The final two races of the first season of the Caterham 420R Series played out at Donington Park this past Friday, with Steve McMaster adding to his win tally with his third of the season while Czech sim racer Jaroslav Cerny picked up his first in the series to add to his initial Academy Series win at Oulton Park earlier in the week.

Before the racing in Grid A got underway, one of its regulars had to battle his way through Grid B in order to join them. James Murphy was a late entrant to the evening’s events, meaning he would have to race his way to the front of Grid B in order to be promoted and join his regular competitors. Sporting a bright blue generic livery as opposed to his regular black and orange, Murphy dominated both encounters and punched his ticket to Grid A in the process, albeit starting from the back of the grid for the first race in the process.

In qualifying, a storming late lap from Paul Fernihough gave him a superb pole position as he just edged out Steve McMaster in the final seconds of the session. Tom Wyllys and Steve Arnell showed improved pace to claim the second row while Jaroslav Cerny and Guy Crawford would line up on Row 3. Two notable omissions from the field were Harry Senior and Matthew Lewis, two drivers who had taken the lion’s share of victories but were unable to complete the final two races due to other commitments.

This left the door open for Fernihough, McMaster and co to steal the limelight for themselves and this looked to be the case as the field cleanly moved through the opening couple of corners, before two cars managed to survive lurid slides on the approach to the Old Hairpin. A couple of corners later, however, a skirmish in the midpack kicked off which forced five cars to get caught up and see their fortunes take an early nosedive. At the end of the lap, both Steve Arnell and Mike Hilton also hit strife when they both suffered a spin exiting the last chicane to push them to the tail of the field.

As Fernihough and McMaster began edging away from the rest of the field as they settled down into the early laps of the race, the main focus turned to James Murphy, who had worked his way through the chaotic opening lap to reach 8th place and showed no signs of slowing his progress. He capitalised on a battle between Guy Crawford and Chris Skillicorn to pass the latter exiting the Fogarty Esses before battling with the former through Redgate and the Craner Curves to dispose of the former. James Fowler also slipped up during this and gave up another position to Murphy, allowing him to rise into the top 5. This appeared to be where Murphy’s charge came to a halt as he was unable to shake Crawford from his tail, eventually losing the place on the back straight with Mark Bennett staying in close proximity too.

Towards the front, the leading trio of McMaster, Fernihough and Cerny had the race to themselves as they ran within a second of each other respectively, while behind them in 4th position David Rowe seemed perfectly settled with his almost inevitable result as he found himself in no man’s land between the top three and the scrap for 5th. Cerny managed to capitalise on a small slip from Fernihough to depose him from 2nd place and with less than five minutes to go, his target was now to close in on McMaster and potentially challenge for the lead, despite time starting to run out. Even though he pressed hard, McMaster appeared to have a little too much for the Czech driver as he managed to keep him at more than arm’s length and completed the final laps to pick up his 3rd 420R win of the series, with the top three drivers remaining in the same order as Cerny and Fernihough quickly came home behind. Rowe’s somewhat lonely race was rewarded with 4th ahead of another impressive top 5 finish from Crawford allowed him to keep Murphy at bay, who picked up 6th from the back of the grid. Bennett headed the remainder of the top 10 finishers, comprising of Skillicorn, Andy Steele and Tom Wyllys.

With Cerny now set to start on the front row for the second race and Murphy placed higher up on the grid on the third row this time, McMaster’s chances of a fourth win and a clean sweep of both races, as a result, narrowed somewhat. Indeed when the race got going, Cerny tried his Academy trick from Oulton Park of trying to pass for the lead around the outside of the first corner, albeit not successful this time. McMaster led the way on the opening lap all the way to the Fogarty Esses when Cerny attempted to steal it away. The pair ran side by side on the exit, allowing Rowe to stick his nose into contention and an ambitious attempt to pass both outside of Redgate almost worked had David not allowed himself to run wide on the exit and take to the grass, remaining 3rd as a result but under immediate threat from Fernihough, Murphy and Crawford.

With the first ten cars all stacking up in one group together, something had to give and exiting McLeans on the second lap, it did. The main casualty from the ensuring incident was Fernihough as he tumbled to the bottom of the field, while both Crawford and Blair McConachie were also involved and lost ground as a result. Ahead of them, McMaster wasn’t prepared to let Cerny out of his sight too quickly as remained on his tail in the opening laps, as behind the top two the pair of DPR Motorsport drivers were going into combat. Murphy was keen to get past team boss Rowe and did so at McLeans in the hope that his apparent advantage on pace would help the pair catch up to the leaders. However, it turned out that Rowe was the faster of the two and it wasn’t long before the positions swapped around once along with the cars behind beginning to close in. Indeed, Rowe slotted past once more heading into the Fogarty Esses as the halfway point in the race loomed.

McMaster kept up his pursuit of leader Cerny as the pair pulled away from 3rd placed man Rowe, who again was almost being left to his own devices as Murphy began to drop away from him. Heading into the last couple of laps, McMaster was able to close the gap down to as little half a second, but in the end, he just wasn’t close enough to attack for the lead, leaving Cerny to take the flag and win his first 420R Series race in the process, only beating McMaster by just under three-quarters of a second. Rowe again had a somewhat lonely drive to another podium finish, with Murphy unable to rise higher than 4th after starting higher up the grid, while Tom Wyllys and Mark Bennett completed the top six finishers. Fowler, Skillicorn, Crawford and McConachie rounded off the final top 10 placings of the season.

Both the Academy and 420R Series are set to return soon with a new calendar for each, starting next month at the beginning of July.

Scott Woodwiss


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