SILVERSTONE JULY 3/4 PREVIEW – CATERHAM ROADSPORT CHAMPIONSHIP
The opening rounds of the 2021 Caterham Roadsport Championship were certainly as intense as we’d anticipated at Donington Park and the mixed weather conditions only added to the drama and excitement a race in heavy rain and wet conditions on Saturday and bright sunshine the next day. Both races brilliantly helped set the tone for what’s sure to be another intense battle for the title and this weekend at Knockhill Circuit in Scotland, it’s sure to mark a palpable second chapter for the season.
The Roadsport championship is the next step on the Caterham ladder for the Academy drivers and their cars from the 2020 season, enabling them to enjoy another year of racing with the friends they have battled against in the hugely successful Academy series. With only light modifications, the Roadsport race car is a simple development of the 2020 Academy car; its performance significantly enhanced by the addition of a rear-anti roll bar and a switch to track orientated, yet still road legal, Avon ZZS tyres.
As many would have expected, the two drovers that left Donington with the race victories were the previous year’s pair of Academy champions. Tom Cockerill (Green Group) and Taylor O’Flanagan (White Group) both picked up a winner’s trophy each, although how they got there was not as simple as it sounds. O’Flanagan managed to work his way through the murky conditions of Race 1 to take a convincing victory and it could have been a perfect brace had he not run wide at McLeans on the final lap and thrown away his chance. Instead, Cockerill managed to take Race 2 for himself and with O’Flanagan forced to settle for 4th on that occasion, it puts Tom two points ahead of Taylor by virtue of his 2nd place in Race 1. We suspect this will be a battle that rumbles on all year until the season finale, but one thing is for sure – they won’t be the only two scrapping it out to be champion.
Domenique Mannsperger has to be a key driver in the fight this year having been a race winner last season. He proved to be very consistent by scoring 3rd and 2nd across both days with the fastest lap of the race in Saturday’s encounter in wet conditions that he’s already proven to be very formidable in. Being quick in all weathers appears to be a trait that serves Domenique quite well and he might feel like doing a little rain dance to push the odd of victory into his favour ahead of this weekend as he heads to Scotland level on points with O’Flanagan. Gwyn Jones is another driver who has a race win under his belt from 2020 and made himself a permanent fixture in the lead group during the opening rounds. He didn’t fall out of the top five in either race including working his way into 3rd on the last lap on the Sunday, something which has helped him sit 4th in point at this early stage with the ambition to once again grace the podium and take home more silverware.
Adam West, Nick Timpson and Alex Vincent are the next three in the standings after Donington with the trio merely separated by just a single point. West’s pace has come on in leaps and bounds and is now a solid top 10 runner, even managing an excellent 5th in Race 2 to prove he’s making great progress. Timpson is another who as quietly been grinding away at getting quicker and quicker and having managed to go one better than West did with a 4th place, one has to wonder how much more pace is still to be unlocked from his mean green machine. As for Vincent, he really did have a rollercoaster of a weekend after he failed to get a proper lap in during qualifying which forced him to start at the back of the grid in 27th place on Saturday. Some inspired wet weather driving saw Alex take an amazing 6th place before he followed it up with 7th in the dry the next day. All three are sure to want to trouble the current front runners and each of them might just have something in reserve to cause an upset as and when the time’s right.
With the rest of the top 10 featuring Adrian Mariadas, Steve Lancaster and Chris Broom, one driver who doesn’t currently feature within it that probably should is Hugo Bush. He certainly had a mixed set of fortunes to start his 2021 season as he beached himself in the gravel to ensure he took zero points from the first race and while attempted a wild outside pass for the lead on the final lap of Race 2, he still managed to take home 5th. Thanks to his non-score, Bush heads to Scotland down in 13th place with a lot of ground to make up, but even though he will have the comfort of knowing that at least one of the Donington results could eventually count as a dropped score at the end of the season, he also knows that every single point he can grab along the way counts for a lot. Expect him to bounce back strong this weekend.
So, will the Academy champions continue their dominance or will their closest rivals carrying over from 2020 continue to strengthen their efforts to stop them and steal their throne? Let’s see what the wild rollercoaster ride that is Knockhill Circuit produces!