A strong British GT bank holiday outing at Oulton Park helped Seb Morris move back to the top of the Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings, while GT4 championship leader Mike Robinson’s even more impressive performance sees him climb to fourth in the 200 Challenge class.
Team Parker Racing’s Morris headed into rounds three and four hoping to bounce back from the tough outing at Rockingham that had seen him slip from first to ninth in the Sunoco Whelen Challenge. A perfect score for victory, pole position and fastest race lap would go some way to redressing the balance, and he duly achieved all three in Monday’s second race, as well as third in the opener, to reclaim top spot.
The Bentley driver’s new average points total of 89.38 is 10.8 more than erstwhile Sunoco Whelen Challenge leader and Radical Euro Masters ace Marco Cencetti, who has a chance to reclaim the lead when he competes at Paul Ricard this weekend.
Fellow Radical racers Alex Kapadia, Johan Scheier, James Abbott, Tony Wells and James Littlejohn are still within striking distance after retaining their places in the top six on account of a poor British GT weekend for Ross Gunn, who has slipped from second to 14th. But there was better luck for his GT3 Pro rival Rob Bell, who qualified and finished second in race two to vault from 15th to 10th.
Derek Johnston’s impressive start to the season saw him top the Whelen Challenge points heading to Oulton, but the TF Sport driver is now down to sixth following a solid rather than spectacular weekend.
That he finds himself propping up the top-six with a still very healthy 93.5 points owes much to the exceptional performances of his fellow British GT drivers. Optimum Motorsport’s Robinson began the weekend 18th after a difficult weekend at Rockingham but has jumped up to fourth courtesy of two GT4 class pole positions and victories, which have given him a 99-point average.
Morris’ GT3 Am co-driver Rick Parfitt Jnr is one place further back in fifth after a victory, another podium and fastest race lap helped him make up five positions. Meanwhile, fellow GT3 Am Liam Griffin is just behind Johnson in seventh with an average score less than seven points shy of Robinson’s after he and Barwell Motorsport claimed their first victory of the year.
However, all four drivers have their work cut out to catch Mini Challenge Cooper class front-runner and new 200 Challenge leader Max Bladon who maintained his incredible 120-point average at Silverstone.
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.
As in previous years this season’s Sunoco Challenge champion will win a fully funded drive aboard a Whelen-sponsored prototype in the 2017 Daytona 24 Hours.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 200 Challenge champion will contest the 200-mile Daytona support race held over the same January weekend.