Classic Sports Car Club Winter Warm-Up – Race 1

The Classic Sports Car Club celebrates their 20th year of racing in 2023, which brings with it additional excitement and anticipation of a new year of racing. On the 26th of February, the club went to Silverstone to begin the racing season. Five categories took part in six races across the day, with the days racing beginning with the Gold Arts Magnificent 7s. This class consists of anything based on the original Lotus 7 design, and whilst Caterham is the most populous marque in this category, there is usually a sprinkling of Locost, Spire and Westfield to name a few.

On the sunny (and VERY cold) Sunday in Northampton, the Mag 7 grid was a little diminished from the usually expected turnout, due in part to the very early start in the year for the club, and also due to drivers not wanting to drive at over 100mph through sub 10 degree C air temperatures in open cars, but 17 cars took the start of their first of two races of the day. The top three cars were prepared by Caterham powerhouse BOSS racing, with the pole belonging to long-time Caterham racer Johnny Pittard. Pittard is no stranger to the front of a Caterham field, but he was joined by Team Leos boss Luke Stevens. The turbo-charged CSR at his command was the car that Luke won the national championship with in 2005, which is commonly driven by David Holroyd these days. Jonathan Edwards (not the former Olympic triple jumper) qualified 4th in his maiden voyage with the CSCC, with fellow debutants Chris Mayhew starting 6th, Jonathan Constable 12th and Stephen Trinder starting at the back.

As the rolling start drew to its conclusion, Pittard and Stevens led the field over the National start line, and the dulcet Duratec tones roared into life as the race began, the first race of the year, the fighting into the first corner…… sadly led to the first safety car of the year as three cars were not going to see the conclusion of the lap. Tim Woodman and Richard Green had come together, scattering several pieces of their cars around Copse corner, and the sole non-Caterham in the field of Michael Jacobs and Rob Olley would also be caught up in the incident, reducing the field to 14 cars.

Once the ever-vigilant Silverstone marshalls had worked their magic and the safety car signalled to the field that it was time to resume, less than nine of the starting 20 minutes remained, however even with a smaller field and a shorter race, what a spectacle the drivers put on. Pittard and Stevens enjoyed a very tense duel for the overall win, supercharged 2.3 litres for Pittard against turbo-charged 1.6 litres for Stevens, both drivers giving everything they and their cars had to put on an incredible show.

Whilst the lead pair ran off into the distance, the fighting was no less intense for numerous cars behind them. CSR Superlight pilot Bruce Wilson, who has had several top 10 Mag 7 finishes at Silverstone since he began racing the car in 2015, was locked in his own duel with Nick Starkey in his C400, with another trio battling further down the road behind them, consisting of Joshua Gollin, the Lanyon brothers’ Superlight R, and the 420R of Jolyon Kemp.

In the end, it was Pittard from Stevens for the top spot, separated by less than the time it takes to blink, Edwards scoring the best of the newcomers in 4th place, Starkey overhauled Mayhew for 5th at the flag with Wilson right behind, the Lanyons broke free of Kemp & Gollin for 8th, with Constable hot on their heels and the late-charging Martin Dolan / Gary Boon shared car at the tail of the conga line, Surhid Chatterjee a distant 13th, and Trinder in his somewhat outgunned Academy car the last finisher in 14th.

Cyril Abiteboul: Renault boss steps down from role

Ahead of Renault’s new identity as Alpine, and a reshuffle at the team, Cyril Abiteboul is leaving his role as team boss effective immediately.

Abiteboul’s journey as a team boss began in 2013 when he took charge of the doomed Caterham, having acted as Renault’s Deputy Director of Sport until 2012.

In 2015, he returned to this role and, having seen the Renault name return under Frederic Vassuer’s leadership, he took charge of the French outfit at the back end of 2016.

Under Abiteboul’s leadership, Renault managed a fourth-placed finish in 2018 – Courtesy of Renault F1 Media

Sandwiched in between these stages of his career has been the controversy with Red Bull. On various occasions between 2015 and 2018, he had several public fall-outs with Red Bull Principal Christian Horner. Red Bull’s struggles with Renault power in the hybrid era led to tensions between the two teams, and Horner’s complaints about the performance and reliability of the Power Unit began to irritate Abiteboul.

This relationship came to a head in 2018, when Red Bull announced they would no longer be using Renault engines for 2019 onwards, and would instead turn to Honda, who had supplied Toro Rosso that season to a degree of success.

power Unit Disputes led to a complete breakdown in the relationship between Red Bull and Renault in 2018 – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Renault endured a tough 2019, finishing fifth compared to fourth in 2018, and a long way behind McLaren.

A similar story rang true in 2020, but they were much closer to McLaren and Racing Point, fighting for third during much of the campaign, but ultimately finishing fifth again.

They also managed three podiums last year; Daniel Ricciardo finished third in Germany and Imola, while Esteban Ocon claimed a spectacular P2 in Sakhir, in what was Sergio Perez’s first win in Formula One. The Mexican has signed for Red Bull this year, replacing Alex Albon.

Daniel Ricciardo’s third at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was the second of three for Renault last year – Courtesy of Renault F1 Media

Abiteboul’s tenure will be remembered with a great deal of respect. He fearlessly led the team through thick and thin, and has laid the groundwork for Alpine to progress and achieve the success Renault once enjoyed. He enticed Ricciardo into his project, and having lured Fernando Alonso back to the team after the Australian’s departure, Abiteboul bows out with the team in a far better state than it was in when he arrived.

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