In its fifth season since being launched as the entry level for the manufacture Radical Sportscars, the SR1 Cup continues to grow from strength to strength, attracting decent grids and producing some fantastic racing, all in identical lightweight and quick prototypes. With drivers from all backgrounds taking part in a calendar of four races, the 2017 season would get underway at Brands Hatch on the 21st May. The new season would see the debut of an upgraded SR1 after Radical Sportscars revised the SR1 over the winter with new design, improved aerodynamics and updated electronics to produce a quicker race-car, producing 190bhp from a 1340cc RPE Suzuki engine.
For the opening round on the GP circuit at Brands Hatch, the fifth season would see a strong line-up of 11 drivers, containing some newcomers and regulars from previous seasons. Leading the line-up is 2016 double winner Richard Baxter. After challenging for the title last year, Richard was lining up back in SR1 Cup alongside a campaign in the Radical Challenge, gaining far more Prototype experience and looking for the overall title in 2017. Whilst Baxter may look like a favourite for the title, he would face stiff competition from returnee Rob Ellice, who has had a few years in the SR1 Cup and looked set on challenging for the title. In terms of newcomers looking set to make an impact was Switzerland’s Jerome de Sadeleer, who comes into the SR1 with no racing background of his own, but racing is in the family blood, as older brother Hugo competes with United Autosports in the European Le Mans series (ELMS) and after previous round in Monza, lied second. Another driver on the grid who has links to the ELMS or LMP3 grids was Nielsen Racing team boss, David Thompson, who would be making his racing debut at Brands Hatch in the SR1 Cup.
On the 2.43 mile Brands Hatch GP circuit, the Radical SR1 field would tackle qualifying on Saturday before taking part in two 20 minutes races on Sunday.
Ellice holds of Baxter for opening race win
The battle between the experienced and the newcomers got underway Saturday under bright skies at Brands Hatch on a very dry circuit. As eyes were on Ellice and Baxter, it was newcomer Jerome de Sadeleer who put his maker down on the season, impressing with a time of 1:36.329s to top the times. As Baxter snapped at the heels of De Sadeleer to hold second spot, Baxter could only get within 1.408s of top spot, before Rob Ellice time of 1:37.41 demoted Baxter to third. Late on in the session, Rob Courtneidge lapped the circuit with a time of 1:37.843 to take fourth, with Nielsen Racing team boss David Thompson completing the top five, an impressive performance in his opening qualifying session in the SR1 Cup.
When the lights went out on Sunday morning for the first race of the new season, newcomer De Sadeleer unfortunately blew his pole position, stalling on the front row and handing the lead to Rob Ellice. As Richard Baxter slotted into second into Paddock Hill Bend, Andy Chittenden got a lighting start from seventh to move into third. The stall on the line would leave De Sadeleer twenty seconds back on the rest of the field and lots of work to do early on.
Away at the front, Rob Ellice seemed in control early on and pulled out an advantage of over 1.5 seconds; however by lap three the gap was down to under half a second as Baxter closed in for the lead. With Chittenden slipping back in third, he had a comfortable advantage over the fourth place car of Rob Courtneidge.
The pace of the chasing pack quickened by the mid-way mark of the race and with the front three covered by a second, this allowed for Courtneidge and James Pinkerton to reduce the margin. The front six then ran as a slightly drawn out train by the end of lap eight, as pole sitter De Sadeleer had recovered brilliantly to sixth, lapping the field quicker than everyone else and setting the fastest lap of the race, being the only driver to go under 1:36s.
With tension building between the top six and a thrilling finale in store over the closing laps, David Tagg crashed out on lap eight at Westfield and with the car stranded in a dangerous position, the stewards decided to red flag the race after nine laps. The race was declared and the podium would be Rob Ellice on the top step, ahead of Richard Baxter and Andy Chittenden.
Radical SR1 Cup, Brands Hatch GP Race 1 – Top Five:
- Rob Ellice (No.12) = 9 Laps = 14:54.580s
- Richard Baxter (No.88) = +0.611s
- Andy Chittenden (No.48) = +1.955s
- Rob Courtneidge (No.56) = +2.290s
- James Pinkerton (No.22) = +3.982s
Newcomer Gets his first SR1 win in final race at Brands
The second race would see the grid former from the second fastest times from Saturday’s qualifying session, so Jerome De Sadeleer started from the pole, with race one winner Rob Ellice alongside. Whilst both got good starts, it was a lightening getaway from Richard Baxter that saw the 2016 race winner lead into Paddock Hill Bend, ahead of Rob Ellice. With De Sadeleer demoted down to fourth behind David Thompson, the Swiss driver got a move on, fighting up to second by the end of lap two and then challenging Baxter on the third lap. With De Sadeleer lapping quicker than Baxter, a move on Baxter at Sheene corner promoted the newcomer into the lead and he looked untroubled once ahead.
As Rob Ellice held third position and looked determined on holding onto the final podium spot, James Pinkerton had moved up the order and was challenging Ellice. The two would run bumper to bumper over the next few laps, as behind Courtneidge was moving up the order after a poor start and took fifth off Andrew Richie. As Richie pushed hard to try a regain fifth, the No.51 car ended beached in the gravel trap at Stirlings, bringing out the safety car on lap eight.
The recovery of Richie’s SR1 took a little while and with the safety car pulling in a few laps later, this left a one lap dash to the flag and De Sadeleer had to defend off Baxter for his first SR1 win on his debut in the series. Baxter settled for second on the GP loop of the Brands Hatch track, as Rob Ellice came home third to secure the championship lead, level on points with Baxter but ahead on race wins. The win for De Sadeleer gave him third in the standings, four behind the two experienced drivers in the field, as good results for James Pinkerton and Rob Courtneidge leaves them level on 51 points, tied for fourth as the series moves to Rockingham on the 25th June, before Donington Park in August and the finale at Snetterton over the August bank holiday weekend.
Radical SR1 Cup, Brands Hatch GP Race 2 – Top Five:
- Jerome De Sadeleer (No.3) = 12 Laps = 21:15.888s
- Richard Baxter (No.88) = +1.048s
- Rob Ellice (No.12) = +2.036s
- James Pinkerton (No.22) = +3.922s
- Rob Courtneidge (No.56) = +4.371s
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs