Four different leaders and at least one change of lead every lap - those are the statistics that made today's (Sun) eighth round of the IGC Caterham Superlight Challenge the most exciting of the season so far.
Barry Horne emerged on top at Snetterton once more - it was his sixth win of the year and his fourth on the trot - but the battle wasn't settled in the Scotsman's favour until the final lap when his title rival John Gladman fumbled his chance of victory.
With just two rounds remaining only Horne and Gladman can now win the championship title and the £10,000 cash prize which goes with it, and Horne's advantage has now stretched to 16 points.
The Snetterton race was far from the usual dominant Horne performance, even though Barry made a storming start from the pole. The Team Parker driver lost his lead even before the first lap was over, Dillon Battistini once more showing strong early pace for the Taran-backed Taylor's Foundry team. The tiger-striped sister cars of Gladman and Keith Robinson were in close attendance also, along with Luc Paillard's Hyperion Motorsport machine.
Horne fought back to the front in no time but was unable to shake his pursuers. For lap after lap the cars of Horne, Gladman, Battistini and Paillard staged a battle royal for the appreciative Norfolk spectators, the quartet gradually edging clear of the pursuing pack as they shuffled their positions.
The strain of the lead battle eventually told on the least experienced of the four: Battistini spun out at Riches with six laps to run.
Horne led into the final lap, with Gladman on his shoulder and Paillard right behind and ready to take advantage. "I was in the perfect position to slipstream past him on the last lap," said Gladman, "in fact, I couldn't believe my luck. But just as I was going for the lead my finger brushed the electrics kill switch and my engine just died... I'm so disappointed." The victor said: "That's four in a row... hopefully we can do the next two as well and wrap up the championship properly."
Gladman's hiccup allowed Horne a clear run to the chequered flag, two seconds clear of Paillard, who scored his best Superlight Challenge result to date and earned the prestigious Minister Driver of the Day award for his efforts. Gladman recovered to take third place, his seventh podium placing of the year.
The battle for fourth was no less hotly disputed, between Robinson, Jason Sutherland's Team Comma car, Charlie Butler-Henderson and Rob Griffiths. Butler-Henderson spun away his hopes at mid-distance and Robinson was suffering handling problems after an earlier brush with the car of Battistini.
That left Frazer Gibney to fight his way through to fourth - his best finish of the year - ahead of Rob Griffiths, the Leeds privateer scoring a personal best also. Robinson took sixth ahead of Sutherland, who was lucky to make the finish after his radiator sprang a leak on the final lap.
Butler-Henderson, Paul Kite and a down-on-power Mark Humphrey completed the top 10, with championship newcomer Mark Owen making a promising debut with Sebah Automotive to claim 11th.
The IGC Caterham Superlight Challenge in association with Autosport enjoys the backing of Mitchell Cotts, MG XPower, Stack, Bilstein, Minister, Arch Motors, Comma and Cooper-Avon Tyres. The penultimate round is at Thruxton in a fortnight and the grand final at the Brands Hatch-based Caterham Festival on October 5/6.
Provisional championship placings: 1 Barry Horne (Dunfermline), 156 points; 2 John Gladman (Benfleet), 140; 3 Keith Robinson (Camberley), 104; 4 Jason Sutherland (Caterham), 97; 5 Luc Paillard (Sevenoaks), 82; 6 Rob Griffiths (Rawdon), 81; 7 Paul Kite (Wilmington), 77; 8 Phil Gladman (London), 72; 9 Marcello Romano (London), 67; 10 Will Hodges (Northill), 62, etc.Published 1 September 2002