Over the last couple of the seasons the Santander Caterham Seven 310R Championship, featuring the final evolution of the Caterham Academy car, has been touted by some as containing the most competitive lineup of drivers and some of the most intense racing found across the Caterham paddock. As in many years, the fate of the title was decided in the final rounds of the season as Chris Hutchinson fulfilled an ambition he’d held since his entry into the paddock via the Academy by becoming champion. 2019 sees a slightly different but just as exciting prospect with a whole host of new and existing drivers ready to step up.

As mentioned, the Caterham 310R race car is vastly transformed from its original Academy form with all of the previously fitted upgrades from its progress through the ranks of Roadsport and 270R. To complete its transition into a 310R, the car receives a further power increase to 152hp as well as the addition of a limited slip differential, allowing drivers to experience a more precise level of fine-tuning their car’s setup and handling. It’s the final step before drivers look to move into the top-level 420R Championship, as the drivers get to enjoy what is touted by some as “the best balanced and most enjoyable Caterham ever.”

One critical omission from this year’s grid is Hutchinson as mentioned above, who has chosen to take an extended sabbatical from racing. While his car will certainly still be present in the field, Chris will be watching from the sidelines supporting his DPR Motorsport teammates. One of them goes into 2019 as a definite favourite as Gordon Sawyer will race knowing that his two principal rivals from 2018, Hutchinson and Christian Szaruta, won’t be there to try and stop his championship aspirations. With six wins to his name from last season, there may be few that will have the pace to knock him off top spot. But that doesn’t mean that many won’t be trying.

As in any new year in a Caterham season, a new crop of drivers move up from the previous championship, and there’s no difference here in the influx of names from last year’s 270R Championship. While champion Jamie Falvey shoots straight into the top flight 420Rs, his main rivals have elected to carry on where they left off. The ever fast and charismatic Jay McCormack and former Roadsport champion Pete Walters lead the line here, both keen to dice amongst each other once more. Both are seasoned front runners and race winners, but crucially McCormack used the Team Enduro to competitively shakedown his upgraded car. Walters elected not to take that opportunity, so pre-event testing will be his best chance to see how he stacks up against Jay and the rest.

Gary Smith will be the man tasked with driving the aforementioned title-winning car from last season, as he looks to build on what was a solid 2018 that netted him 4th place in the 270R standings. He will also have Caroline Everett (partner of fellow Caterham racer Russ Olivant) and Douglas Christie for company, while James Wingfield and Matt Topham will also be welcome graduates on the grid looking to make progress. Topham, in particular, will be keen to repeat his sole victory last season at Thruxton.

There’s also plenty of drivers remaining in 310R that should be just as deadly. Caterham engineer Lee Bristow won the first ever 310R Championship in 2017 and just missed out on the top 3 in the standings in 2018. Having helped take his Super Team to a podium finish in the Enduro, Lee will be gunning to make it two titles in three years. Alan Cooper was able to end the year in the top 5 having collected some podiums and a coveted victory at Brands Hatch, so he would love to build on that progress too. Youngster Tom Grensinger also made a real impact on his first season of racing out of the Academy with an impressive 7th in the standings, even getting near the podium towards the end of the year. Perhaps he may be a force to be reckoned with?

Other notable drivers carrying on into 2019 include Nathan Bell, a former race winner who returned last season after spending a year racing Mazda MX-5s. Former Academy White champion Andrew Perry wants a shot at a gold too, while James Beardwell was another driver making a giant leap from his Academy season that seemed to pay off in the end. David Yates also has a podium to his name from 2018 and could surprise one or two people if he gets the same opportunity again.

Even back in the days of its predecessor the Supersport Championship, this level of Caterham racing never fails to keep fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish. What may start as a two-car battle at the front of the field can turn into a dozen 310Rs nose-to-tail all contesting the podium in no time at all. While some of last year’s key contenders have either moved up or chosen to sit on the sidelines, this year’s contest won’t be any less competitive. Once again, we may not even have a definitive favourite for the championship until we get to the final rounds – it’s THAT close!

Scott Woodwiss


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