This is a hard post to write. In early 2012 I finally signed up to go racing with the Caterham Academy. In October 2012, I spent a fun, frustrating, annoying, exciting and ultimately very satisfying 3 weeks putting together my race car with my family.
On Sunday morning at Brands Hatch this year, the car had never looked so good. By the afternoon, I’d broken it in the biggest way possible. Sadly, it’s not economically viable to repair the car.
After much soul searching, and talking with friends and family, I’ve called an end to racing for this year.
However, I’m determined that this isn’t the end of racing for me. One of the factors in coming to this decision is that some time off from racing will allow me to recover damaged finances and the aim will be back on a grid for 2018.
It will be strange not being in the paddock for the rest of the year. I wish all my racing family the best of luck and I will, of course, be following along closely and will hopefully see everyone at the awards dinner, if not before.
It’s taken me a long time to post this write-up from Brands. It was a weekend I’m not going to forget any time soon.
From the first laps of the circuit on Friday, I could tell that the car was super quick and stable. All the hard work to reduce my weight and get back to the weight limit had finally paid off in full.
Due to my normal support crew (my parents), being away on holiday, I was running the weekend out of the DPR awning. Having to prepare the car myself through testing and the weekend just proved to me how much I now rely on mum, dad, family and friends. Seemingly large gaps between sessions on track soon got eaten by cleaning, refuelling and general preparation work. I lean on everyone around me and I missed their support.
However, DPR were always on hand for any questions and, vitally, to check pressures and change settings in the pit lane. I’ve never before carried out an in session back-to-back test of a front anti-roll bar and boy, was that eye opening.
Every time you take a car out on track, you learn something, and being able to feel a direct comparison between one setup and another has changed my outlook on testing. All possible because of the DPR boys.
It’s one thing to turn in some speed in testing, quite another to convert that into a good grid spot. And for the majority of the qualification session, it looked like I’d blown it. I spent too long out front in clear air trying to get a good banker and catch the tail of the field for a tow. I dropped back to find some traffic to use for a tow but there was a fair amount of gamesmanship out on track, with plenty of abandoned laps costing time. I wasn’t alone in being affected for sure and there were some grumpy faces in parc ferme after the session. However, on the last lap, I managed to put a decent lap together, including a tow and 2nd on the grid was the result. A few thousandths of a second behind Henry Heaton.
Given the last minute nature of the lap and the track temperature, it was definitely a rescue and a good start to the competitive element of the weekend.
Come race time, the track temperature had risen massively. This is always a bad sign for our tyres, which don’t like it when things get hot. I made a reasonable start off the line and was ahead of Henry going into turn 1. However, Mike Evans made his normal spectacular start and was in the lead from 3rd on the grid going into Druids.
I managed to get back out in front in fairly short order and lead an opening stint of the race. An incident at druids saw the race red flagged. It was looking like Mike was going to be able to get back past at the point the flag was shown, so it may have been a turning point. A re-grid of the race was the decision of the steward for a 15 minute blast.
Another reasonable start off the line but another screamer by mike saw him in paddock bend first. I was able to get past into druids and got me head down as fast as possible to try and spring a gap.
It’s a rare thing to manage to pull a lead over a field of Caterhams, but over the course of a few laps, I was able to pull away enough to be able to take the full racing line consistently. Battles further back then meant I was able to consolidate that lead.
With around 5 minutes to go, I had a gap of 2.5 seconds and knew, subject to not cocking things up, I could bring this one home. Even the sight of Christian Szaruta taking second place and gradually getting closer wasn’t enough to put me off in that race! And I took the flag with a comfortable gap back to the rest of the field.
Four long years it has taken to finally cross the line in first place again. Four years. Boy did it feel great. It was such a shame I didn’t get to share it with my family, but my friends inside and outside of the paddock were all carrying me on the crest of a wave. A feeling that never grows old.
Sunday was another scorcher. Any threat of a thunderous downpour slowly ebbed away through the day and we were in for another hot, dry race.
I made a good start from pole and the early part of the race was similar to race one; fighting with Mike Evans and trying hard to try and spring a gap. However, that wasn’t to be in this race and it was a much more traditional clump of cars through the first 10 minutes of the race. Into the middle phase of the race, Henry Heaton, Tim Dickens and myself all had good battle, with Henry and myself swapping positions on a number of occasions.
Just as things looked like they had settled down a little with Henry and myself pulling a slight gap on Tim, I was preparing to try and solidify that gap. However, I was caught out by Henry braking earlier than I expected for paddock bend and, following very closely to him at the time, I did what turned out to be a bad job of avoiding his car. My front left tyre hit the rear right of Henry’s.
