The 2017 Lotus Cup Championship fired into life on Saturday 25th March in the county of Lotus, Norfolk, as Snetterton hosted the opening round of the season. Since its inception, the championship had developed into a very competitive GT formula for drivers to grow their talents and look to progress to either national or international GT arenas, which is evident in the 2016 champion Adam Mackay joining British GT for 2017. With the championship redeveloped over the winter, dropping the Lotus Elise Production category to a single championship, the focus is solely on what used to be the SuperSport competitors, who compete in the faster, modified Lotus 2 Elevens, Exige V6 Cup Rs and the Exige S2 model. Whilst the competitors in the Elise Trophy are now eligible for the Lotus Cup championship, at most meetings in 2017 the drivers would be sharing the grid, as was the case at Snetterton for the opening two races of the season, making driving tactical over 30 minutes to avoid tripping over one another.
As the champion from 2016 had moved onto bigger challenges, attention turned to the class of 2017 to see who would propel themselves to the forefront and stamp their name on the 2017 trophy. With regulars back from last year to do battle, plus the a few newcomers, the season would be competitive even with a small field. Two drivers who stood out as favourites to fight for the crown before the meeting got underway were 2016 race winners; Ryan Savage and Jason Baker. With Ryan returning in his father’s 2-Eleven, he was looking to go one better than 2016 and taking the silver medal behind champion Adam Mackay. For Jason Baker, he was looking for an overall top three finish after finishing fourth in 2016, however in his Honda Exige S2; he was expected to be at the front and was clearly one to watch. Returning in 2017 in the impressive Exige V6 Cup R were Bob Drummond and David McInulty after strong 2016 campaigns, joined in this category by the championship winning Exige V6 Cup R, as experienced Endurance driver and GT regular Simon Atkinson purchased the car from Mackay during the winter and was searching for victories. Another in this category was previous Elise Trophy champion Adam Gore, however Adam was forced to miss the round at Snetterton and would be back at Brands Hatch. Competing alongside Ryan Savage in another Lotus 2-Eleven was the second newcomer to the grid; David Alexander, who was graduating from the Elise Trophy for 2017. Competing the class for 2017 was regulars Ian Fenwick and Andrew Wright, both behind the wheel of an Exige SI, powered by a Honda engine. In what should be a grid of nine for the season, Snetterton would only see seven with the absences of Adam Gore and Andrew Wright.
Baker starts season in style
For the opening race of the new season, the front row for the rolling start saw championship favourites Jason Baker and Ryan Savage alongside one another, after both lapped below the 2:01 mark, separated by 0.510s. When the lights went out, it was Baker who got the better start, leaving Savage to defend off the Exige V6 Cup R of Simon Atkinson behind. As Baker showed how quick he was ending the first lap with a time of 2:06.009, his lap was 1.865 seconds faster than Savage 2-Eleven and nothing looked to faze him.
Behind the front two, a battle between two Exige V6 Cup Rs saw Simon Atkinson regained third from David McInulty, however their dice for third saw them quickly lose ground on the leading two, with Atkinson plus ten seconds back by end of lap three. The pace of the field was extremely quick in the opening stages, causing most to spread out. As the front four sat comfortable, a battle was on back in fifth between Ian Fenwick’s Exige S1 and Bob Drummond’s Exige V6 Cup R. Bob Drummond held the advantage before lap 5, as Fenwick made his move stick and slotted into the top five. This battle would end by lap eight as Drummond retired from the race and allowing Ian Fenwick to continue unchallenged in fifth.
As the field started to lap the slower cars from the Elise Trophy, gaps decreased between the field, potential overtaking chances appeared but nothing seemed to faze Baker still out-front. Continuing to lap quicker than anyone else, Jason’s gap did fall down to five seconds, but Ryan Savage couldn’t get close enough to mount a challenge for the lead. With drivers having to find a way past the Elise Trophy competitors, the fight for third intensified, with David McInulty taking the fight for Simon Atkinson and grabbing third on lap nine. It didn’t take Atkinson long to regain third, but with both lapping between 2:07-2:08, the two were never apart on the Snetterton 300 layout.
In the closing stages of the race, Baker’s gap to Savage increased from five seconds to seven, as Savage had to tactically find a way past the leading Elise Trophy contenders without interrupting their race and costing someone the win. As Baker crossed the line to record the first win of the new season, the final podium spot was still up for grabs. The final few laps had seen Atkinson pull slightly clear and whilst helped by the traffic, McInulty never gave in. With Atkinson taking third at the flag, the gap between these two was 1.948s in what had been the closest fight within the race.
