This year’s Sunoco Whelen and 200 Challenges took a step closer to completion last weekend after a busy two days of racing up and down the UK. Indeed, while the senior class recorded its first leading benchmark score, the junior category has all-but been decided.
Sunoco Whelen Challenge: Morris stakes his claim
Long-time leader Seb Morris was the first of this year’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge contenders to post a final average score of the season after his British GT Championship campaign concluded at Donington Park on Sunday.
The Welshman might have missed out on the GT3 title but third position in the race helped him to fractionally increase his Challenge benchmark. 80.06 points is therefore the target Radical racers Marco Cencetti, Alex Kapadia, Marcello Marateotto and James Littlejohn will all be aiming for over the course of their campaigns’ final six races.
Of that chasing pack it’s undoubtedly Cencetti, currently second with 75.37 points, who has the best chance of overhauling Morris. The Italian can still score a maximum of 93.84 by qualifying on pole, winning and setting fastest lap over the course of each remaining Radical Euro Masters SR3 round, which equates to 140 points per race. However, an average of 91.8 per race would also be sufficient to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona prize drive in January 2017.
Meanwhile, fellow Radical drivers Kapadia, Marateotto and Littlejohn must record perfect scores at their final events to have any chance of beating Morris’ score.
Sunoco 200 Challenge: Bladon all-but champion
Max Bladon is now almost guaranteed to win this year’s Sunoco 200 Challenge, and the Rolex 24 At Daytona support race entry that goes with it, after chief rival Steve Burgess lost ground in the standings last weekend.
While Bladon enjoyed a weekend off, Burgess knew that only a perfect performance would give him a realistic shot of catching the new Mini Challenge Cooper class champion. But, instead, the Radical Challenge ace could only finish fourth and second in his two races, leaving him 20.32 points adrift in the Sunoco 200 Challenge standings with just one weekend remaining.
Burgess’ potential maximum average mark is therefore 96.78 points, 5.17 more than Bladon’s minimum. That means the latter would have to non-score during his final three races at Snetterton on October 29/30 for Burgess - who now requires a faultless outing at the same venue three weeks earlier - to snatch an unlikely Sunoco 200 Challenge crown.
Bladon’s minimum score also ensures that no driver other than Burgess can now claim the title. Rick Parfitt Jnr’s third place and fastest Am race lap at Donington Park helped the British GT driver maintain his third place in the standings. His final average score of 87.39 points is 6.72 more than newly crowned British GT4 champion Mike Robinson’s total, while GT3 title winner Derek Johnston’s Am pole and second place sees him tied fourth on 80.67.
F3 Cup racer Shane Kelly was another who needed to score heavily to retain any hope of catching Bladon. But, despite scoring two fastest laps, his third and fifth places ensure he can now finish no higher than second.
Elsewhere, Jon Minshaw began the weekend fourth in the points and with a slight chance of catching Bladon. However, his accident put paid to that and his British GT3 title hopes.
Remaining Sunoco Whelen Challenge-eligible events:
Sep 30 - Oct 1: Radical Masters SR8 & Euro Masters SR3 - Monza
October 29/30: Radical Masters SR8 & Euro Masters SR3 - Jerez
Remaining Sunoco 200 Challenge-eligible events:
October 1: Britcar Endurance Championship - Oulton Park
October 8: Radical Challenge - Snetterton
October 8/9: F3 Cup - Snetterton
October 29/30: Mini Challenge - Snetterton
November 12/13: Britcar Endurance Championship - Brands Hatch
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.