What followed was a big accident. After the initial contact, the front of the car skipped in the air and initially landed interlocked with Henry’s car. It then launched again, this time with both the front and rear wheels contacting at the same time. The car pitched up at about 45 degrees and I was close to rolling. Thankfully, when the car landed, it righted itself and I skipped across the gravel and made heavy contact with the barrier.
As the dust settled and I caught my breath, I was thankful that everything felt in one piece and I could see Henry jumping out of the car.
It was such a sad end to what was shaping up to be a great battle between Henry and myself. We’ve had some great battles in the past and we’ve shared a racing journey for the past 5 years. In the cold hard light of day, I made contact with a friend out on track whilst he was leading the race. Nothing’s going to change that now.
The contrast in emotion was, and is, enormous between the highs of Saturday and the lows of Sunday. Motoracing gives and motoracing takes away.
We’re headed to Brands Hatch this weekend for rounds 5 and 6 of the Official Caterham Motorsport Ladder. The paddock is joined this weekend by the Olympic Legend – Sir Chris Hoy. He’ll be racing with the 310R boys and girls but will certainly add a bit of fame to the #CaterhamFamily
Supersport race times this weekend are:
- Quali Sat 3rd June 09:25 – 09:45
- Race 1 Sat 3rd June 12:20 – 12:50
- Race 2 Sun 4th June 14:05 0 14:35
Live comms should also be available on the Live Timing page over the event. If not, the Brands Hatch App used to have this feature – so you could try there!
I’m back on UK soil after the Caterham Motorsport’s yearly foray into Europe and I’ve just about had enough time to reflect on what was an awesome visit to the legendary Cirquit de Spa-Francorchamps.
We only had two sessions testing ahead of the race weekend; far less than normal for a new track. Everything was compressed into a very tight schedule. It’s a track full of fast, committed corners where you have to settle the car quickly and get back to the throttle. The kind of corners I go well around.
However, it’s also got the two longest flat out sections of any track we visit. From La Source all the way to Les Combes and from Stavelot right up to the bus stop.
In a Caterham, this means the track is all about managing the slipstream and racing tactically. Outright pace is not actually required!
I felt comfortable with the track after the first session out and was putting in times at the top of the timing-sheets quite comfortably.
I therefore went into Qualifying putting a little more pressure on myself than I have been used to recently. I knew pole was possible but trying to manage the ideal time when you only have 6 laps to do it is far from easy. This was also complicated by us sharing our qualifying session with the 420Rs.
Extremely early on, I got a super tow from Dan Gore up the Kemel straight. I was squeezed through Les Fanges between Dan and an 420R. This put me off and I made mistakes at the tail end of the lap. However, this lap was good enough for 2nd on the grid and for Dan, was good enough for pole. Without those mistakes… could have had Spa pole on my racing CV – which would have been very nice indeed!
Pole could still have been on, but sadly, a great lap was written off by a very slow car in the bus stop. (preparing for their own lap no doubt, but annoying none the less…)
My ideal lap in Quali was 1.4 seconds faster than the time I ended up with but that just shows how powerful the tow is around this track.
The weather through the whole weekend was threatening and forecasts changed from minute to minute. However, the sun shone down on Race 1 and an earlier cloud burst that caused havoc in the Roadsport race had completely dried by the time we got out on track.
There were over 50 cars set on the grid as the 420Rs were also lined up with us. It’s the first time we’ve run split grids at a Caterham weekend and seeing the sheer amount of cars ahead was pretty daunting. Getting through La Source on the first lap was always going to be a bit of a lottery and so it was for Ben Tuck and Roy Gray who were out after just 400m or so of racing.
I made a great start and was hooked onto the tail end of the 420Rs going up Kemel. But for a safety car due to the first corner incident, it felt like I had the chance at a break from the group.
The safety car seemed to drag on forever and the race only got going again with under 16 minutes remaining of the race.
There followed 16 minutes of frantic action working the tow and trying to figure out how to finish the last lap in the lead. I didn’t quite get it right, sadly, and missed out on the win by just a couple of car lengths but was extremely pleased with 3rd place. Back on the podium after an absence of over a year and it felt great. What was even more encouraging was I felt I had more to bring to race 2.
Sunday was another threatening day according to the forecasts, however, race time was sunny and it certainly looked like we’d be dry throughout.
This time, everyone got through turn one without incident and I settled into the lead pack. A much larger lead pack this time and one that just grew as the race went on.
There’s over 10mph difference between a Caterham Supersport running on it’s own as opposed to running in the tow; so again, the management of this process along the two hugely long flat out stretches of track was an art form.
