THE 2017 SEASON SAYS SAYONARA AT SILVERSTONE
It’s our last visit of the year to the Home of British Motorsport! Silverstone once again plays host to one part of our mega Finals Weekend of racing, and arguably we’ve saved the best until last. Looking to end their season in their typical energetic and exciting fashion, Caterham Motorsport has no less than seven champions to crown this weekend, alongside support from sports prototypes, tin-tops and a whole host of machinery contesting their final race of the year too.
Mike Evans heads a frighteningly close Caterham Supersport title battle – 3 drivers separated by 1 point on dropped scores! – Photo: SnappyRacers
We start at the bottom of the Caterham Motorsport ladder with the CAR Magazine Caterham Academy, where another sold-out class heads to the end of its term. We’ve still got both Green and White Group titles to settle, starting with the Green Group. Leader Daniel French has never finished outside of the top 5 in any of the previous six events, and on dropped scores holds a 10 point advantage over James Murphy, with a tie for 3rd place between Toby Clowes and Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald seeing them only a further 6 points back. With 26 points up for grabs, any of these four could snatch the crown with a little bit of luck, but the odds are currently in French’s favour for now.
The White Group appears to be just as close, too. Andy Morgan’s margin over Daniel Halstead at the top is 12 points, with Oli Pratt and Tom Allen waiting in the wings if either of them slips up. That said, both would need Morgan to suffer a nightmare race and not score on Saturday afternoon to stand a chance, and even then they would most likely need to win to try and prevent Halstead from stealing the title himself. Either way, both Academy titles will be exciting to watch.
Plus, in what is fast becoming an annual Caterham tradition for their first year drivers, there will be a special Autumn Trophy contest on Sunday afternoon which will see drivers from both Green and White groups take to the track together for the first time and graduate finely. For this race, there’s no points, championships or special prizes at the end of it – it’s just one last 15-minute thrash where we’re very likely to see both of the newly crowned Academy champions face off for the first time. Plus, bragging rights will be at stake to determine just which of the two groups is the fastest!
The Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship will give the Academy drivers an idea of what to expect next season, with last year’s graduates completing their second year of racing. Pete Walters heads to Silverstone with a gap of 12 points to Tom John, a driver who only scored his first ever win in Caterhams back at Oulton Park. While there is still a chance he could pull off a Keke Rosberg-esque title win with one sole victory all season, it will require Walters to fall into bad luck, but given his form this season having won 6 races, this could be unlikely. Also, expect Jay McCormack and Ben Gillias to mix it up and make things even more intriguing.
It’s also pretty close and open in the ALACO Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship, with 20 points separating the top 3 on dropped scores. Russ Olivant is only ahead of Rob Watts by just 9 points, with Alex Jordan 10 points further back in 3rd. Arguably the 270Rs have been the most competitive of the seven championships with a core group of six or seven drivers at the front dicing for the lead. Olivant wants to make it back to back titles, but his nearest rivals will be out to stop him.
This weekend could be an emotional one in Caterham circles as it’s set to be the final meeting that the ITC Compliance Caterham Supersport Championship will compete. But thankfully, it could be a glorious swansong as the championship battle couldn’t be much closer. While Mike Evans leads the overall points standings, it’s a different story when dropped scores come into play. On our calculations, Henry Heaton heads the table by one single point, while Evans ends up tieing with Tim Dickens – that’s three drivers separated by practically nothing! This scenario should make the title contest the most intense of the entire weekend, so don’t take your eyes off it for one second!
The replacement for the Supersport class, the ITC Compliance Caterham Seven 310R Championship, has had an exceptional first year and the run to the title looks set to justify that with three drivers covered by 11 points on dropped scores. Lee Bristow has been the driver mostly on form as he’s hit the top step of the podium six times, but waiting in the wings will be Steve McCulley and Chris Rankin should Bristow’s fortunes take a nosedive. Other likely podium finishers will include Alexander Koeberle, Lee Collins and James Beardwell, so expect to see these three dicing through the pack.
What’s the ultimate expression of a Caterham race car? The Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship features just that and boy, has it been an intense year for them. One of their more significantly populated grids than in recent years has helped them put on a superb show wherever they race, and despite how the points table looks on the surface, it’s closer than you think. While Danny Winstanley initially holds a 36 point advantage initially, that gap shrinks to a mere 8 with dropped scores ahead of season-long rival Lee Wiggins. After always having to play second fiddle to Aaron Head last year, Wiggins wants to put this right and overhaul Winstanley if he can. However, he knows it won’t be an easy task, especially with Jack Sales, Jack Brown, William Smith, Stephen Nuttall and more breathing down their necks. These guys and girls are set to produce some heart-stopping action all weekend.
It’s not just Caterhams in attendance here, you know. The final rounds of the Excool BRSCC OSS Championship also take place this weekend, bringing a wonderfully eclectic mix of fast and noisy sports prototype machinery. 2015 champion Mike Jenvey looks set to go on to clinch a second overall title but will have his Class B running mate Duncan Williams giving him headaches all the way before he does so. Also in the mix will be reigning champion Josh Smith in Class C as he bids to get the job done, while Patrick Sherrington could become Class A champion in his first full season outside of Sports 2000. With over 30 cars expected to represent no less than ten different manufacturers, the variety and pace of this championship are hard to match!
We’ve also go tin-top style action from the Teekay Couplings Production GTis, with the Mk2 Championship and Mk5 Series on track together for the last time this year. With points scoring in the Mk2 Championship, the race will be on for defending champion Chris Webb to do the double. However, Dan Gibbs is only 15 points away and could pounce if Webb slips up at any stage. It’ll be a dice between the pair of them in the 16v Class, while the 8v Class looks just about set for Matthew Eccles with neither Russell Laidler or Luke Haberman able to do anything to stop him. As for the Mk5 Series, their grid continues to grow with entries into double figures once again. Drivers to watch include James Howlison, Dan Rose and Simon Hill.
Finally, Track Attack Race Club is back with us once again, and they’ve decided to hold their end of season celebration on track on Sunday. Their Autumn Trophy race sees an entry list that just about covers every series that the Club runs, with cars appearing from the Nippon Challenge, Tricolore Trophy and the MR2 Classic Race Series as well as a few exciting additions too. Again, this will just be a race for those amongst TARC to have some and enjoy themselves one last time in 2017.
Of course, it’s sad that we have to put another year of club motorsport to bed, but you can be sure that every single driver out there will be giving it everything to make sure they earn bragging rights and for some, an even more significant prize. If you’ve been with us at any point this season, thank you so much for supporting the BRSCC and its drivers. A massive thank you to all our drivers, teams, partners, officials, marshals and spectators for making 2017 a year to remember – even though it’s not quite over just yet!