SNETTERTON SHAPES UP FOR THE SEVENS
Long straights, sweeping corners and prime chances to overtake at almost every turn – these are the main characteristics that make Snetterton such an entertaining circuit both to race and spectate at. This weekend, we descend once again on Norfolk’s centrepiece motorsport venue as the 300 layout plays host to the opening meeting for one of our most exciting and thrilling collectives of championships – Caterham Motorsport! Four of their 5-series-strong roster kick off their 2018 campaigns this weekend, while the rest of the timetable sees four championships and series conduct their second innings.
Starting with the Draper Tools Caterham Roadsport Championship, this series is set mostly for drivers moving up from last year’s Caterham Academy, meaning that just about every driver lining up here this season are in their sophomore year of competition. With specific upgrades to the original Academy car every time a driver progresses up the ladder, the Roadsport incarnation features uprated tyres amongst other changes. Last year’s Academy Green Group champion Daniel French will line up once again, while drivers who could cause him trouble include Matt Sheppard, Toby Clowes, Oli Pratt and Caterham CEO Graham Macdonald, who went into the winter with a race win in the second Autumn Trophy race at the Silverstone finale.
Next up will be the ALACO Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship, also seeing many drivers progressing up from Roadsport the previous year. Pete Walters enters this season after winning the Roadsport title, but those who seek to usurp him won’t wish to see him drive off into the distance too soon. The ever competitive Jay McCormack has to be a firm favourite to become champion at the third time of asking, while 2015 Academy Green Group champion Rui Ferreira can’t be counted out either. Caroline Everett , Ben Wilson and Eric Tiv are also three more names to throw into the hat for possible podium finishes.
Then we come to what could arguably become the most interesting and competitive championship of them all in Caterham racing this season. The Santander Caterham Seven 310R Championship, or the “new Supersport” as some people would still choose to dub it, is the final evolution of the original Academy racer. This group is full of drivers moving up from last year’s 270R contest, remaining 310R competitors from 2017 and an influx of those making the crossover from Supersport too. In terms of names to watch, take your pick – from a 40 car grid this weekend there’s a great number to choose from. Frontrunners should include (deep breath here) Russ Olivant, Andrew Perry, Rob Watts, Christian Szaruta, Chris Rankin, Dan Gore, James Beardwell, Chris Hutchinson, Nathan Bell, Alex Jordan, Daniel Quintero and reigning champ Lee Bristow. How on earth do you pick a winner from that lot?!
Finally on the Caterham ladder comes the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship, a purpose built chassis and the ultimate expression of a Caterham race car. 2017 title winner Danny Winstanley is back again to do the double, but those who will be out to stop him are William Smith, Anthony Barnes, Elliot Norris, Stephen Nuttal, Alexander Koerberle and Jack Brown, plus Supersport graduates Henry Heaton and the outgoing champion Mike Evans. This should be another fascinating contest all weekend, especially when you can also factor in a certain Olympic gold medallist names Sir Chris Hoy too!
The rest of the paddock is full to the brim with quality championships, no less so than our pair of Mazda MX-5 competitions. The Mazda MX-5 Championship for Mk1 generation models kicked off their season at Brands Hatch three weeks ago, where defending champion Will Blackwell-Chambers got his defence of the #1 underway with a perfect hat-trick of wins. Mike Comber Racing teammate Samuel Smith will be out for revenge, however, while Oliver Allwood, Brian Trott, Martin Tolley, John Langridge, Charlie Burge and more will want to go for glory as well. As ever, such is the entry with over 40 cars, there will be split grids for Groups A and B with the usual promotion and relegation system for the top and bottom 5 drivers in their respective races.
Over in the new Mazda MX-5 Super Series, a non-points scoring contest for SuperCup-spec Mk3 generation MX-5s, Joshua Jackson and Jake Bailey enter the weekend as favourites to take victory after they ran away with all three races back at Brands Hatch. Jackson holds the win tally advantage 2:1 against Jake, while Bailey’s father Sam and Richard Breland will be hoping to keep them in closer proximity than they managed whilst battling between themselves last time. The majority of the opening weekend’s grid returns including Clapham North’s George Grant, while Mk1 veteran Simon Woods and newcomer Liz Walton make their Super Series debuts.
It was also action stations at that same race weekend for the new season of the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup, where champion Steven Dailly also set about keeping the title north of the border for the second year running. He started his 2018 campaign in perfect fashion with pole, fastest lap and victory in both races, and now his next task is to ensure he keeps his momentum rolling here this weekend in Norfolk. Dailly ended up leaving Owen Hunter and Ian Jones fighting amongst each other for 2nd place, although they may have some company in the form of Matthew Parkes, David May, Paul Hinson and Mark Skeats if they get too carried away this time. Another bumper entry of over 30 cars will appear for both of Sunday’s races.
Finally, single seater action comes in the form of the fantastic Speed Group F1000 Championship, a bike-engined, slicks-‘n-wings category where the cars here set some of the fastest lap times in British club motorsport. Defending champ Michael Watton couldn’t have begun 2018 any better with 3 dominant wins, which certainly fired a warning shot to his main rivals ahead of the rest of the campaign. Paul Butcher and Dan Clowes traded places and podiums all weekend, while Adam Walker became the surprise package of Brands Hatch with two rostrum visits himself. All three attend Snetterton, but they should also keep an eye on 2016 champion Rob Sayell making a one-off cameo at his home circuit. Could he be the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.
All 8 championships and series appearing this weekend are known for putting on nail-biting displays of nose-to-tail, frantic and intense battles and pack racing that has to be seen to be believed. Thankfully, Snetterton’s nature will help enhance that further and fingers crossed the weather is kind too. Take your spot on the spectator banks and do not move an inch, as the racing here will be too good to miss!