For 90% of the race, I managed this process OK. I’d switched around my rear tyres ahead of the race to manage the tyre wear and ensure they remained legal after the race, however, they didn’t bed in very quickly so the rear of the car was very lose throughout. I also had one missed gear which sent me tumbling down the field; and one unlucky run up the Kemel straight that also cost me 6 places due to the tow. With, just a touch of patience and planning, I did manage to get back to the front on each occasion. Things were certainly looking good!
As the 30 minutes race period elapsed, Ben Tuck and myself broke very slightly clear of the pack and up the final straight into Balnchimon, I was able to take the lead. I crossed the line thinking I’d finally won another race. However, no chequered flag was waved and it dawned on me that we had another lap to go. Sadly, this lap went badly and while trying to go side by side with Ben Tuck through Pouhon, my rear tyres ran out of grip and I ran out of talent. That left me out wide scrabbling to get back to the track and the whole lead pack through. I was back in 10th or 11th at that point with only 3 real corners left to go.
At Blanchimont, Mike Evans cut across Henry and Christian causing some wings to go flying and a cascade effect of braking and swerving within a pack of 10 drivers. I was at the rear of this and had to jink right around the flat out left hander. I was closer than I would have wanted to having a big accident in the tyre barrier and also no further forward up the field and now with only one corner to go.
The right hander of the Bus Stop Chicane also had a yellow flag for Ian Sparshott’s stranded 420R. However, I noticed that the left hand part of the chicane was showing a green flag. Dan Gore was spun out of the pack ahead of me, having been overtaken under yellows and I just about managed to squeeze through to take a wider line into the left and cut up the inside of several drivers to make it to 7th place over the line. In the stewards office afterwards, Richard Noordhof was unfortunately excluded from the results. I therefore came in with a 6th place finish. Certainly a lot better than it could have been with 3 corners to go but also a huge part of me knew I’d blown another great result.
In my head, I’d won the 30 minute race of Spa – but clearly my old bones can’t cope with 35 minutes!
Well done to everyone for largely keeping it clean and tidy under immense and sustained pressure. I loved the weekend at Spa and am extremely happy to be able to say I’ve not only raced at Spa, but I’ve also had a podium there.
Next up is Brands hatch in just 3 weeks time. Can’t wait!
This one is on most racers bucket list. The chance to drive around the legendary Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. However, I’m lucky enough to not just be driving there, but indeed racing it!
Qualifying: Sat 13th May – 10:00 – 10:20
Race 1: Sat 13th May – 13:05 – 13:35
Race 2: Sun 14th May – 10:25 – 10:55
I’m hopeful that the Live Timing will be available at: https://livetiming.getraceresults.com/spa
As a treat – there’s also a live webcam of the spectacular Eau Rouge – which should also allow you to see some of the action as it takes place! http://webcam.spa-francorchamps.be/
Videos to follow of course! Watch this space.
You would have been perfectly justified to assume we’d arrived in Norfolk in high summer based solely on the weather. It was bright, sunny and hot all weekend long at the Snetterton circuit.
The spectators were certainly appreciative. The tyres, less so!
Having been largely used to 2 days of testing in the past, this was one of the first times I made do with just the Friday test ahead of the weekend. It means everything has to be compressed into half the time I’m used to but it really doesn’t take long to get up to speed nowadays, and overall, I think I rather liked the added pressure of getting on it from the off.
I usually enjoy the Qualifying session and not too often have I felt like I didn’t get everything out of the car. However, in this session, I definitely left my best back in the locker room. I made mistakes and didn’t manage the traffic and tow very well. Something that’s essential at Snetterton. My fastest lap included overtakes in compromised places and avoiding cars left right and centre!
After all that, 6th on the grid was actually not a disaster and I’ve learnt a few more lessons to add to the playbook going forward. Even into my 5th year of racing, there are still so many things to learn and adapt to.
The front 8 cars on the grid were the expected gaggle and were covered by the expected close margins. The order was perhaps less expected with Alistair Weaver putting in a great show to grab the first pole of the season. In general, the LFP motorsport team were flying with 4 of the top 5 spots filled.
Caterham Supersports were running in the graveyard shift for this weekend so by race time, the sun was low in the sky and visibility was reduced. However, the temperatures were still high and the grip levels therefore low!
For the first race of the season it was certainly frantic up front. Mostly it was within fair bounds but there were some chops and jinks that would politely be termed as ‘borderline’ as well.
A novelty for me, was the ability to actually move forward and compete rather than being consumed by the whole field. A few driving tweaks and some dieting over winter have made me more able to race and signs are good that this will help through the season.
I had some good tussles but our groups inability to work together properly meant we lost touch with the lead pack of 4.
Part way through the race, we had our first Code 60 period to clear away a very nasty accident for Gary Weatherall, who ended up sliding on his roof from pit out all the way to the turn 1 gravel.
