Keen sensationally pinches Sunoco Whelen Challenge lead with one weekend remaining
2015 winner Phil Keen is the new Sunoco Whelen Challenge front-runner following a thrilling and unpredictable weekend of racing at Donington Park last weekend that saw erstwhile leader Linus Lundqvist endure a troubled BRDC Formula 3 outing.
The Swede headed into the penultimate round with a chance of winning the senior competition’s Daytona 24 Hours prize drive thanks to his near-18-point advantage. However, two troubled outings in the Challenge-eligible races resulted in his season’s average reducing by 12.26 marks to 86.07.
Keen, meanwhile, approached his final British GT appearance fully aware that only a victory would maintain his hopes of winning both the GT3 Drivers’ title and Sunoco Whelen Challenge. But while a second win of the season ultimately didn’t deliver the championship, victory and pole position helped increase his season’s average by 5.73 points to move the Barwell Lamborghini driver just 0.1 points ahead of Lundqvist.
The British F3 Championship leader’s difficult weekend was compounded by domestic title rival Nicolai Kjaergaard who kept himself in both the Formula 3 and Sunoco Whelen Challenge title hunt by claiming two wins and a fastest lap across the two eligible races. The Dane’s new improved total of 79.64 points is thus 6.43 shy of Keen’s total.
And so the Sunoco Whelen Challenge rolls on to Silverstone in three weeks’ time (October 13/14) when Lundqvist and Kjaegaard go head-to-head for the British F3 and senior Sunoco crowns. The former’s task is undoubtedly much simpler: score 175 points from a possible 280. His adversary, on the other hand, requires a near-perfect weekend comprising two pole positions, two fastest laps, a victory and second place while also hoping Lundqvist fails to improve his average. The 265 points earned for those results would also take him above Keen’s current table-topping total.
Watching from home will be Keen, who – as a former winner – ordinarily wouldn’t be eligible to contest another Sunoco Challenge. However, as a celebration of the competition’s 10th anniversary, its organisers – Anglo American Oil Company – allowed all former champions a chance to test themselves once again.
One of them, Jonny Adam, now lies fourth in the standings after wrapping up his third British GT title at Keen’s expense on Sunday. His final average score of 77 points could yet result in two former winners also topping 2019’s standings.
Two more British GT3 Pros – Nicki Thiim and Yelmer Buurman – complete the top-six ahead of Radical racer Stuart Moseley and British GT4’s leading Pro, Charlie Fagg, while the top-10 is rounded out by Marco Sorensen and Patrik Matthiesen.
1x win and 1x 3rd = 175
1x pole, 1x 2nd and 1x 3rd = 180
2x pole, 1x 4th and 1x 3rd = 180
2x pole, 1x fastest lap, 1x 4th and 1x 5th = 180
2x pole, 2x fastest lap and 2x 5th = 190
2x pole, 2x fastest lap, 1x 1st and 1x 2nd = 265 points
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