SILVERSTONE JULY 3/4 PREVIEW – CATERHAM SEVEN CHAMPIONSHIP UK
The Caterham Seven Championship UK isn’t just intense because it features the fastest factory-supplied race cars the manufacturer produces, but also for the levels of incredible competition and driving talent that have been on display in 2021 from the outset. This year’s title fight doesn’t look as though it’s going to be another John Byrne-type affair with one driver racing off into the distance and dominating. We’ve already seen four different winners from the first six races, meaning that a certain favorite for the title is nowhere near certain right now – and that’s what makes it so exciting as we prepare to race on the incredible Silverstone Grand Prix circuit this weekend!
Caterham’s premier championship has firmly established itself as one of the most competitive and exciting race series in the country and it’s now a National Championship courtesy of Motorsport UK. From 2021 bespoke Avon Slick and wet tyres will be introduced to increase the race performance and the pace, along with uprated suspension and an increased engine rev limit. The Championship is a grid of quality drivers, most of whom have worked their way up through the Caterham ranks, ensures that the top-level Caterham racing is amongst the most exciting on offer. Unique to the Seven UK Championship on the ladder, a SuperPole shootout takes place after the regular qualifying session for the fastest drivers, with a bonus 3 points awarded for pole position, 2 points for P2 and 1 point for P3.
OK, let’s break down our four race winners and see who sits where after the first two race meetings to get a flavour of what to expect from whom. Points leader Stephen Nuttall is up under the microscope first and he did well to consolidate his place at the top after took two wins and a 2nd place at Donington Park. He found himself essentially chasing his closest rival all weekend and even though he still managed a pair of 2nd places and 3rd to keep up his 100% podium record in 2021, his desire to finally take the one Caterham Motorsport title he’s yet to secure in his career will be burning brighter and bigger than ever.
That closest rival to Nuttall is Henry Heaton, who finally managed to break his duck and clinched not just his first but also his second Seven Championship UK race win across the Knockhill weekend after several attempts over the last couple of years. A superb performance in the first two races in Scotland saw him keep the squabbling pack behind him at bay and matched up with some sterling drives at Donington despite one or two mishaps he had to recover from, he really is a prime candidate now to go for the championship. Henry runs as part of his own small independent family team and the way they’ve been able to take the fight to the bigger outfits has been nothing but admirable.
Next comes James Murphy, someone who is quick no matter which level of Caterham race car you stick him in. His ambition coming into 2021 was just to get himself onto the podium at least one and managing to win just his second race in the top category ensured he definitely ticked off this goal! Aside from some up and down fortunes of his own, James has already shown he’s just as quick as the other top drivers around him and with his aim for the rest of the season being to just have fun, enjoy himself and use the remaining races as preparation for a full-on 2022 title assault, he might end up miraculously still in the hunt for this year!
The last of the race winners is Gordon Sawyer, who has certainly had what could easily be labelled as the definition of a rollercoaster start to the year. His raw pace is undeniable and he’s as quick as anyone else on the grid, but bad luck and mistakes have put him 5th in points after he spun out onto the infield in the third Donington race and then ended up getting involved in two incidents in Knockhill’s first race which cost him many points. Usually, his rebound his pretty strong and he typically begins the weekend as one of the favourites regardless, so watch out for him to be in the leading group at all times.
Nestled neatly in the middle of those four is Chris Hutchinson, making his full time comeback after two years away. Chris has steadily gotten to grips with the 2021-spec 420R and has been able to adapt fairly well in a short space of time, finding a rhythm that’s helped him bank solid points in all five races including a best finish of 4th in the opening Knockhill race. If you want a dependable pair of hands that can get the car home in one piece, Hutchinson’s your man and he’ll be hoping to continue that at Silverstone.
Other notable names either have serious catching up to do or just haven’t had any luck at all. After he looks prominent at Donington, Greg Monks couldn’t really consistently replicate the same form at Knockhill despite taking a 3rd place but that takes nothing away from his fine adaptation to from 310R, which saw him as champion last year. Silverstone could be a better weekend for him if he’s able to get on the pack quickly enough. Two more drivers who are also not as high they should be are William Smith and Caterham’s CEO racing driver Graham MacDonald. Both have also had their share of terrible luck and mishaps, with collisions, mistake and penalties hampering their early progress. Both have shown that they can be and are just as fast as the current leaders and they’ll be praying that fortunes swing further into their favour this time in order to finally get some consistent scores on the board.