Code 60 is new this year for our race meetings. It was originally designed for endurance racing as a way to neutralise a field without the need for a safety car to bunch everyone up. The idea being that everyone slows to 60 KPH and sticks there until the flags are put to green once more. The advantages over a safety car being that, theoretically, the gaps between cars are maintained and the incident can be cleared quicker and everything get back to racing sooner.
I made a great restart, overtaking Christian and Henry who didn’t pick up on the green flags quite so quickly. I’m not sure I’ll get that advantage again going forward, but I was smiling in my helmet I can assure you!
At the tail end of the race, I didn’t manage my positioning very well, failed to capitalise on contact between Henry and Christian and failed to make a decent exit out of the final bend. So a potential 4th was instead a 5th place over the line. Still, not a bad start and one place improvement on qualification.
Race 2 was to take place on the hottest day of the year so far, with barmy 25 degrees and bright cloudless skies. This is never a good thing for the tyres or engines but I know what to expect and that makes it easier to manage these days.
Another hectic opening section of the race saw me mired with Mike and Ben arguing figuratively – and literally – on track. This pushed me backwards to a hungry Henry, Christian and Dan and our failure to work together also saw Alistair Weaver catch up on a recovery drive from the back of the field.
At that point, It was always going to be damage limitation and again, lessons learned to store away for future reference.
It was nice to get the final turn correct and overtake over the line for 6th place, just to prove I can actually do it. I can’t recall a last lap where I have managed it before!
So, a weekend that promised much going forward and, although reasonable results, I feel there is more in the tank and I was certainly a whole lot more involved than I was through the whole of the 2016 season.
My only problem is that I know there are at least 4 other drivers who also feel exactly the same and will be looking to rectify things next time out.
Talking of next time out, we’re headed to Spa Francorchamps to race at what has to be a bucket list track for every race fan. Brilliant! I can’t wait to give it a go and will report back how it is in just over a months time.
So, we’re fast approaching the first weekend of the 2017 Caterham Motorsport season. We are headed to Snetterton in Norfolk on 8th and 9th April.
Everything is bright, shiny and renewed once again and the 2017 Caterham Supersport series is once again looking to be ultra close and ultra competitive.
Caterham Supersport Timetable
- Qualifying is 12:20 to 12:40, Sat 8th April
- Race 1 is 17:55 to 18:25, Sat 8th April
- Race 2 is 14:55 ti 15:25, Sun 9th April
Follow along with live timing and full results at http://www.tsl-timing.com/event/171431
Videos / Commentary
As ever, these will follow on shortly after the race weekend. They’ll be going on my YouTube Channel, so if you’d like to keep up with the whole season, I’d appreciate a click on the YouTube Subscribe button on the top right of this page!
The off-season doesn’t get longer but it sure feels like it does as the years go on. This is my 5th time waiting for the season to start and the same strange forces that seem to make the season fly by in a second, warps the winter months into eons.
There is now light at the end of the tunnel though with the official test only a few weeks away and the season proper set to kick off in April. One way I’ve found to while away the time each year is to put together a season preview, with the main runners and riders, as I see it, across the multiple Official Caterham Motorsport Championship series.
2017 Caterham Academy Championship
The bright eyed and bushy tailed Academy class of 2017 have started to take their first forays out on track with their new shiny machines. As ever, there are some that look more prepared than others for the challenge ahead but what’s a sure thing is that none of them truly understand the adventure they are about to set out on.
It wouldn’t be fair at this point to call out any names to watch out for. Firstly, because I’ve only seen a few of the people out on track and secondly, because things change so quickly during this learning period that it would be wildly inaccurate.
There will be surprises along the way and it’s rarely time spent on track that dictates the front of the field. What is a certainty, is that the whole paddock will be watching on trackside, cheering their successes and reminiscing on their own time spent in the Academy.
2017 Caterham Roadsport Championship
Over 40 Academy graduates have signed up for the 2017 Roadsport season. The Autumn trophy at the tail end of the 2016 Academy season was the first time that the Green group and White group got to race each other and it was a fascinating glimpse into what could be a highly competitive year.
The Roadsport car is a great step up from the Academy car. With a much more balanced feel and more grip from the Avon ZZS tyre, every year we see some fresh faces towards the front of the grid who perhaps didn’t get on with the Academy car.
We also tend to see the whole grid close up in lap time. Even those who don’t immediately improve their grid spot are now in reach of those top 10 positions. With the additional 5 mins in race length added to the mix, some more tactical awareness is also a bonus.