Lotus Cup Championship – Race 2 Top Five:
- Jason Baker (No.29 – Honda Exige S2) = 30:51.950s
- Ryan Savage (No.69 – 2-Eleven) = +7.400s
- Simon Atkinson (No.88 – Exige V6 Cup R) = +47.895s
- David McInulty (No.7 – Exige V6 Cup R) = +49.843s
- Ian Fenwick (No.24 – Exige S1) = +1:06.071s
Baker Controls from Front as Savage Hits Trouble
The second and final race for the Lotus Cup Championship at Snetterton saw a reverse grid, starting start. With David Alexander taking pole position in his 2-Eleven alongside Ian Fenwick, Baker and Savage would be on row three in fifth and sixth. As the drivers came out for the race, there was a noticeable gap in fifth with Ryan Savage still in the pit lane. For reasons unknown to us, Savage would start from the pit lane and would only be able to join the circuit after the Elise Trophy cars had begun. This would mean Savage would be down in 25th and have a lot of work to do early on to chase down his competitors.
When the lights went out, Jason Baker got a lightening getaway from row three to lead the field into Wilson and already gap his rivals. As Ian Fenwick settled into second place from the front row, pole sitter David Alexander had a disaster and retired his 2-Eleven to the pits before the end of the lap. Whilst one 2-Eleven had retired, the second one of Ryan Savage followed only a lap later, with everything not all well with the No.69 machine and Savage’s race was over.
With the field unfortunately down to five within two laps, Baker looked untouchable out front, breaking clear of Ian Fenwick by six seconds, whilst Fenwick had to be cautious of Simon Atkinson closing in. Atkinson’s lap times were decreasing and when Fenwick made an error on lap four, the newcomer was into second and given a chance to settle early on. Gaps between the five started to show by lap six and once Elise Trophy runners were “in the way” the field tripped over one another. A slower lap from Atkinson allowed Fenwick back into second, but again they swapped a lap later. As David McInulty lied fourth and couldn’t close down the gap, he was given a chance by lap twelve when Ian Fenwick struggled to a time of 2:12.506s in traffic. Another slower lap followed with a 2:21.478s showing Fenwick’s Elise S1 was suffering somewhere and McInulty was through. Further troubles dropped Fenwick behind Bob Drummond on lap fifteen, which unfortunately for him was the final lap and meant he ended up the last finisher in the class.
Out front though Jason Baker wasn’t faze by anything yet again, driving superbly in the Honda Exige S2 to take win number two of the season by over forty seconds, with Simon Atkinson and David McInulty completing the podium in second and third.
Lotus Cup Championship – Race 2 Top Five:
- Jason Baker (No.29 – Honda Exige S2) = 30:40.519s
- Simon Atkinson (No.88 – Exige V6 Cup R) = +40.245s
- David McInulty (No.7 – Exige V6 Cup R) = +59.381s
- Bob Drummond (No.23 – Exige V6 Cup R) = +1:19.852s
- Ian Fenwick (No.24 – Exige S1) = +1:47.375s
Lotus Cup Championship Standings – After Round 1 Snetterton:
- Jason Baker (No.29 – Honda Exige S2) = 66 Pts.
- Simon Atkinson (No.88 – Exige V6 Cup R) = 47 Pts.
- David McInulty (No.7 – Exige V6 Cup R) = 41 Pts.
- Ian Fenwick (No.24 – Exige S1) = 34 Pts.
- Ryan Savage (No.69 – 2-Eleven) = 25 Pts.
- Bob Drummond (No.23 – Exige V6 Cup R) = 19 Pts.
- David Alexander (No.10 – 2-Eleven) = 15 Pts.
As the series turns its attention to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit on the 1st May 2017, it is Jason Baker who has full control over the championship, leading the way on 66 points after taking both wins and setting fastest lap in both races. Whilst Ryan Savage did challenge Baker in race one, the DNF in race two has dented the title favourite heading into round 2, as Savage lies fifth on 25 points. The closest challenger to Baker after the opener of the season is currently Simon Atkinson, as the newcomer in the Exige V6 Cup R took a third and a second to collect 47 points and only 19 behind. A strong third and a fourth gives David McInulty third in the championship on 41 points heading to Brands, slightly ahead of a challenging Ian Fenwick. With the season opener now behind the drivers, you can surely expect the cobwebs to be removed come Brands Hatch and the season will certainly kick into life for most of the drivers. The fight to be 2017 Lotus Cup Champion has begun.
For more information on the championship, please visit: www.lotuscupuk.com
To see more pictures of the races, including the Lotus Elise Trophy, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.