After 18 races and 14 hours of wheel-to-wheel fun and frolics, it all comes down to the #ChallengeDecider at Donington Park this weekend, 28-29 September. Just three races stand between the top three title contenders and the crowning of the 2019 Radical Challenge champion. But who will it be?
Enter defending champion and current leader, Dominik Jackson, 2017 SR1 Cup champion Jérôme de Sadeleer and series newcomer Jac Constable. The matter of 127 points separate the trio. With 210 up for grabs across two 50-minute endurance races and a 20-minute sprint, the championship is anything but decided.
For Jackson and RAW Motorsports, doing the double at Donington would be a dream result, having extended the advantage over de Sadeleer at Brands Hatch by 20 points to sit 57 ahead. It’s been incredibly close throughout, with Jackson notching up seven wins to de Sadeleer’s six, and 13 podiums to 12 respectively, preventing either from pulling out a dominant lead whilst Constable’s blinding debut form has brought the battle to the top two.
Jackson says: “It’s been a great championship battle this year, firstly with Jérôme, then that’s extended to Jac and we have fresh threats like Marcus (Clutton). That said, I’m not treating Donington any different to any other race weekend. The championship is there in the background, but it won’t change my approach or driving.
“Race one will be challenging with a 15 second success penalty carried over the last race at Brands, so I expect to be fighting for third or fourth. Jac has no success penalty and Marcus has less, whereas Jérôme’s on maximum, so he’s my first target. It’ll be all about consistency, reliability and clean racing.”
With victory number six in the final race in Kent, de Sadeleer extended the gap to Constable by 22 points, as the latter was left counting the cost of an early pit stop release, resulting in a stop-go penalty which limited him to 11th. SR1 Cup Champion in his first season of racing, de Sadeleer has been working towards the Challenge title the last two terms.
“It’s been a tremendous season, I’ve exceeded what I was hoping to achieve in terms of my driving abilities, but I’ve never hidden I want to win the Challenge title,” says de Sadeleer. “I’m not in the best position to do so, but it’s well within my reach. To win this would be a dream come true, it’s everything I’ve worked for.
“Jac had a hard last race that put him well down against my win, but he’s still in the fight, however my focus will be on Dominik. As long as I have a good qualifying and I can be within five places of him, I’m not worried about race one. Then I just need to manage the other two races and drive tremendously well! I need to make smart decisions and be right at the top with no mistakes, and a bit of luck would help too.”
However, that victory for 360 Racing’s de Sadeleer means he’ll serve an extra 20 success seconds in the first race pit stops at Donington, five more than Jackson. A penalty-free Constable could be the one sitting pretty for the first win of the weekend. “Heading into the final round I’m excited, we’ve nothing really to lose after our stop-go penalty at Brands Hatch for an early pit stop release, which has widened our points gap behind Dominik and Jérôme,” says Jac.
“Switching to the Radical SR3, I didn’t think we’d be in the title fight this year, but our combined efforts have now enabled us to be truly competitive and helped us to get a couple of wins. I’m so impressed with what the Hart GT team has put forward with the car and very happy with how far we’ve come all season with no testing prior. I’d also like to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks to Fix Auto for all their support.
“I’m third in the championship and if results don’t go our way at Donington, I’ll be happy to end up there in our first year. Third would be an amazing result for us, so anywhere from here on up is a bonus! As for this weekend, depending on how qualifying goes, race one could be good for us as our stop-go penalty in the last race at Brands has meant that we have no success penalty. We tend to do well in the sprint races and we’re just going to carry on as we have been, give it everything we have and see what lady luck brings us.”
Such is the closeness of competition amongst the field of identical 226bhp SR3s, no place is secure in the standings. Behind the breakaway top three, John MacLeod and Elliot Goodman stand seven points apart for fourth, while eight drivers are vying for a place in the top six.
Less than 50 points separate Spencer Bourne, Brian Caudwell, Peter Brookes, Mark Richards and Jon MacRae, covering sixth to tenth, while Rod Goodman, Jason Rishover and Marcus Clutton - with nine points between them - could displace the current top ten.
Five different race winners and 11 drivers have adorned the Challenge podium this year. Count Valour Racing’s Clutton, who joined the series two rounds ago, among those winners. Since then he’s occupied each place on the podium at some point, even stealing maximum points in race one at Brands. He’ll undoubtedly be at the sharp end once again.
Another mid-series entrant, Privateer Joe Stables could also upset the order, having already made an impression with a win at Silverstone and a further brace of third places. John Caudwell, Martin Verity, and Brands Hatch podium finisher Marcello Marateotto also can’t be discounted.
The Team Challenge class fight is just as tight, with Russian pairing Anton Zakharov and Amir Feyzulin heading Chris and Daniel Headlam by only 20 points. Full Throttle Motorsport entrants Nick Hull and Richard Avery are back for a second taste of the series as they look to graduate from the Toyo Tires Porsche Championship.
The Challenge field also welcomes two new entries from the wider Radical family - Chris Short, currently second in the 2019 SR1 Cup, and multiple Fangio Trophy podium finisher Mark Williams are both out to experience the next rung up the Radical racing ladder.
The 2019 Radical Challenge season finale begins with qualifying at 09:35 on Saturday, September 28, followed by 50-mimute and 20-minute races at 12:50 and 16:10. The final title showdown is scheduled for 11:05 on Sunday. Live timing is available at TSL-Timing.com.