So, on the basis of last year, who are the Championship front runners? With Champion Tozer departing, Pete Spencer and Tom John lead the Green Group charge. Pete’s single lap pace was strong throughout 2016 but he’ll need to cut out some of the mistakes, often caused by over exuberant driving. If he can start stringing laps together, he’s going to be a potent force which the others may have to subdue with further drinking challenges in the bar on Friday nights.
Tom John was often the fastest man out on track in race, however, this was equally as often because he was fighting back through the field from a mistake. He’s pounding the tracks again this winter and will definitely figure on the podiums. A consistent season could see him take the trophy.
The White Group duo of Gillias and McCormack were fast from the off and romped away with 6 out of the 7 wins on offer through the Academy. The only other winner was Beardwell at the opening round. However, with James heading off the the 310R series, it could be down to Ben and Jay to hold White honours.
Ben Gillias dodged a bit of a bullet with a Rockingham race restart early in the season but made the most of this luck to hold together a great Championship campaign through the Academy.
Jay McCormack was often downright rapid on track and had some great consistency on show as well. Mostly, it was these two fighting alone out front throughout the season. That means the only question mark hanging over them is if they have had the experience of pack racing and how they’ll cope with that through 2017.
The real interest in the 2017 Roadsport season lies behind these front runners though. Both groups saw a healthy chasing pack through the Academy and watching how everyone settles in is going to be fascinating.
Pete Walters, Marcus Rawlinson, Ian Johnson, Nick Graham and Carl Varney all figured in their race weekends last year and it wouldn’t take a massive leap in speed to be competing for wins.
Philip Bianchi, Eric Tiv and Spencer Wright all regularly competed in tooth and nail fights alongside the departing Beardwell through 2016. They are equipped for the battle and at least a couple will step onto the podium through 2017.
Waiting in the wings are drivers like Anthony Taylor, who had a great tail end to the season last year, and Caroline Everett who has speed but needs to cut out mistakes. Matt Gray and Arnaud Graebert are dark horses to watch as well.
It’s a very hard series to call but I’m going with (subject to him doing some testing!) Jay McCormack’s natural speed. Gillias and Spencer are my shout for the lower steps but they’d better be ready for some hard fights and Tom John certainly could spoil their party.
2017 Seven 270R Championship
After a tense end to the 2016 Roadsport season, the march up the Caterham Motorsport Championship ladder continues on into the 270R class for many of the drivers.
At time of writing, Rui Ferreira and Guy Hawkins are not signed up to be among their number. Given Guy’s spectacular move through the grid in 2016 there will be a few sighs of relief no doubt from some.
Russ Olivant and Dan Quintero have proved themselves to be class acts on track. Able to consistently be at the head of the field and often times stepping on the steps of the podium come the chequered flag. Dan has suffered from some on track incident though and, ultimately, it is this that separates the two when the points get added up.
Behind these two, Rob Watts has turned into quite the competitor. Regularly on the podium in 2016 he’s just missing that elusive win at the moment and if his progress continues upwards, 2017 could be his true breakthrough year.
Cooper, Lloyd and Bevan all show patches of raw pace but equally suffer from slips in form, incidents or get stuck in the midfield. With slightly more space at the top of the field this coming season, it could leave the route to the podium slightly easier for this chasing pack.
Alex Jordan is a good call for dark horse of the championship. With some race experience under his belt now and some of the racing lessons learned, he could push the leading group.
So, my call is for an Olivant championship, Quintero in second and Watts taking third. Racing has a funny way of surprising you though and I can see a great season ahead.
2017 Caterham Supersport Championship
By popular demand, the 2016 specification Supersport Car has retained its place in the official Caterham Motorsport Championship ladder. With over 30 entrants signed up, it’s not hard to see why and with an absolutely spectacular 2016 season, many people want another run at glory.
Now that Will Smith has moved up to the 420R Championship, it may actually leave some winners trophies for others. There’s still plenty of rapid talent at the head of the field though so all podiums will be oversubscribed with contenders.
Henry Heaton will go in as many people favourite. He picked up an impressive string of podiums through 2016 and was only out of contention once through the year. Some uncharacteristic errors in the wet at the final round saw him lose 2nd in the championship. However, mistakes were few and far between. More of the same will see him pick up more wins and be a hot favourite for silverware at all rounds.
Ben Tuck’s run of form at the tail end of the 2016 season was impressive and fairly ominous for the 2017 season. A young gun looking to move up into professional motorsport, sometimes that eagerness to succeed caused issues through the season. However, with a years experience under his belt, and assuming incident can be avoided, there’s no denying his underlying pace and desire to succeed.
Szaruta should be looking forward to 2017. But for a couple of slipped results through 2016, he has proved not only to be a fast and consistent driver but also a great racer. On a grid with so little time between the drivers, Szaruta is only 2 stone away from being able to take the trophy.
