THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM AT ROCKINGHAM
With its banked opening section and technical layout within the infield, Rockingham Motor Speedway is a true test for any car and driver. Our final visit of the season sees drivers of one of the finest performance cars of all time descend on Corby, with Caterham Motorsport populating the majority of the timetable. As we reach the final stages of the 2017 season, there’s still plenty of battles to be had and points to secure.
Starting from the very bottom, it’s the fourth circuit race of their careers for the CAR Magazine Caterham Academy Championship drivers as they close in on the end of their first season as fully fledged racing drivers. The Green Group currently sees Daniel French leading by 14 points, while the fight is on for second place between Toby Clowes, Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald and Matt Shepherd. Meanwhile over in the White Group, the title battle is in a similar situation with Andy Morgan on top by 18 points while Tom Allen trails in 2nd. However it’s the 4-way scrap for 3rd that’s sure to draw the most attention with Daniel Halstead, Oli Pratt, Tom Grensinger and Chris Bates all separated by just 6 points.
Another packed Caterham Motorsport paddock dominates proceedings at Rockingham – Photo: SnappyRacers
Moving up a rung on the Caterham ladder to the Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship, it’s Pete Walters who heads the standings after taking 5 wins and two 3rdplaces, however incredibly he hasn’t yet scored a 2nd place all season! He will be under pressure to remain at the head of the table – especially seeing as 2nd placed Tom John finally cracked the code on winning a race last time at Oulton Park. Old Academy title rivals Jay McCormack and Ben Gillias are also in the mix too, however they may become a little more preoccupied with their own personal squabble over 3rd, with just 8 points separating the pair. Paul Vernon and Caroline Everett will also be credible threats should the main protagonists falter.
Incredibly, the closest duel for the title currently lies with the ALACO Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship, with Russ Olivant and Alex Jordan in a deadlock at the top of the standings with 207 points each. Before Oulton Park, Olivant hadn’t been off the podium all season but leaving Cheshire he only had a 5th and a DNF to show for his troubles. Jordan, meanwhile, has kept a steady string of points incoming with a best of 2nd place at Donington. With a very competitive lead group of drivers always providing an intense fight, keep an eye on Rob Watts, Daniel Quintero, William Lloyd and Andrew Perry to keep them company – particularly the last name as Perry picked up a double at Oulton Park to remind everyone why he won the 2015 Academy White Group title!
Mike Evans is beginning to edge away at the head of the ITC Compliance Caterham Supersport Championship standings, as a 2nd and a win helped him consolidate what is now a 24 points advantage over his rivals. Tim Dickens and Henry Heaton, both champions in the lower ranks, have been in the lead group all season as expected, but ultimately both have suffered a DNF each while Evans has finished every race so far. Christian Szaruta and Alistair Weaver will be the other key players in the mix as they bid to be best of the rest in a championship which is set to see the Supersport cars sadly go out of service at the end of the this season.
Their replacements are found in the ITC Compliance Caterham Seven 310R Championship, a new version of the Supersport car in a way, with drivers from last year’s Tracksport contest (now known as 270R) competing at what is now the highest level a current Academy car can be taken to. Lee Bristow and Steve McCulley have been the beacons of consistency here and this evident by the mere 3 point gap between them in the standings. McCulley may have only won one race last time at Oulton Park compared to Bristow’s five, but more 2nd places have helped the Mission Motorsport backed driver remained hot on Lee’s heels. There also appears to be a healthy scrap developing for 3rd, with Chris Rankin and Alexander Koeberle separated by just 8 points.
In the top class, the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship, it’s been a season long joust between Danny Winstanley and Lee Wiggins with a 10 point advantage held by the former coming into this weekend. Incredibly, Winstanley hasn’t been off the podium all season so far and that’s a record he’ll be keen to keep up, while Wiggins won’t want to miss out on the title two seasons in a row. Other drivers ready to cause a stir include Jack Sales, William Smith, Stephen Nuttall and Anthony Barnes.
Away from Caterhams, there’s three more BRSCC championships ready to go into combat. The F1000 Championship, formerly known as Formula Jedi, continue their adventures here at Rockingham with a title fight that’s ever increasingly going in the favour of one driver. Micahel Watton’s domination of Silverstone last time brought his lead to 42 points, but the 3-way tussle for 2nd is on between Paul Butcher, Dan Clowes and reigning champ Rob Sayell. With some returning and new faces here this weekend, F1000 is already sowing the seeds for a resurgence ahead of the 2018 season. Be sure to keep an eye on these cars, as they’re loud, fast and provide incredibly clean racing – literally, blink and you’ll miss them!
Tin-top fans will thoroughly love the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup, a championship that never fails to put on a show and a smile on spectators’ faces. Reigning champion James Gornall remains locked in combat with fierce title with Steven Dailly, as the pair continued their duels last time at Silverstone trading 1st and 2nd for each race. Sam Carrington Yates also scooped two superb 3rd places to boost him up to 3rd in the standings, while the likes of Ian Jones, Mark Skeats, Owen Hunter and more will be out to score a large haul of points for their own personal totals. These guys prove that you can have touring car style racing, without as much contact as you’d normally expect!
Finally, sports car fans are given even more of a treat with the Toyo Tires Porsche Championship, with a scrap between Ed Hayes and Adam Southgate at the head of the Race Boxster points seeing the pair only separated by 20 points. Both have taken a number of race wins and it looks as though it could go either way. It looks a little more decisive in the 924 class as PDC Racing continue their domination. Pip Hammond is only ahead of teammate Gavin Johnson by just under 50 points, thanks to winning just about every race in class this year. On paper it sounds like a formality, but as we know, it’s never that simple in motorsport!
So, two days of action on our final visit of the year to Rockingham, full of championships that are certain to provide plenty of unpredictability. Don’t place any bets on anyone as even those who are favourites to win are at risk of slipping up, even at this late stage. Still, the time for talking’s done – as championships draw to a close, it’s time for the main contenders to let their driving speak for itself!