THUNDEROUS RACING ACTION PROVIDED AT ROCKINGHAM
Our last visit to Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby this past weekend was one which was certainly full of action, drama and above all else spectacular racing. That said, with a full roster of championships from Caterham Motorsport and 3 excellent supporting series, this was always going to be the case!
Jack Sales finally took the Caterham 420R victory he’d been waiting for all season! – Photo: SnappyRacers
The CAR Magazine Caterham Academy Championships are nearing their conclusion as the competitors are coming to the end of their first season of competition as fully fledged racing drivers. The White Group would hit the track first on Sunday, with front runner Andy Morgan leaving Corby with a less than satisfactory result as retirement left him losing ground to his rivals – in particular Daniel Halstead. He would convert pole position into a race victory just 0.8 seconds ahead of 2nd placed Chris Bates, with Oli Pratt completing the top 3. This leaves a 12 point margin between Morgan and Halstead at the top of the standings, with the former only needing to finish ahead of the latter to become champion at Silverstone.
Fortunes were a little more gratuitous in the Green Group race with all of the main title contenders making the flag. Long-time leader Daniel French would convert his pole position into a win, but not after he had to wrestle the lead back from a fast starting James Murphy on the last lap. Murphy himself bagged a healthy haul of points in 2nd place, while Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald once again proved the boss has skills behind the wheel with his third podium of the season with 3rd place. Looking at their points table, French also looks odds on to secure the crown provided he simply maintains his 10 point gap at the top, but Murphy, Toby Clowes (finishing 6th), MacDonald and Matt Sheppard will all be out to stop him with the top 5 separated by only 22 points. One result could swing it in any direction!
Their sophomore counterparts in the Avon Tyres Caterham Roadsport Championship had to deal with treacherous conditions in Race 1 with a wet track and rain in the air. Jay McCormack battled through the elements to keep his title hopes alive with a win in Race 1, followed home by fellow points table topper Tom John with David Ridley in 3rd. Championship leader Pete Walters had to rebound from a less than satisfying 8th place and that he did, as in Race 2 he picked off the cars in front to incredibly steal a sensational win on the last lap by just 0.4 seconds. McCormack came 2nd with John 3rd, leaving a spread of 31 points between Walters, John and McCormack with a maximum of 62 available at Silverstone. It’s going to be a nail-biter!
One level up in the ALACO Motorsport Logistics Caterham Seven 270R Championship, it’s looking even closer after this weekend. Reigning Roadsport champion Russ Olivant kept himself on course to take back-to-back titles with a win in Race 1 , but his main rivals Alex Jordan and Rob Watts both kept him firmly in their sights with 2nd and 3rd respectively on a drying track. Race 2 would then see Watts jump to the top step, as he enjoyed a brilliant fight with Olivant and former Academy champion Andrew Perry all the way to the flag. The trio crossed the line in that order separated by 0.6 seconds, once again providing another thrilling finish. Equally as thrilling will be the fight for the championshop as Olivant, Jordan and Watts are merely covered by just 10 points – don’t place any bets on this one!
In what is looking set to be two of their last races in their competition life, the ITC Compliance Caterham Supersport Championship was determined to make sure it put on superb racing all the way to the end. Thankfully, they delivered in Race 1 as Henry Heaton kept his championship charge on course with a win, but his surprise challenger was Ian Payne who constantly swapped the lead with Heaton all throughout the 20 minute encounter. He would settle for a superb 2nd with Christian Szaruta in 3rd. Heaton would then double up on Sunday with victory in Race 2, only this time his challenger was a more familiar name in Tim Dickens. He would battle with Szaruta and Alistair Weaver, but the #44 would come out as the man in 2nd with Szaruta again in 3rd. As for points leader Mike Evans, he could only best a 4th in Race 2 and couple with a low score in Race 1, it now makes for another showdown at Silverstone. Evans now only has a 10 point advantage from Heaton and Dickens who are both tied on the same score. With the level of competition at the front always high in Supersport, there’s simply no telling which way this one’s going either.
Matthew Lambert may not have been a full time driver in the ITC Compliance Caterham Seven 310R Championship this year, but every time he steps in to his father Richard’s race car he tends to be at the front. This was the case once again in Race 1 as he promptly put the car on pole position by just over half a second, before seeing off the attentions of first Chris Rankin and then points leader Lee Bristow to take the win. The winning margin was a mere 0.153 seconds from Bristow with Rankin clinching 3rd. Not finished there, Lambert then went out and did again from pole in Race 2, but this time had to reclaim the lead from Rankin half way through in order to complete the victory. Rankin would indeed go one better with 2ndplace this time, while James Beardwell completed the podium. Rankin’s results gave him a much needed boost in the title hunt as he is only 10 points away from Bristow who still leads. 2nd placed Steve McCulley DNF’d in Race 1, followed by 4th in Race 2 which now means he’s caught between Bristow and Rankin in the top 3. Again, this one may be too close to call.