Behind this strong triplet, Dickens, Gore and Hutchinson will be looking to bring home results and show the young guns a thing or two.
Dickens in particular has proved he can string a Championship together better than most and after a disappointing 2016 he’s hungrier than ever to get back on the top step. There were still plenty of signs of life in Dickens and he’ll not be making anyone’s life easy at the head of the field.
It’s unclear at this point if Mike Evans is splitting his season between Supersport and 420R but at any round he turns up at, he’s sure to plant himself firmly towards the front of the field.
With a slightly more open mid field this year, there will be plenty of drivers joining onto the lead pack and capable of podiums. Weaver will likely lead this charge. Regularly rapid but also often caught up in battles, incident and suffering car troubles meant 2016 was a tough year for him. Again, he’ll be looking to move up the field and bring home some silverware.
There are also some new names to add to the mix which will inject some uncertainty to proceedings.
My call for the Championship is Tuck, Heaton then Szaruta. However, it’s so close to call that I have little confidence in this analysis. If Szaruta turns up to Snetterton in a slightly more athletic guise, he could surprise everyone and the reality is that any of the top 6 are in with a realistic shout.
2017 Seven 310R Championship
The newest addition to the Caterham Motorsport ladder is the 310R Championship. With a bump in power over the previous Supersport Category, the car specification looks great and initial feedback from the drivers is really positive.
The 2016 Tracksport grid are joined by some new names and some returning drivers. Hopefully this will see a true return to form for the class of the 2014 Academy. After a dip in numbers, things are looking good with over 20 signed up to date and a few more waiting in the wings.
With Tracksport Champion, Barnes, heading to the 420R in search of glory and Bremner heading off to race other cars, this is one of the most wide open Championships on the ladder this year.
Of the returning drivers, Steve McCulley and Barry Moore bring the most form with them. Often times, they were the next drivers up after the Barnes and Bremner duet. But it was a hard fought mid-field which saw Ebdon, Rimer, Wells and Lambert tough it out through the year. That battle is sure to continue. But the interest in this championship is as much the new names that are coming on-board.
James Houston makes a return to racing after a year off to do whatever you do when you’re not racing… always there or thereabouts in the past, he will figure when the flag comes down.
After a brief foray into the Graduates Caterham Series where he narrowly missed out on the Championship win, Lee Bristow is back in the Official Caterham fold. Regularly competing at the pointy end of all the grids he’s been a part of, there’s nothing to indicate this is going to be any different this year.
We’ve got a few ‘jumpers’ who’ve skipped steps of the ladder. Including James Beardwell and Paul Bradey heading straight from Academy. That’s a big step to take and although speed may not be a particular issue, experience will almost certainly tell through the season.
Al Calvert also deserves a strong mention. It’s been a while since he has been able to run a full championship campaign but if he does, then he will be capable of winning it.
Last, but very much not least, is the return of Gordon Sawyer. Extremely rapid, a previous winning driver, he’s going to make an impression and is a dark horse to take the Championship by storm.
My call for this Championship is Bristow, McCulley then everyone else… If Calvert runs a full campaign, I’d put him on the top step and I also suspect that Sawyer may well feature more prominently in my mid season review.
2017 Seven 420R Championship
What a tasty, tasty proposition the 420R Championship is this year. It’s got a bit of everything going for it. A vacant position at the top up for grabs; check. Great new drivers; check. Great returning drivers; double check. Huge grid; check.
With Aaron Head off to race his classic Porsche, the Championship is as open as it has been for a while. Lee Wiggins finished another year as runner up in 2016 but returns again this year to go one step higher. It won’t be easy by any means though. Jack Sales returns after a spectacular debut season with more experience and a hunger to grab the trophy. Danny Winstanley looked back to full strength at the Donington finals and he will also be looking to launch a strong season.
Steve Nuttall proved to be human for the first time in 2016 and there’s no way he wants to leave without a trophy for a second time. Dyer will also be hoping for more of the ups and less of the downs through 2017.
Of the people moving up to the series, William Smith is reunited with Sales, his Group 2 Academy Rival. Last year was all high fives and congratulations between the pair but it’s all going to go serious again this year. Will comes off the back of a spectacular Supersport campaign but it normally takes a couple of years to truly compete at the top with this thoroughbred race car.
Jack Brown, Richard Ainscough, Andres Sinclair, Tony Mingoia, Christina Maple all jump up from the highly competitive Supersport grid and if their performances there are anything to go by, more than a couple will appear on a podium at some point.
