TOP-LINE CATERHAM 420Rs READY TO LIGHT UP DONINGTON PARK
Given his early season form, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Avon Tyres Caterham Seven 420R Championship was something of a forgone conclusion. John Byrne’ rate of success was quickly seeing him take control of the points table and it seemed no matter where he started a race, he’d always find 1st place at some stage. But recent rounds have seen a little change on fortunes and now it’s become a real race for the title, with Donington Park set to be the next chapter in what’s starting to become a very compelling season.
Caterham’s premier championship has firmly established itself as one of the most competitive and exciting race series in the country. A grid of high quality, experienced, drivers, most of whom have worked their way up through the Caterham ranks, winning races and championships along the way, ensures that the top level of Caterham racing is amongst the most exciting. The Seven 420R is a dedicated race machine and is perhaps the fastest racing formula without the benefit of slicks or wings. As with all Caterham racing, close control of the regulations ensures a level playing field of machinery.
At this stage, it’s not Byrne that leads the way but in fact former Tracksport champion Tim Dickens, who finally took a long awaited first 420R win at Snetterton to his delight. Aside from this, Tim has found himself yo-yoing up and down the top 5 and top 10 placings at almost every race, but crucially has finished all of them and scored handy points in each. This in turn has helped him rise to the top of the standings despite a sole win. Byrne, in contrast, has won six races so far this season and on numbers alone should still be leading the championship. However, mechanical issues have forced to retire twice and therefore evaporated any advantage he previously had. Despite all that, Byrne is undoubtedly the fastest man in the field on paper and will be looking to add to his win tally further this weekend.
Level on points with Byrne in 2nd place is Henry Heaton, with three podium finishes including a personal best of P2 at Snetterton. Henry’s path to the top level has been almost identical to that of Dickens as the pair have raced on track together many times over the last few years. After adapting to the 420R last season, year two has certainly seen him made substantial progress and it’s surely on a matter of time for him to take that coveted first win. Who knows – the fact that he’s only six points off the championship lead could even mark him at this stage as a dark horse for the title.
The other race winners this season have been William Smith and David Henderson, with Smith a former Supersport champion and the later having shown progress in leaps and bounds. Both have two wins to their name this season but both has also had their share of misfortunes and poor results, with non-scores at Spa possibly proving key to their championship charges at the end of the year. Former double champion Aaron Head has also found it a little bit of a struggle on his return to a championship he once dominated. His single lap pace has proven just as strong by taking the Superpole in the last two meetings, but in the races it’s either a case of lacking that little bit extra to take a win or suffering from bad luck; his collision with Matt Higginson in the second Spa race a prime example. Aaron won’t want to end the year without at least one victory and Donington’s GP circuit is one which he still holds the championship lap record, so that could be a good omen.
Others to keep an eye on from the top 10 standings include Justin Armstrong, Alexander Koeberle and the aforementioned Higginson, while this weekend’s bumper 24 car entry see two interesting new additions to the grid. After securing his first every championship race victory in the 270Rs at Spa, something seems to have stirred Caterham’s very own CEO Graham Macdonald to prompt him to take over the car mainly driven by one Sir Chris Hoy, allowing him to make his 420R debut this weekend. Also, keep an eye on car #9, which contains former Mazda MX-5 champion James Blake-Baldwin as he makes his Caterham racing debut. His fellow Mazda drivers will be watching him from the sidelines as they also compete this weekend on the same timetable, so James may well have a point to prove that they are just as quick as our boys and girls in the Caterhams. the proof is in the pudding as they say and James will need to be at his best to keep up with our top guys!
New for 2019, the 420R Championship will feature a SuperPole shootout after the main qualifying session, with the top 10 drivers heading out on track in reverse order at intervals to set one flying lap each. The results of the SuperPole shootout will set the top 10 starting positions for Race 1. Fastest time will score 3 points, 2nd fastest gets 2 points and 3rd receives 1 point.