Rd 7 Donington Park GP
We returned to Donington Park just recently for our 2023 season finale, however this time it was the Grand Prix circuit for us, and what an end to the season it was.
With our 2023 420R champion already crowned last time out at Oulton Park, there was still plenty to race for during this season finale. 2023 champion, Anthony Barnes, was back on the grid, keen to end his season on a high, whilst second place was still up for grabs.
Following qualifying, it was Jose Magalhaes who lined up on pole position, with Justin Armstrong alongside him on the front row.
As the 28-strong field rounded the final corner, two-by two, ready for the rolling start, we were ready for action. Thundering towards Redgate for the first time, it was Mark Stansfield from third on the grid who led the way, whilst Magalhaes, Armstrong and Jamie Winrow settled in behind.
By the time the pack hit the Craner Curves it was Armstrong who had muscled ahead, however not for long, as Stansfield immediately fought back towards the Old Hairpin.
As the grid headed onto lap two, Stansfield looked to have control at the front, as there was plenty of action behind. Magalhaes, Armstrong and Winrow continued their battle for second place, whilst behind them Jay McCormack and Gary Smith were battle side by side for position.
Keen to reclaim his standing at the head of the field, Magalhaes was soon on the heels of Stansfield once again, before sweeping by into the lead. With five soon cars scrapping for the lead, we were set for a thrilling end to the season.
Before long, the five-car train became a nine-car battle for honours, and with 17 minutes still on the clock there was plenty of action to come. With Winrow ahead this time, he and Stansfield began to swap positions corner after corner, lap after lap.
With his nose cone suddenly dislodged, Winrow battled as best he could before being forced to pit to have it removed. Sadly out of the running once he rejoined further down the pack, the battle for the lead was back in the hands of Stansfield, McCormack and now Anthony Barnes.
After 30 minutes of non-stop action, it was McCormack who eventually crossed the finish line victorious, less than half a second ahead of second placed man Stansfield. Barnes worked his way up to third place by the time the flag fell, whilst Smith, Armstrong and Jonathan Mitchell completed the top six. Magalhaes eventually settled in seventh place after a sterling drive.
Our 2023 420R Sportsman champion, Gary Tootell claimed yet another Sportsman victory, ahead of Steve Riley and Ian Cowley.
Onto the final race of our UK season for our 420R drivers, and it was Russ Olivant who started on pole position, with Tootell alongside. As the safety car pulled into the pit lane, the field headed towards Redgate at full force.
It was Tootell who nipped ahead into Redgate on lap one, as Olivant slotted in behind. After an incident stricken first corner, the red flag was thrown, as the grid awaited the restart.
With the original grid reformed, we were ready once again for the final 420R race of the weekend. It was Smith who launched an attack from fourth on the grid to take the lead around Redgate this time around.
Side by side with Magalhaes, Smith had his work cut out for him, but he was hopeful of ending his season on a high. A few corners later and it was Barnes who was ahead. With multiple lead changes on this opening lap, we were set for a thrilling showdown to the 420R championship.
Barnes and Smith soon developed a comfortable gap to the chasing pack, whilst there was a six-car train behind vying for third place.
After building a seven second gap back to third place with 15 minutes still to go, Barnes and Smith entered into their own battle, swapping places lap after lap. Following an action-packed final lap, it was Barnes who crossed the line just 0.127 seconds ahead of Smith to claim the final victory of the season, and end his championship winning year on a high.
Despite starting 23rd on the grid, Jamie Winrow steered his way to a third place finish, with Olivant just behind in fourth place. Magalhaes and Tootell completed the top six, with Tootell also ending his championship winning season with another Sportsman victory.
A close race-long battle between Steve Riley and Philipp Nagel ended with Riley just ahead, with the pair also claiming second and third places in the Sportsman race.
With second place in the championship standings now deciphered it was Stansfield who clinched the position, just two points ahead of Smith. Meanwhile, Matt Welch secured second place in the 420R Sportsman championship standings, ahead of Cowley in third place.
Our 310R champion had also already been crowned following the previous round at Oulton Park, with David Baldwin claiming the spoils on his first attempt. With number one spot already spoken for, there was an immense atmosphere in the paddock, as we waited to see who would be awarded runner-up spot.
Saturday began with a pole position start for Mark Roberts, with Don Henshall lining up alongside him. There was a great deal of excitement surrounding this opening 310R race, as those hopeful of securing second in the championship were keen for a good performance. All eyes were on the main contenders, however some seemingly had more work to do than others, with the likes of Stephen Clark starting down in ninth place, whilst David Yates lined up in a strong third on the grid.
As the race began, it was Yates who had an astounding start, leaping into the lead from third place as the field headed into Redgate for the first time. With Roberts and Henshall hot on his heels, we waited to see if he would hold onto his early advantage.
With one lap completed, it was Roberts who managed to edge back into top spot, closely followed by Yates, Caroline Everett and Ben Winrow. As the pack rounded Redgate for the second time, Henshall and Michael O’Reilly had latched onto the back of the lead group, with Clark gradually closing in behind.
Behind, Scott Parker and John Styring were locked in a thrilling battle, with the pair lapping mere millimetres apart, as they battled for position.
In true Caterham style, this race was far from over, and we soon found ourselves with a seven-car scrap for the lead. An impressive manoeuvre around the outside of McLeans launched Yates into the lead once again. However, seemingly stronger in the second half of the lap, Roberts yet again steered his way ahead, as the battle between him and Yates continued.
As the lead changed hands numerous times, including a stint ahead for Ben Winrow before he was forced to retire, it was Stephen Clark who eventually finished this first race victorious, ahead of Roberts and O’Reilly. Everett, Yates and Simon Sharrock completed the top six, whilst Styring eventually finished ahead of Parker in their battle.
Onto the final race of the weekend, and it was a pole position start for Colin Loughlin, following his 10th place finish in race one.
With Loughlin and youngster Sam May on the front row of the grid, the pair led the field around the warm-up lap before thundering into action for one final time.
As the race got underway, Loughlin held onto his position as the field weaved its way through the opening lap, however it wasn’t long before Yates had made his way ahead, with Roberts trying his best to follow suit.
Before long, Yates and Roberts had edged away from the chasing pack, and with a seemingly comfortable two second gap to their nearest challenger, the pair looked to have a strong advantage. However, it wasn’t long before the battle for the lead became a six-car train once again.
With Clark ahead of the train for a number of laps, he looked on course to double his weekend’s successes, however Henshall soon muscled his way through into the lead. With Clark, Henshall and Yates vying for the lead in the final 10 minutes, a collision saw all three of them scuppered. Although Yates was out of the running, Henshall and Clark managed to continue, albeit somewhat scathed.
As the chequered flag fell for the final time this season, it was Henshall who claimed victory on circuit, before a subsequent penalty saw him demoted down the order. In his absence, it was Everett who triumphed, ending her season with victory, with Roberts in second place. Clark had clambered his way back to third place on circuit, however after being removed from the results, Winrow was elevated to third place, ahead of O’Reilly, Henshall and John Shiveral.
In the race for second place in the championship standings, it was Everett who secured the position, ahead of Clark and Winrow. Although Yates ended his season in fifth place, he was crowned the inaugural Chapman Trophy champion.
Another season has now drawn to a close, however we have plenty of excitement to come from our Winter Sun races. We are also looking forward to a superb 2024, with plenty of news to come during the coming months. See you on track soon folks!