in Leicestershire played host to the Caterham 60th Anniversary Festival. 19 races helped mark the occasion with a multitude of Caterham championships plus support from Formula Ford in a non-stop action packed meeting.
Tackling only their second ever circuit race in their so far short careers, the CAR Magazine Caterham Academy tackled the GP circuit with great enthusiasm. The White Group went first when racing came around on Sunday, where a first lap red flag forced a restart. Oli Pratt and points leader Andy Morgan held the lead for a lap each in the first two laps, before 16 year old Tom Grensinger hit the front and resisted pressure from Morgan for the remainder of the race to take his first ever circuit racing victory. Morgan wound up 2nd with Tom Allen picking up 3rd.
The Green Group would see a frantic battle for the lead between Daniel French, Toby Clowes, Matt Shepherd, Neil Fraser and Graham MacDonald. The leading pack kept relatively close together as points leader French led the way for most of the race, but a mistake in the final few corners of the last lap saw Clowes take full advantage and snatch his first win. French would remain in 2nd place while Sheppard would hold off the advances of both MacDonald and Fraser to pick up 3rd.
Points leader Pete Walters jumped into an early lead in the first Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship race, but soon found himself overhauled by Jay McCormack as he competed once again after his incident at the previous meeting at Brands Hatch. Once McCormack took the lead, however, there appeared to be no stopping him – despite resisting pressure from the likes of Walters, Ben Gillias and Tom John behind him, McCormack managed to romp home to victory by almost 5 seconds as they scrapped amongst themselves. John and Gillias would make the podium also for Race 1, but the second race would become even more bizarre.
McCormack led Race 2 early on before John and then Walters took over at the front and, despite a Code 60, held on to win the second race on the road as all 3 drivers took to the podium. However, a post-race investigation found that all of the top 7 drivers had committed Code 60 infringements, giving them all 1 minute time penalties and pushing them down the order. As a result, Geoff Price inherited the victory from Dave Bullock and Michael O’Reilly, while original winner Walters was pushed down to 4th.
The ALACO Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship saw 4 different leaders in its first race as Russ Olivant, Daniel Quintero, Andrew Perry and returnee Gary Smith all took a turn to hold first place. However, neither Quintero or Perry would see the flag as an incident between the pair at the Fogarty Esses left both drivers stranded in the gravel and out of contention. Olivant inherited the lead a result before Smith stole it back and remained in front for a spectacular comeback victory as William Lloyd picked up 3rd. For Race 2, Smith would once again trade the lead back and forth all race long in another Code 60 affected race, which saw a hairy moment when the Code 60 was called when the leading group all checked up to avoid contact as drivers slowed. When it was all said and done, Smith and Olivant occupied the top two with Rob Watts picking up 3rd place.
A sensational first race took place for the ITC Compliance Caterham Supersport Championship as after a frantic scramble in the opening lap saw Henry Heaton and Mike Evans shake out as the runaway pair at the front. Once again, the two drivers would constantly swap the lead between them until eventually it was Heaton that came out on top. A titanic battle for 3rd continued to rage behind them that was won in the end by former Tracksport champion Timothy Dickens, while Ben Tuck was a star of the show with several bold passes into Redgate corner on the outside line. The second race was just as fraught at the front with Evans initially leading before trading it with Heaton and Dickens once again. The trio would, as had happened in Race 1, break away from the chasing pack and would end up in the same order on the podium again with Heaton doubling up on wins from Evans and Dickens.
The ITC Compliance Caterham Seven 310R Championship once again was graced with the presence of 6-time Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, taking part in his second weekend in Caterham racing. He found it tough to keep with the leaders as out in front as a 6 car group formed in Race 1, once again sharing the lead between Steve McCulley, Alexander Koerbele and eventual race winner Chris Rankin, who led early on before losing it to both of the above drivers and then stealing it back from Koerberle on the last lap. Rankin able to double up in the second race, holding on out in front for considerably longer than the first encounter, only being toppled on two laps by McCulley, who would finish 2nd again from Koerberle.
But without a doubt, the races of the weekend were put on by the Avon Tyres Caterham 420R Championship, the fastest Caterhams taking to the track all weekend. As it had been throughout most of the season, it was a battle between Danny Winstanley and Lee Wiggins, but both were caught up in a massive melee of constant position swapping in an ever increasingly large battle pack. They were mainly kept company by Jack Brown, William Smith and Jack Sales and at the end of the first half hour encounter, Winstanley would win from Wiggins and Brown.
However, this was topped by an utterly spellbinding second race which saw the win decided in the dying moments of the race. While Winstanley and Wiggins diced once more for the lead, they didn’t count on Sales snatching it away from both of them and with it looking as though his first 420R win was on the cards, a mistake at the Melbourne Loop hairpin followed by subsequent contant triggering his engine killswitch pushed him all the way down to 11th. The top 3 ended up with Wiggins taking the win from Winstanley with Brown again in 3rd.
There was also racing action from Caterham’s continental siblings as the Caterham France R300 Championship ventured over for the celebrations for two non-championship races designated as the French Caterham Cup. Despite not setting a qualifying time, Caterham France ambassador and French Porsche Carrera Cup frontrunner Vincent Beltoise stunned just about everyone watching Race 1, as it took him less than half the race distance to go from last on the grid to the lead of the race. He would stay there to win by almost 13 seconds from Pascal Wehrlen and Henri Bizet, before subsequently withdrawing from Race 2. The race that followed was just as intense as Jean-Phillipe Gossiaux picked up a win for himself ahead of Wehrlen and Bizet once again.
Support for the Festival was provided superbly by the epic Britcover National Formula Ford 1600 Championship with Avon Tyres, where Code 60 played a factor in all 3 races. Jordan Dempsey started Race 1 from pole and looked set to follow that up with a race win, but an apparent suspension failure at Old Hairpin in the closing stages robbed him of the result. James Roe Jnr would therefore pick up the top step as a result from a superb effort from Josh Fisher in 2nd and Luke Williams in 3rd. Roe Jnr wouldn’t cover himself in glory at the start of Race 2, however, as he and 3 drivers moved before the lights went out landing them all with 10 second time penalties. While Roe Jnr won the race on the road, the win would be given to Williams with Luke Cooper taking 2nd place despite battling chicken pox and Neil MacLennan scoring 3rd.
For the final race of their weekend, the aforementioned Jordan Dempsey found himself on pole again thanks to the reverse grid draw, but the star of the show was fellow Irishman Keith Donegan who drove an excellent race to hold on to 2nd place for the entire race distance. As it was, MacLennan stormed through to the lead early on and wouldn’t be headed, while Dempsey would manage to remain in contention and secure 3rd place.
There was also more Formula Ford action provided by the Avon Tyres Northern Formula Ford 1600 Championship as they contested their away rounds for 2017. Joshua Smith, who entered the weekend as overall points leader, wouldn’t score a single result as constant technical problems blighted him in every race he took to the grid for. James Scott-Murphy would go forwards in Race 1 to score his first ever circuit racing victory ahead of fellow Post 89 finishers Luciano Carvalho and Nick Barnes. After sustaining damage in a prior National race left Scott-Murphy unable to compete, it was down to Carvalho and Barnes to contest the Post 89 and overall win with Barnes overhauling the Portuguese driver to score a win for himself. Rapid Dutch airline pilot Jaap Blijleven was a dominant Pre ’90 winner in both races, even scoring an overall 3rd place in Race 2.
You can find the full breakdown of the results from Donington Park here – DONINGTON PARK RESULTS.