Mikins and Barnes jump from Tracksport and we have Wes Fox and Elliott Norris returning to Caterhams after some time off. All have been competitive. Some highly. Barnes had a great showing at Donington when he tried out the R300 ahead of this full season. Will the time off have blunted Norris and Fox? Only time will tell.
Trying to place all these brilliant drivers into a firm order is pretty much impossible. At this stage, I, like many others in the paddock, would love to gift Wiggins the championship. However, my call at this stage is Sales, Winstanley then Wiggins – but as we all know, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The early season form of the green group continued into the tail end of the season. The same super fast triplet of Tozer, John and Spencer were rarely out of the podium spots and always picking up the additional point for fastest lap.
The Championship went right down to the wire at Donington. It really wasn’t clear who was going to clinch it as a win would have taken it for any of the threesome. As it goes, the climax was largely spoilt by a long safety cad period. It was a sad end to a great season but Tozer was a worthy champion, Spencer a spectacular runner up and John a solid 3rd place – which he tried to throw away multiple times through the season. All three were split by 2 points come the final flag.
Walters, Rawlinson, Johnson and Grahame made a fast chasing pack. Sometimes enthusiasm caused a few issues and some mistakes held some of them back from ultimate victory. However, if past seasons are anything to go by, this is the group of drivers who will find their feet in Roadsport specification. Watch this space.
Varney, Gray and Graebert put in solid seasons as well. They are sure to be a big part of a strong mid field when both groups combine in 2017 to form Roadsport and will be chasing hard for podiums.
Where the Greed group had a threesome of contenders, the White group were a speeding duo of Gillias and McCormack. Between the two of them, they pretty much took everything going when the circuit racing started and would often leave the pack behind to fight between themselves for the scraps.
McCormack brought a super chilled approach to racing. Tooting his horn as he passed by spectators on the banks. You could tell he was smiling behind his visor in the car and his speed was undeniable, however, it was a couple of fastest lap points from Gillias that ultimately handed him the championship.
Gillias was focussed all year but looked genuinely surprised at times that he was able to compete so well on the track. However, compete he did and win as well. He was a worthy champion and it will be great to see how they both progress onto the Roadsport grid in 2017.
Behind this duo, a spectacular group of Beardwell, Bianchi, Tiv and Wright would regularly change spaces and fighting hard. All of them suffered from a lack of consistency which saw them drop away from the front but they never had a dull moment.
Come Roadsport, they will be right in the mix with a little more experience under their belts. Beardwell in particular showed regular speed and, arguably, was the reason McCormack couldn’t match Gillias in the tables. But for some spins and excursions, he will do well.
It’s genuinely exciting to see everyone grow through the Academy year and it looks like there will be another really strong Roadsport grid to watch in 2017. It’s going to be exciting for sure.
The 2016 Roadsport championship was definitely a coming of age season for a lot of drivers. With some absolutely fantastic racing through the season. The banks at the trackside were often the places to be through 2016. The on track action started fast and close and ended with a final round showdown.
Pre season I called Dan Quintero and Rui Ferrera as championship favourites with Russ Olivant also a strong contender with a run of form at the tail of the Academy year that you couldn’t help but make note of. So it proved that these drivers would all feature. Rui probably suffered a lull in form more than most and was sometimes seen lower down the field than he was accustomed to through the year. This affected his championship challenge. However, Russ and Daniel took it all the way to the last round of the year. Unfortunately, contact would rear it’s head and Russ would end up champion after the stewards had had their say.
It was a deserved win, and Russ has turned into quite the racer. He’s going to be a favourite for the 2017 season.
There were some other notable improvements made through the field and it was brilliant to see Rob Watts, Chris Aubrey and Alan Cooper all compete so strongly on a regular basis.
David Bevan and Will Lloyd continued to have strong showings but couldn’t maintain the ultimate pace at all the rounds.
Sometimes the pack got a little too complacent with their close racing and several rounds were marred by incident. Snetterton being the most notable of the lot. However, the pack responded well to this adversity and brought everything back under control.
Perhaps the surprise of the whole Caterham paddock was the immediate speed of Greg Hyatt. He missed the beginning of the season, but as soon as he joined the grid, he began winning and taking fastest laps. Had he done the full season, it’s likely he would have challenged for the championship. If he continues into 2017, the rest of the field better watch out.
With small grids early in the season, it was hard to know how the tracksport season would go. Barnes was a hot pre-season favourite and he duly delivered on that promise. Indeed, it was only Dan Bremner’s setup up to tracksport that gave barnes any competition. The two would generally streak away from the rest of the field and have a race all of their own.
As the season progressed, we saw some return appearances from the likes of Paul Aram and Al Calvert, some of the gaps began to close and the lead train sometimes swelled. Snetterton was a highlight and showed what Tracksport could have been with a larger field.
