SILVERSTONE JULY 3/4 PREVIEW – CATERHAM SEVEN 310R CHAMPIONSHIP
Things looks as though they’re about to get pretty interesting in the Caterham Seven 310R Championship as after the first two weekends have already produced three different race winners from Donington Park and Knockhill, the next test sees the drivers now tackle the incredible Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in a rare and unique opportunity that everyone on the grid will certainly be looking forward to. Alongside this, there’s an enhanced entry this weekend with some new and returning faces joining those whose seasons are already two race meetings old.
Caterham’s penultimate step on the ladder sees the ultimate evolution of the Academy car, with drivers and cars now typically entering their fourth year of competition; many with the benefit of professional team support. Looking identical to the Seven 270R that sits below it, the improvements are all under the skin. A power hike to 152bhp is accompanied by a limited-slip differential, whilst retaining the Seven 270R’s track-biased suspension and Avon ZZS tyres. The result is considered by many to be the best balanced and most enjoyable Caterham ever.
Rather than begin our driver run down with the championship leader, we’re instead going to start by talking about the driver currently in 13th place in the points. Why? Simple – he won both races last time out at Knockhill! Lewis Thompson has proven himself to be something a real young hotshot at the wheel of a Caterham and he ensured he was in command in Scotland by seeing off all the opposition to collected a brace of victories to begin his season, after he missed out on the opening three races at Donington Park. To be as quick as he has been out of the box is certainly going to be ominous for those currently sitting around the head of the table as in a few races’ times, the order could look rather different.
The one driver who may be the most worried is Pete Walters, a former Caterham champion in the past who is no stranger to success. Committing to a full season again this year after sporadic appearances in 2020, Pete’s campaign has begun incredibly well as he’s so far never finished a race lower than 2nd place! This consists of two races wins at Donington, along with three 2nd places to give him a substantial 12 point lead after just two race meetings. Even though this advantage already seems tough to overcome, it’s not impossible if Thompson and co can peg him back.
The “co” part of that last sentence mainly consists of James Wingfield, Harry Cook, Andrew Murgatroyd and also Lars Hoffmann, although the latter of the four isn’t quite where he’d want to be right now. Wingfield’s form has seen a marked improvement over the last couple of seasons as now he’s already 2nd in points after two meetings with finishes in the top five in all five races run so far. He did have to face extra competition from Harry Cook in particular, who added to his two top fives and podium at Donington with another pair of strong results to make sure he kept Wingfield in close attention just two points ahead of him. Murgatroyd is also on their coattails too with a concoction of 4th and 5th so far to put him in 5th, the above three drivers all separated by six points between them and looking to make inroads where possible on Walters’ lead.
Doug Christie and Giuseppe Felet come next, two drivers who at times have allowed the leaders to get away from them, but then managed to claw them back towards them once they started battling and eventually became part of that lead group. Both have had their successful moments in the last few years and will certainly be hoping that they can experience more of those this weekend if the pace is present. One driver who isn’t getting as much luck as he’s hoped for so far this year is Ben Lopez-Appleton, who only has a best finish of 3rd from Donington’s 2nd race to show for as a strong result. A mixture of a strange lack of pace coupled with spins and incidents have left him down in 8th with a lot of work to do, already being 32 points behind the lead. He’s had his fair share of race wins and success in Caterhams over the last few seasons, so hopefully Silverstone can be the turning point in his year and the start of some consistent, strong finishes.
Another driver who is lower than he really should be is Lars Hoffmann, the 2020 Caterham Seven 270R champion and Roadsport champion the year before that. Even though he managed to win Donington’s second race, a nightmare Knockhill meeting left him scoring nothing and slipping down to 10th, meaning he really is on the back foot at this stage. While drivers can drop their three worst scores, it won’t make it any easier for Lars as he knows two of them will have to be zeros, putting him under more pressure to perform and make every single point count from here on in. He really needs a mistake-free weekend at Silverstone to get his title hopes back on track.