This year’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge took another twist at Snetterton last weekend after long-time leader and British GT title contender Seb Morris lost valuable points to the chasing pack.
But there was better news for his Team Parker Racing co-driver Rick Parfitt Jnr who moved up one place to third in the Sunoco 200 Challenge standings thanks to his fastest Am laps in both races. Equally, two victories for championship rival Jon Minshaw has brought another British GT driver into the mix.
Morris meanwhile will be hoping third and fifth place finishes across both one-hour races don’t come back to haunt him. It’s been a measure of the Welshman’s consistency this season that two solid results should actually lower his average score, but that’s exactly what happened on Sunday when he slipped to 79.75 points to leave chief rival Marco Cencetti trailing by just 5.54.
The next couple of months could therefore be very interesting now that Morris only has one further British GT round with which to improve his average score. A perfect weekend featuring pole position, victory and fastest lap at Donington Park on September 10/11 would see his average improve to 88 points, more than both Derek Johnston and Felipe Nasr required to win the crown in 2009 and ’11, respectively.
However, that’s without reckoning on Radical Euro Masters ace Cencetti who still has nine races with which to increase, but also decrease, his own average score. The Italian’s quest for the Rolex 24 At Daytona prize drive continues at Donington this weekend.
Third placed Alex Kapadia - who’s also next in action this weekend - remains a threat, as does Morris’ British GT rival Joe Osborne who moved from 10th to fourth in the standings thanks to his strong outing at Snetterton. The AmDTuning.com BMW driver currently has 66 points but could still notch up a maximum and potentially winning score of 75.78.
James Littlejohn completes the top-five, while Jon Barnes’ British GT podium has seen him rise one place to ninth.
Elsewhere, Parfitt Jnr has given himself a fighting chance of winning the Sunoco 200 Challenge even if he - like every other contender - is relying on runaway leader Max Bladon to slip up over the second half of his Mini Challenge campaign.
The Bentley driver increased his average by 3.25 to now lie 31.11 points behind Bladon, a large but not quite insurmountable difference. Indeed, a perfect weekend for Parfitt Jnr at Donington would see him move to 92.89 points, enough to overhaul both the Cooper class championship leader and Steve Burgess, who currently occupies second.
Equally, Parfitt Jnr cannot now score less than 75.78 points, 4.47 more than Bladon’s absolute minimum.
The competition’s dark horse could be Jon Minshaw whose two British GT victories at Snetterton not only helped him and 2014 Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion Phil Keen secure the series’ points lead but also bring the partnership’s Am half into Sunoco 200 Challenge contention.
Minshaw began the weekend 11th, but has rocketed up to fourth after increasing his average by an incredible 12.38. Not only is he now just 1.37 points behind Parfitt Jnr but he can also still mathematically overhaul Bladon, although that would still require the Mini man to make several considerable faux pas over the course of his final seven races.
F3 Cup’s Shane Kelly drops one place to fifth but remains in contention given that he, unlike British GT’s contingent, has seven more opportunities with which to score points.
Click here to see the latest Sunoco Whelen Challenge points and here for the 200 Challenge standings.
Upcoming Sunoco Whelen Challenge-eligible events:
August 13/14: Radical Masters/Euro Masters - Donington Park
September 10/11: British GT Championship (GT3 Pro) - Donington Park
Next Sunoco 200 Challenge-eligible events:
August 13: Britcar Endurance Championship - Silverstone
August 13/14: GT Cup - Donington Park
August 20: Mini Challenge - Oulton Park
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 Challenge champion will win a fully funded drive aboard a Whelen-sponsored prototype in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 200 Challenge champion will contest the 200-mile Daytona support race held over the same January weekend.