Steve McCulley was often best of the rest through the year and seemed to avoid the bad luck that’s dogged his racing seasons to date. It was great to see Barry Moore finally getting on the podium and regularly competing at the sharp end of the field.
Milkins would likely have been a strong 3rd place contender in the championship but a couple of missed rounds meant he slipped down the order. Peter Rimer had another good year but still needs to find a little more consistency to move yet higher up the order.
Mention should be made for Andy Ebdon and Paul Wells, who consistency saw them riding high in the championship and only really being held back by the drop scores system that doesn’t fully reward consistent results.
Finally, it would be wrong to finish this report without a mention for team Labert. Richard making way for son Matthew at Snetterton. Richard was often at the sharp end of the grid, just behind the Barnes / Bremner rocket ships. However, Matthew perhaps made the biggest splash by winning both races at Snetterton. If Matthew gets his own car and a full season in 2017, he’s sure to do very well.
From the sounds of it, the Super Dooper Sport championship in 2017 will see an injection of some younger blood into this reduced field and the numbers should once again see strong battles and exciting tussles. Can’t wait.
I am biased, but the Superposrt championship this year was absolutely unbelievable. The 2015 Tracksport season was close but this was another level. With the addition of the 2015 tracksport grid to those staying on from Supersport it took a grid where 10 people could stand on the podium with ease and expanded that to 16.
Huge grid numbers and ultra close lap times were the hallmark of the season and while most drivers ebbed and flowed up and down the grid as time went on, it was Wiliiam Smith who absolutely nailed the championship with win after win. Most of the time, it wasn’t clear to see how he was able to win under such duress but win he did and he is a deserving champion. Having said that, there were multiple people deserving of the accolade and but for a few bad results, or bad luck, at least 4 people could have sealed the deal at one point or other.
Henry Heaton and Jack Brown had a stellar fight for runner up spot in the standings. In the final race of the year, the vice champion went back and forward between the two drivers multiple times. It was Jack Brown that came out on top in a tie breaker and Henry was left with 3rd place. After a great season for both, they should be happy with their performance.
Christian Szaruta often imposed himself on the front pack and only an off round at Snetterton meant he wasn’t also right in the fight for a championship podium.
Max McDonagh finally clicked with the car in Supersport specification. The limited slip differential allowing him to fully express his oversteer tendencies.
Sinclair, Dickens, Evans and Hutchinson also had their moments in the sun through the season and were always ready to pick up the pieces if the front drivers left any scraps.
My surprise of the season was the consistent front running form of Richard Ainscough. He came late to the paddock, starting in tracksport, and has quickly secured himself a spot right at the front of the grid. He’s going onto R300 next year and I see no reason why he can’t nail that and compete for a top 3 place.
Ben Tuck was a young gun addition to the grid – singularly focussed on winning. Although he didn’t have things his own way at the start of the year, the pace was always there and by the tail end of the season, once Will Smith was protecting his points, Tuck took over as the strongest racer with 4 podiums over the final 4 events, including 2 wins. Tuck is likely to move to more expensive racing categories soon but he’s sure to do well and the 2016 Supersport championship can feel satisfied that he was far from running in and sweeping all before him 🙂 I wish him well in his onward Career.
Aaron Head was pre season favourite. He delivered on that promise with a dominant season. But for some poor starts off the line, protecting his drive shafts from failure, he would have absolutely stormed every round. As it was he won all but a couple.
At the season finale at Doningon, Aaron didn’t even have to compete as the Championship was sewn up. However, he did race and although on Saturday he ended with a DNF, on Sunday, he stormed through the entire field to grab second place. Had the race been one lap longer, that could easily have been the win.
Lee Wiggins did his normal bridesmaid act, another exceptional season where he was marginally bettered. Another runner up spot in the championship. Jack Sales showed potential, the only other driver regularly able to compete with Aaron and Lee. A few off results where he got stuck behind trains of cars ultimately cost him more points but to come away with 3rd place in your first season of R300 is impressive indeed.
Nuttall failed to score 5 from 5 this year and it’s good to see that he is human. However, he also showed great speed at times and 4th place in the Championship is far from appalling. He’s sure to be strong coming into season 2 of R300 in 2017.
Clive Richards played his part in the season as well. His experience and calmness under pressure was a sight to behold from the banks. I’m sure he would have wanted a few more podiums but it was another strong campaign for the veteran.
Other drivers didn’t quite have the season they’d wanted. With Matt Dyer finishing lower than his speed would have him at times. Some mechanical failures also causing problems.
Overall it was a great season for the fastest class of Caterhams and it’s a great sign that 2017 is already oversubscribed and looks likely to take a further step up in competitiveness.