Sunoco Challenge: Dane Train gathers momentum at Snetterton
A bumper outing for Sunoco Whelen and 240 Challenge-eligible championships at Snetterton last weekend resulted in respective leaders Linus Lundqvist and Kyle Reid maintaining their places at the top of both standings.
Barwell’s Phil Keen remains second in the senior competition but it’s TF Sport duo Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen who made the biggest impression after victories for both drivers helped them move up to sixth and seventh.
Meanwhile, the 240 top-10 is packed full of British GT3 and GT4 Am drivers, Jon Minshaw the best placed of them in fifth.
Whelen: F3’s Lundqvist strengthens his lead
A combination of increasing his overall score and nearest rivals losing ground helped Linus Lundqvist consolidate his Sunoco Whelen Challenge lead at Snetterton where maximum points for a victory, pole position and fastest lap, as well as another podium, helped the BRDC British F3 Championship leader post an improved average score of 102.5.
The Swede began the weekend just one point ahead of nearest rival Phil Keen. However, a solid if unspectacular British GT3 round for the 2015 Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner has seen the gap widen to 10.1. His new overall mark of 92.4 is 6.57 more than a resurgent Nicolai Kjaergaard who increased his average by more than 13 points after claiming a British F3 win, pole, fastest lap and podium.
Radical European Masters’ Stuart Moseley remains fourth after enjoying a weekend off, while British GT3 Pro Yelmer Buurman has dropped 20 points and two places to fifth.
The biggest movers over the weekend were British GT3 Pro team-mates Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen. Race 2 victory and fastest lap helped the latter vault 14 places to seventh, one spot behind his Danish counterpart whose win, pole position, fastest lap and podium gained him 22 positions. However, their new 69.3 and 68.2 averages are still more than 30 points less than Lundqvist’s current table-topping total.
Darren Turner dropped from fifth to eighth, LMP3 Cup’s Brad Smith – who wasn’t in action – moved up one place to ninth, and Tolman Motorsport team-mates Charlie Fagg and Michael O’Brien became British GT4 Pro’s best placed entries in joint-10th.
Elsewhere, former top-10 drivers Patrik Matthiesen, Jonny Adam and Callum Macleod slipped to 13th, 14th and 24th respectively.
240: Mini Challenge JCW aces falter
A tough weekend at Snetterton saw Mini Challenge JCW front runners Ant Whorton-Eales and Jordan Collard both lose significant ground to Sunoco 240 Challenge pace-setters Kyle Reid and Steve Burgess.
Whorton-Eales went into the weekend third overall and 10.67 points behind Reid, whose exceptional start to this year’s Mini Challenge Cooper campaign has helped him amass a 124-point average. Only a strong weekend would help his JCW counterpart maintain the pressure, but that’s exactly what Whorton-Eales didn’t achieve when a mechanical issue in Race 1 not only resulted in retirement but also 27th on Race 2’s grid. The handful of Sunoco 240 Challenge points scored for finishing seventh came as little comfort after dropping to ninth overall and 38.33 points behind Reid.
JCW championship rival Collard also endured his fair share of tribulations. An administrative error not only cost him pole position but also resulted in starting Race 1 from the back of the grid. Fastest lap in Race 2 limited the damage a little, but – just like Whorton-Eales – his overall 240 score took a sizeable hit after dropping from 91.67 to 68.
Radical Challenge driver Dominic Jackson inherited third at both Mini drivers’ expense, while F3 Cup racer Stuart Wiltshire moved ahead of three British GT Am drivers after Jon Minshaw, Kelvin Fletcher and Lee Mowle all lost ground.
Problems for others actually helped Minshaw move up three places to fifth in spite of his new, lower 79.2 average, while Fletcher also picked up a spot to lie sixth overall.
Robbie Dalgleish (Mini Challenge Cooper) and David Pattison share seventh, the latter jumping up from 22nd after a first British GT4 victory improved his average by 16.5 points. The pair’s 77-point total is just seven less than Wiltshire’s in fourth.
Whorton-Eales and British GT4 Am Nick Jones complete the top-10, while Mowle dropped to 12th behind Adam Balon.
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