Sunoco Challenge: Middleton and Tregurtha make their move as Minshaw loses ground
There was no change at the top of either the Sunoco Whelen or 240 Challenges this weekend despite British GT taking place at Rockingham. But, while LMP3 championship leader Colin Noble Jnr and Radical SR3 ace Bradley Smith both continue to enjoy healthy leads in their respective standings, new rivals have emerged as potential winners.
Sunoco Whelen Challenge: HHC duo stake their claim
HHC Motorsport pairing Stuart Middleton and Will Tregurtha sealed their maiden British GT4 victory last weekend and, in the process, announced themselves as serious Sunoco Whelen Challenge contenders.
The pair have vaulted to second and third in the standings, with Middleton’s fastest qualifying time giving him the edge for now. His average overall score of 99 puts him 7.33 points clear of Tregurtha, but still 21 short of early leader Colin Noble Jnr who enjoyed a double victory on his Henderson Insurance LMP3 Cup debut one week earlier.
British GT3 boasts four previous Sunoco Whelen Challenge winners amongst its front-runners, but with all of them ineligible for this year’s prize it’s Matt Griffin who finds himself fourth overall after finishing second on Sunday. His 86.17-point average is 3.67 more than GT4 champion Mike Robinson, while LMP3 racer Thomas Randle - who wasn’t in action - completes the top-six.
Lanan Racing duo David Pittard and Alex Reed’s pitstop success penalty for winning British GT4’s second race at Oulton Park restricted them to sixth at Rockingham. And that’s also had an impact on their Sunoco Whelen Challenge score, which drops them from second to seventh.
Stuart Moseley enjoyed an excellent first Radical Euro Masters SR3 outing of the season at Portimao in Portugal but was only eligible for 70% points in the two first races, and 60% for the weekend’s final contest, as a result of the low turnout. Nevertheless, he still did enough to enter the top-10 with 69.5 points, 4.5 more than LMP3 Cup’s Sarah Moore who completes the top-10.
Click here for the complete Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings.
Sunoco 240 Challenge: Minshaw down but by no means out
With Radical Challenge not competing this weekend British GT Am, Mini Challenge JCW and Radical Euro Masters Am drivers had a chance to make inroads into 240 leader Bradley Smith’s considerable first round score of 140.
British GT3 championship leader Jon Minshaw went into the weekend as Smith’s closest rival but, with a 20-second pitstop success penalty to his name, was always likely to struggle. Fastest Am race lap at Rockingham and a great recovery to finish fourth limited the damage, however, and ensured the Barwell Motorsport driver dropped just one place and 0.83 points behind F3 Cup’s Shane Kelly, who became Smith’s nearest rival without turning a wheel courtesy of his 120 total.
Reigning GT4 champion Graham Johnson started and finished the weekend fourth, albeit 3.17 points worse off. His new total of 111.83 is still 11.83 more than Alasdair McCaig, whose LMP3 Cup campaign continues at Brands Hatch on May 20/21, while Rick Parfitt Jnr remains sixth despite improving his score by winning British GT3’s race.
F3 Cup racer Jacopo Sebastini and GT Cup’s Jonny Mowlem weren’t in action last weekend but find themselves seventh and eighth as a result of Charlie Butler-Henderson and British GT3’s Derek Johnston losing ground. While the latter has slipped to 15th, JCW driver Butler-Henderson lies 10th after also being passed by championship rival Reece Barr who almost doubled his average score thanks to a race victory, fastest lap and two pole positions at Rockingham.
Click here for the complete Sunoco 240 Challenge standings.
Upcoming Sunoco Challenge-eligible events:
May 6: Snetterton – Britcar Endurance
May 13/14: Snetterton - Mini Challenge Cooper, F3 Cup
May 20/21: Brands Hatch - GT Cup, LMP3 Cup
What are the Sunoco Challenges?
The Sunoco Challenges provide an accurate assessment and comparison of performances across multiple championships during any given season. Points are awarded for qualifying and race results, including fastest lap, which are then converted into an individual average score for each competing driver over the course of a full campaign.
That means each race weekend offers drivers an equal chance to climb and drop down their respective Sunoco Challenge table. It also ensures that performances are taken into consideration across an entire season while placing less emphasis on one-off or unfair results.
As in previous years this season’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion will win a fully funded drive aboard a Whelen-sponsored prototype in the 2018 Daytona 24 Hours.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 240 Challenge champion will contest the 240-minute Daytona support race held over the same January weekend at the wheel of a Sunoco-liveried GT4 car.