SILVERSTONE PROVIDES SENSATIONAL CATERHAM SEASON OPENER


Even though the weather most provided grey skies and murky surroundings, the championships competing at this past weekend’s race meeting at Silverstone on the National circuit shone brightly as a multitude of Caterhams, Fiestas, VW Golfs and more took the track to put on a show for the spectators – and boy, did they ever!

Racing began with the Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship, with all drivers competing in their second season of racing fresh from graduating through the Caterham Academy the previous year. With both of last year’s Academy champions (Justin Heap and Chris Moore) moving straight into a higher tier on the Caterham roster, that left new contenders ready to pick up where they’d left off. It turned out that Will Rossetti would become the torch bearer come the opening race, as he proceeded to lead from the front row of the grid and eventually claim the win by almost 7.5 seconds. The race was stopped in the closing stages due to an accident at Brooklands, a corner that would provide the majority of the highlights all weekend. Andrew Murgatrouyd collected 2nd place at the head of a frantic 7-car battle for the podium with Angelos Alvanos capturing 3rd. The second race was also forced to be called early due to similar circumstances, however the top 3 was almost completely different. Stuart Bell put in a brilliant drive from 6th on the grid to be declared the winner, but it was the man in 2nd place that stole the show as Andy Lees recovered from Race 1 dramas to go from 35th on the grid to an astonishing 2nd place at the red flag; Alvanos made it a brace of 3rd places, but while the Roadsport boys and girls had impressed, the best was yet to come.

Without question some of, if not THE best races of the entire weekend were produced by the Motul Caterham Seven 270R Championship, with a field mostly fresh out of last year’s Roadsport entry all spoiling for a fight. They wasted no time in slugging it out on track once Race 1 got underway, as the front half of the field formed a race of their own as the top 16 cars battled it out amongst each other. After half an hour of exhausting racing, it all came down to the run off the final corner, as Matt Sheppard somehow held off Justin Heap and James Murphy as the trio went three abreast through the final corner, crossing the line virtually together. All three drivers finished in the above order, albeit only covered by just 0.053 seconds! But if you thought that race had been intense, that was nothing compared to Race 2 the following day. From 32 cars that started, 29 of them remained in the lead group for almost the entire 30 minute encounter, giving the spectators a sight not seen much outside of events such as the Daytona 500. Back and forth the positions changed multiple times a lap, with some barely able to keep up with developments as the race ticked on. Eventually, a final lap incident at Brooklands broke up the pack somewhat, leaving Justin Heap to power through it all as the winner followed by Daniel Halstead and Neil Fraser. Many came away from this weekend stating that these two races had been some of the greatest in Caterham Motorsport’s history, meaning the remaining races on the calendar had a tough benchmark to live up to.

The next level up on the ladder, the Santander Caterham Seven 310R Championship, would go on to produce racing that was almost on the same level. The first race would see five different drivers take turns in the lead as Gordon Sawyer, Andrew Perry, Jay McCormack, Don Henshall and Lee Bristow all took turns to head the field for at least one lap throughout the 30 minute race. Come the end of the encounter, Sawyer had been able to hold on for the final 5 laps to claim victory ahead of McCormack and Bristow. The usual suspects were at it again a day later in Race 2, albeit no-one could top Sawyer’s ambition to complete the opening weekend with a clean sweep; he made it two wins out of two with James Beardwell picking up an excellent 2nd place ahead of McCormack in 3rd.

Not to be outdone by all of the above, the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship also made sure the spectators were thrilled by their antics too. John Byrne made sure to mark himself out as an early championship contender as he proceeded to fend off all those who dare attempted to steal the win. Eventually at the chequered flag, he too had to prevent another stunning photo finish to take victory, leaving Tim Dickens to just miss out in 2nd with former double champion Aaron Head in 3rd and the top 9 cars crossing the line separated by a mere 1.7 seconds altogether, including former Olympic cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy. Byrne would then go on to do it again the next day in Race 2, resisting every single attack from the cars behind to complete a fantastic double ahead of David Henderson and Jamie Falvey, who was delighted with a podium in his first 420R race weekend after winning last year’s 270R title. The Caterham Motorsport drivers now get a rest until their next rounds next month at Croft in North Yorkshire, except for the brand new Academy drivers who contest their one and only sprint event at Curborough this coming weekend.

