The second round of the season steered us to Brands Hatch, and the infamous Grand Prix circuit layout. It’s something of a rarity to race on the Brands Hatch GP circuit, with only a limited number of opportunities during the season, so this weekend was always going to be a highlight on the calendar. And given that we were supporting the GT World Challenge Europe, it adds another level of prestige to our weekend. Once again both the 310R and 420R classes provided ample entertainment throughout the weekend, with four frenetic races.
Starting with our 310R class and following qualifying it was David Baldwin who secured a pole position start, whilst 7RS newcomer Stephen Clark lined up alongside.
As the race got underway, there was a jostle for positions throughout the field, as the 28-car grid thundered into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time. As the opening laps developed it was Max Haynes and Stephen Clark who began to battle for supremacy, with the lead changing hands multiple times.
Capitalising on his pole position start, Baldwin was right in the thick of the action, so too was David Yates and Andrew Murgatroyd. With five drivers vying for position, and with little space between them the stage was set for a superb finale to this opening race.
As the chequered flag came into view, it was Max Haynes who nudged ahead, taking victory over Baldwin by just 0.7 seconds. Clark held on for a third place finish, inches adrift, whilst Caroline Everett claimed fourth place, over a second ahead of Tom Cockerill. After battling in the front pack for much of the outing, Yates finished in sixth place.
With a reverse of the top 10 race one finishing positions, there was a topsy turvy grid for race two. After fighting hard with the top quintet early on in race one, a tenth place finish launched Murgatroyd into pole position for race two.
A thrilling 11 lap duel followed, as pole sitter Murgatroyd led the field around the opening lap, closely tailed by Don Henshall and Mark Roberts. Before long, Clark, Baldwin and Haynes had worked their way through the pack and soon resumed their race one contest, also joined by Everett in a battle for a podium position.
As the end of the race came into sight, Baldwin had navigated his way to the head of the pack, as Haynes and Clark negotiated second and third places between them. With just over three minutes of the race to go, the action was interrupted due to a couple of cars that had stopped by the side of the track. With little time remaining, the race ended, crowning 7RS debutant Baldwin victorious, Haynes runner-up and Clark in third place. Everett again narrowly missed a podium position, finishing in fourth place, whilst Roberts and Murgatroyd completed the top six. After making his car racing debut at Donington Park, youngster Sam May just missed out on a top 10 finish in race two.
After two races it was all eyes on the standings following the Brands Hatch double header, to see how this weekend’s event would affect the early championship points. Clark maintained his position at the top of the standings, however in the absence of double Donington Park winner, Ben Winrow this weekend, Baldwin has elevated himself to second place, some 10 points adrift, whilst Yates currently sits third.
Onto the 420R races and it was a familiar sight on the top step of the podium. Jonathan Mitchell is seemingly the man to beat in the 420R championship so far this season. Following a strong start to his campaign at Donington Park, Mitchell continued his dominance with double victory at Brands Hatch.
Although it was Mitchell who took home the spoils, it was far from easy, with tough competition from start to finish in each outing.
As the first race unfolded it was Mitchell, Anthony Barnes and Jay Mack who made it a three-way battle for the lead. Mark Stansfield and Justin Armstrong had been involved early on, however as the top three edged away, the pair entered their own scrap, together with Russ Olivant.
After 15 exciting laps, it was Mitchell who held on to take the victory, just 0.010 seconds ahead of second placed man Barnes, with Mack millimetres adrift in third place. With less than half a second separating the trio, the opening 420R class race demonstrated Caterham racing at its best, and in front of around 30,000 people, it was a great way to showcase the 7RS.
Behind, Stansfield managed to stay ahead of Armstrong for fourth place, with Olivant just behind the latter in sixth place. JJ Magalhaes, Ian Cowley, Jason Cheetham and Andy Perry completed the top 10, with Donington Park winner, Gary Smith just missing out in 11th place. Cowley was also crowned our 420R Sportsman winner, ahead of Marco Aghem and Matthew Welch
A 10th place finish in race one saw Perry elevated to pole position for race two, with a reverse of the top 10 finishing positions forming the grid for this second outing.
As the race began, Perry initially led the way ahead of Stansfield and Armstrong, as the pack steered its way onto the Grand Prix circuit. Before too long, Mitchell and Mack had joined Perry at the head of the field, as the trio raced furiously lap after lap, separated by mere millimetres.
With the chequered flag in view, it was Mitchell who swept by first, just 0.046 ahead of Perry, with Mack in third place – just. Barnes worked his way up to fourth place following his reverse grid starting position, just 0.1 seconds adrift of the lead trio.
Stansfield secured a somewhat solitary fifth place finish, ahead of Olivant in sixth place. Managing to work his way into the top 10 this time around, Smith raced his way to seventh place, whilst Armstrong, Cowley and Magalhaes completed the top 10.
Cowley also doubled his success in the 420R Sportsman Championship, with another victory in race two, this time succeeding ahead of Gary Tootell and Matthew Welch.
Following this second round of the championship, it is Mitchell who leads the 420R Championship standings, ahead of Barnes, Smith and Perry.
Gary Tootell leads the way in the 420R Sportsman Championship, with Matt Welch and Marco Aghem in second and third places, respectively. After a double victory at Brands Hatch, Cowley has currently cemented himself in fourth place.
David Yates was awarded our Chapman Trophy accolade once again, narrowly beating JJ Magalhaes for the honour.
We are now just a few weeks away from our next round, which takes place at Snetterton during 10th-11th June. Don’t forget our next Caterham only track day takes place at Snetterton on 24th May, a great opportunity for some track time ahead of the race weekend – you can never be too prepared!