The exciting new Holiday Inn SEAT Cupra Championship is gearing up for some Grand Prix action this weekend, when rounds three and four take place around the Formula 1 circuit at Silverstone on Bank Holiday Monday (May 26).
Robert Huff leads the Championship after the first two rounds at Croft, and while the Cambridge driver aims to extend his slender four-point advantage, 16 racing rivals will be striving to de-throne the early leader.
Rounds one and two at Croft saw some exciting racing, with two different drivers qualifying on pole, two different race winners and five drivers standing on the podium. The only driver to appear on the podium in both races was Gordon Shedden, and the confident Scotsman travels to Silverstone aiming for nothing less than two race wins and promotion from second place in the Championship table.
The 17 SEAT Cupra Championship drivers have a varying degree of experience at Silverstone. Race one winner Stefan Hodgetts knows the circuit so well he says he could drive it "blindfold and in reverse", while Melanie Healey recently attended the Silverstone Driving School just to sample her first laps of the Grand Prix Circuit. Gavin Smith and race two pole-sitter Stephen Colbert raced at Silverstone twice last year in the British Formula 3 Championship, while the venue has always been something of a jinx for Spencer Marsh, who has only recorded one podium finish in several races and suffered his first race disqualification there.
All drivers agree that the fast and flowing Silverstone GP Circuit will suit the 250 PS turbocharged Leon Cupra Rs and bravery and skill will be required in equal abundance to gain an advantage. With speeds approaching 150mph, there is little doubt that the Cupra Rs will be driven flat-out around the fast Maggots, Becketts and Chapel curves, as well as Bridge and Copse Corners, while slipstreaming along Hanger Straight and over the start/finish line will be equally as important.
Stefan Hodgetts echoed the sentiments of many of his SEAT Cupra Championship rivals when he said: "The SEATs will be brilliant around Silverstone because the Leon Cupra R will work well on the very fast corners. I reckon there will be lots of slipstreaming going on down the straights and many late-braking overtaking manoeuvres into corners. The racing will be spectacular to watch, that's for sure."
Qualifying for rounds three and four of the Holiday Inn SEAT Cupra Championship takes place at Silverstone on Saturday 24 May. Two qualifying sessions will determine the grids for the two races on Bank Holiday Monday 26 May.
ITV film crews will also be at Silverstone, capturing all the behind-the-scenes action for a series of programmes entitled Racing Rivals, which will be broadcast on ITV1 and ITV2 in the summer. Presented by supermodel Nell McAndrew and the 2001 British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato, Racing Rivals will be the first docu-soap to follow drivers contesting a motor racing championship.
Holiday Inn SEAT Cupra Championship points (after round 2):
1. Robert Huff 29pts; 2. Gordon Shedden 25pts; 3. Gavin Smith 23pts; 4. Stefan Hodgetts 22pts; 5. James Pickford 17pts; 6. Spencer Marsh 16pts; 7. Emmet O'Brien 12pts; 8. Julian Westwood 11pts; 9. Stephen Colbert 6pts; 10. Craig Murray 6pts; 11. Andre D'Cruze 5pts; 12. Ben Winrow 2pts; 13. Paula Cook 1pt; 14. Hamish Gordon 0pts; 15. Karl Goshawk 0pts; 16; Natalie Barratt 0pts; 17. Melanie Healey 0pts.Published 20 May 2003