Elsewhere on the timetable there was plenty of exciting racing courtesy of the BRSCC Fiesta Championship racing with MRF Tyres. New rules for 2019 had allowed the Ford Fiesta ST and Fiesta Zetec S models to be merged into one group, allowing more drivers the chance to fight for overall wins and therefore the championship title. The first race saw Samuel Watkins lead early on, but a three-wide skirmish at the front ended up with Watkins’ car sent hard into the wall ending his weekend prematurely. With the race stopped and restarted over 12 minutes, Zachary Lucas enjoyed a tense battle with polesitter Ryan Faulconbridge to pick up his first outright Fiesta win, with Faulconbridge 2nd and Fiesta Junior graduate Isaac Smith taking a superb 3rd place. Not content with his first podium, Smith threw himself into the mix in a fantastic 8 car fight for the podium places of which he would eventually come out on top. Faulconbridge picked up another 2nd place for his troubles, while Smith’s fellow FJC call up James Waite took his first senior podium in 3rd place.

The BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship racing with MRF Tyres may have had a small entry, but that didn’t stop the racing from being anything less than excellent. At the head of the field the story all weekend long was that of the duel between defending champion Magnus Kriklywi and hungry FJC veteran Olly Turner. From the off, Kriklywi led with Turner right on his tail and he would remain there until a brave dive up the inside into Brooklands saw him grab the lead. Turner then defended for his life over the remaining laps to finally clinch his first circuit racing victory after two seasons of trying and hard work. Kriklywi settled for 2nd place in front of a staggered Ted Potts who couldn’t believe he’d taken his first podium finish in 3rd. More of the same was to come from Race 2 with Turner and Kriklywi dicing back and forth in another epic battle. In the end, Turner would come out on top again to do the double from Kriklywi with newcomer Joel Wren putting Race 1 mechanical issues behind him to score a deserved 3rd place. Both Fiesta championships will only have two weeks to wait until they’re back in action for the first time at Pembrey Circuit in Wales.

The opening rounds of the Teekay Couplings Production GTi Championship took place on Sunday with classes accommodating drivers in both Mk2 and Mk5 generations of VW’s legendary hot hatchback. Defending Mk5 champion James Colbourne found out he wasn’t going to defend his title the easy way as he found himself chasing rival Simon Hill all weekend in both races. Hill would go on to complete an impressive double with Colbourne following him all the way to claim a pair of 2nd places, while Martyn Walsh ensured both Mk5 podiums remained identical with two 3rd place finishes. Over in the Mk2 Championship contenders, former double champion Chris Webb put his plans to reclaim his crown firmly on track with a win in Race 1 followed by Pete Milne and Matthew Eccles. Race 2 would see Eccles prove his transition from the 8V class to the 16v contenders was seamless as he picked up a class win ahead of Hartland and Milne. More cars are expected to add to the 20 that made an appearance this past weekend, so watch for this grid to grow even further as the season progresses.

Two “allcomers” style racing clubs took to the track on Saturday and Sunday respectively, the first of which being the CMMC Southern Saloon Car Challenge contesting its first ever races in its new venture. King of the hill in both races was the evergreen Rod Birley as he took to the overall top step twice in his powerful four wheel drive Ford Escort Cosworth. He was made to work for both wins all the way by the formidable BMW M3 GT4 of Edward Leigh as he collected 2nd and 3rd places respectively for his troubles, while Paul Nevill’s Ford Escort RS2000 picked up the other podium positions in each race to ensure the top 3 was populated by the same three drivers. On Sunday, the Track Attack Race Club once again brought their Nippon Challenge, Tricolore Trophy and Multi Marques drivers out to play with Rich Hockley’s Honda Civic Type R clinching both races for himself. Nick Gwinnett and Robert Buckland both finished each race in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

You can find a detailed breakdown of the weekend’s results from Silverstone here – https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/191431

Scott Woodwiss