Sunoco Challenge: Keen loses lead as Buurman moves into contention
Pole position wasn’t enough to maintain Phil Keen’s place at the top of the Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings post-Rockingham after the Barwell Motorsport driver slipped to second behind F3 driver Linus Lundqvist. However, there was better news for Yelmer Buurman whose victory helped the ERC Sport driver move up to third overall.
Meanwhile, Buurman’s co-driver Lee Mowle is best placed of British GT’s Sunoco 240 Challenge continent. He’s up to seventh, partly at the expense of GT3 title rival Jon Minshaw.
Whelen: Lundqvist leaps into top-spot
A stellar weekend for Linus Lundqvist at Rockingham not only helped the Swede take the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship lead but also head the race for 2019’s Daytona 24 Hours prize drive.
Two of British F3’s races carry Sunoco Whelen Challenge points, and Lundqvist made both count courtesy of a victory, second place, pole position and fastest lap. That took his season’s average score to 100, 12.5 more than he achieved at the opening round earlier this month.
Lundqvist therefore leads Phil Keen by just one point after the British GT3 Pro suffered a mixed bag at Rockingham where points for pole position helped boost a relatively modest sixth place finish. However, his overall average was still cut by 13.75 points.
Mercedes-AMG factory driver Yelmer Buurman enjoyed a solid first British GT appearance at Oulton Park but announced himself as a genuine Whelen contender by winning from the back of the GT3 grid at Rockingham. The 100 points earned for doing so took his season’s average to 95.33, 7.83 more than fourth placed Stuart Moseley (Radical Masters SR8) and another 5.25 clear of Brad Smith (LMP3 Cup), neither of whom were in action last weekend.
Four of the top-10’s remaining places are now also filled by British GT drivers, Darren Turner’s GT3 podium helping him climb four positions to sixth ahead of GT4 race winner Patrik Matthiesen whose new class lap record also helped increase the Dane’s average by 33 points.
Jonny Adam and Callum Macleod are ninth and 10th, the latter moving up 10 places thanks to a GT3 rostrum, but both remain behind British F3’s Nicolai Kjaergaard despite the Dane’s average total being cut by 30 points.
240: Victories keep Whorton-Eales in the hunt
Dominant opening weekends for Kyle Reid and Steve Burgess ensured that Mini Challenge JCW and British GT Am front-runners were unable to overhaul the Mini Cooper and Radical Challenge drivers’ totals at Rockingham. However, several remain in contention should either of the early pace-setters falter next time out.
Two victories and a pole position represent a good return by anyone’s standard. However, a higher average at Oulton Park actually saw Ant Whorton-Eales lose ground in the 240 standings to not only Reid and Burgess but also F3 Cup driver Stephen Daly. Nevertheless, the JCW ace’s new total of 113.33 – reduced by 6.67 marks – still represents an excellent return from the first two weekends.
Indeed, current leader Reid – as well as Burgess and Daly – must maintain incredibly high standards throughout the campaign if they’re to fend off Whorton-Eales and fellow JCW title challenger Jordan Collard who remains fifth in the 240 standings, albeit with 13.33 fewer points than at the start of Rockingham’s race weekend.
British GT3 race winner Lee Mowle increased his average by 11 points to move up six places to seventh behind Radical Challenge racer Dominic Jackson, who also inherited a spot without turning a wheel. That was partly thanks to Jon Minshaw dropping from seventh to 10th following a frustrating British GT3 outing.
Minshaw’s misfortune also promoted F3 Cup’s Shane Kelly to eighth and partly helped British GT4’s Kelvin Fletcher, who climbed from 18th to ninth with a much-improved 86.17 average score courtesy of the class’ fastest amateur lap and Pro/Am podium.
But there was also disappointment for fellow GT4 Am Adam Balon who dropped from sixth to 12th overall.
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.
This year’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion will win a fully funded race seat at the 2019 Daytona 24 Hours, courtesy of Whelen.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 240 Challenge champion will contest Daytona’s 240-minute Continental Tire SportsCar Championship support race held over the same January weekend at the wheel of a Sunoco-supported GT4 car.
The Sunoco Challenges are organised by Sunoco Racing Fuels’ official European distributor, Anglo American Oil Company Ltd.
To celebrate the Sunoco Whelen Challenge’s 10th anniversary AAOC is allowing all previous winners to enter once again. Ordinarily Bradley Smith (2014), Phil Keen (2015) and Jonny Adam (2016) would have been ineligible to fight for a second trip to Daytona.
Sunoco Whelen Challenge-eligible series
BRDC British Formula 3 Championship
British GT Championship – GT3 Pro and GT4 Pro
LMP3 Cup – Pro
Radical European Masters – SR3 Pro and SR8 Pro
Sunoco 240 Challenge-eligible series
Britcar Endurance Championship
British GT Championship – GT3 Am and GT4 Am
F3 Cup Championship
GT Cup Championship
LMP3 Cup – Am
Mini Challenge – JCW and Cooper Pro
Radical European Masters – SR3 Am and SR8 Am