A new sprint-race format and measures aimed at reducing competitor costs are among a raft of enhancements to be made to the Powertrain Caterham R400 Challenge for the 2004 season, it is announced today (Sat).

Caterham Cars reached agreement on Thursday for the championship to once again play a key supporting role on the British F3 and British GT Championship calendar, a move welcomed not only by Caterham but also by competitors and the new F3/GT driving force, the Stephane Ratel Organisation.

The Powertrain Caterham R400 Challenge will feature on six F3/GT dates in 2004, with double-header races at each meeting, and there will be a twin-race season finale at the joint Caterham/Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in October – 14 rounds in total.

There will be full Sky Sports TV coverage of the championship, plus an attractive prize fund with £7,000 in cash for the champion.

To help keep down competitor costs, Caterham is adopting a sprint-race 20-minute format for each round of the championship and will impose a limit on the number of new tyres competitors may use during a race weekend.

Caterham Cars managing director Simon Nearn believes the new format will suit spectators and competitors: "The Powertrain Caterham R400 Challenge regularly provides the most spectacular and exciting racing on the F3/GT bill, and the switch to a sprint-race format will, we believe, make for even more overtaking and drama.

"Helping competitors to keep their costs down will be an important part of our plans for the coming season, and restricting the use of new tyres to four per weekend is an easy and fair way of making a big difference to budgets.

"We have further plans in the pipeline which will, I am sure, make the R400 Challenge even more attractive to competitors."

John Gaw, third in the R400 Challenge last year and an early-season favourite for top honours, is delighted that the championship is once again on the F3/GT bill: "It’s brilliant news," said John. "The Caterhams always provide the best racing of the weekend, and the new race format is going to make it even more interesting."

Gaw has joined the Tracsport team for 2004 as part of a three-car assault on the Powertrain Caterham R400 Challenge. He will also contest the full Autosport Caterham Eurocup season with Tracsport.

Said Stephane Ratel: "We are delighted that Caterham will once again provide a permanent support on the British F3/GT Championship package, and we are pleased that Caterham will be continuing its relationship with the two championships. We look forward to watching some exciting Caterham racing – always a highlight of any race meeting."

The R400 Challenge – introduced as Caterham’s top-level UK championship last year – has proved a massively popular crowd pleaser. The 2003 title fight went down to the wire, Tracsport driver Dan Stilp winning the championship and the £7,000 prize.

The championship is backed by Powertrain, a subsidiary of Phoenix Venture Holdings and the manufacturer of the 1.8-litre MG XPower 200bhp engine which powers the Caterham R400.

Caterham Motorsport offers a unique ‘ladder of progression’ to drivers, taking them from their first steps, racing in the evo Caterham Academy nursery championship, through the club-level Motorsport News Caterham Roadsport Challenge and on to R400s and international motorsport with the Autosport Caterham Eurocup.

The 2004 Powertrain Caterham Challenge is set to blast into action on 4 April at Donington Park. Full calendar details are set to be issued shortly.

Published : 12/01/04 Author : Melanie Carter

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