But arguably, the euphoria was saved for the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 310R Championship, which saw Race 1 as arguably the best Caterham race of the 2017 season for many reasons. A 9 car train for the lead formed throughout with points leader Danny Winstanley leading from the front row for practically the entire race. He was able to fend off challenges from John Byrne and key rival Lee Wiggins, but ultimately it was the last lap that had everyone talking. While it may have looked as though Winstanley was on for victory, Jack Sales threw caution to the wind with a daring pass at the Brook chicane just seconds from the chequered flag. He put right the angst of Donington Park and Oulton Park and finally took that coveted first win of the season. Winstanley and Wiggins duly took 2nd and 3rd, but there was no mistaking the fact that this was a popular win amongst the Caterham paddock!
Unfortunately, Sales’ high turned into a low in Race 2 as an incident involving himself and Lee Wiggins, crucially taking the latter out of the race in the process, saw him excluded from the result. Back at the front, it appeared to be business as usual for Winstanley as he did go on to take a lights to flag win at the head of the field. Behind him, reigning Supersport champion William Smith was finally able to take a long awaited and brilliantly executed 2nd place, with the car seemingly working to his liking and keeping Winstanley honest throughout. John Byrne would also pick up his 4th podium finish of the year with 3rd. With a lead of 24 points over Wiggins, Winstanley looks on course to sew up the 420R title in the first race at Silverstone.
Aside from the incredible Caterham antics, the 3 other championships in attendance were also keen to put on a fine display of racing for the spectators. Maintaining their fast and clean reputation, the energetic F1000 Championship hit Rockingham’s banking with vigour, as points leader Michael Watton charged through to the lead in the opening laps from 3rd on the grid and took a dominant win by over 8 seconds from reigning champ Rob Sayell and Paul Butcher. Watton went on to do it again in Race 2 with Butcher and Sayell swapping places on the podium, leaving Watton with one hand on the championship and only needing to finish well to secure it. Alas, the racing gods decided it wouldn’t be over just yet as a mechanical issue forced him to reduce his pace, leaving him a frustrated 6th. Because of this, there was unrelenting joy and relief for Rob Sayell as after trying so hard all year, he was finally able to cross the line in P1 for his first win of the season. Dan Clowes would take 2nd place, with Butcher completing another podium hat-trick in 3rd. Watton now has to wait until Oulton Park next month to complete his title run.
The drama was also left until the final race of the weekend for the Toyo Tires Porsche Championship too. Race Boxster points leader Ed Hayes started as he meant to go on with a win in Race 1 from James Coleman and Richard Avery, but the next two would indeed see Coleman pick up two incredible wins – sensational when you consider he was a last minute entry! Race 2 saw Coleman win from Avery and Hayes with the same 3 drivers on the podium again, while Race 3 would see Hayes and Adam Southgate join the #00 this time. Andrew Baker would take the Production Boxster class on all 3 occasions, but the 924s would see the most dramatic events of their weekend.
Karl Rossin won the class in Race 1 from Ryan Lowry and Peter Smith, with Race 2 seeing Lowry hit the top step from Gavin Johnson and an ailing Pip Hammond. Class dominator Hammond didn’t even make it out for Race 1 with mechanical problems and had to battle his way to a podium, but it was Race 3 where his weekend really took a nosedive. Just moments into the start of the race, an unfortunate multi-car incident on the oval section took out Hammond, Rossin, Hugh Peart and Bernie Printy, forcing a red flag and a restart. When proceedings got going again, it was left to Pip’s PDC Racing teammate to lead the charge and take an emotional first win in the series. He would head home Lowry and Philip Waters at the flag.
The constant struggle for supremacy also raged on in the Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup between reigning champion James Gornall and key rival Steven Dailly. Gornall made sure he made the most of his pole position to lead every lap and keep Dailly at bay by 3.3 seconds at the finish, with Owen Hunter further cementing his front runner status with another solid podium in 3rd. Later that afternoon, it was business as usual once again for the top 3 as they finished in exactly the same order once again, however this time Gornall’s advantage had doubled to over 6 seconds on Dailly, with Hunter a further 5 seconds back in P3 again. The title looks to be all but Gornall’s to lose as the Compact Cup takes to the Formula Ford Festival next month at Brands Hatch to end the season.
You can find the full breakdown of results from Rockingham via TSL Timing HERE.