Sol Esuf and Ryan Wood were crowned champions of the SR3 Cup and Swift Cup respectively when the second Suzuki Challenge Series drew to a close during Radical International at Bushy Park, St Philip over the weekend.
Each driver had won his Summer Series title by a sufficient margin to claim the overall crown, despite failing to prevail in Saturday and Sunday’s Winter Cup.
On his return to the series for the first time since last Easter, Trinidad & Tobago’s Ryan Peyrau (Team Simpson Finance) became the first driver to win three Swift Cup races in one day with a dominant performance on Saturday, adding pole position and two fastest laps to his tally. A second pole position on Sunday, plus victory (with fastest lap) in the day’s opening race virtually sealed the title, fourth and second places sufficient for him to carry off the Winter Cup trophy by a margin of 80 points from Wood (Team Digicel), who won the other two races, with Josh Read (Team Massy United Insurance) third.
An equally crushing display came from Guyana’s Kristian Jeffrey, whose four victories were shared equally across the two days of competition; he qualified on the front row of the grid on both days – on pole for Sunday’s opening race – and finished third and eighth in the other two races to beat reigning champion Sean Maloney to the Winter Cup title by 27 points. Esuf finished third after a challenging weekend.
With practice, qualifying and three races fitted into a roughly four-hour time frame on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, the two-round Winter Cup created a pressure-cooker atmosphere, not just for the drivers, but the pit crews as well. Switching the starting grid to the south side of the facility, right in front of the Automotive Art Pits, also served to create action-packed racing in both series.
Having been fastest in Saturday afternoon practice, Wood had to give best to Peyrau in the subsequent qualifying session, the two key protagonists topping the time sheets, ahead of ‘Snappa’ Husbands (Team Williams Industries) and Norman Catwell, returning to racing after a lengthy break in the Team ICBL Swift Sport formerly driven by son Kyle. Wood’s closest challengers in the title chase, Jason Parkinson (Team Infra Rentals/Sol) and Josh Read (Team Massy United Insurance) qualified sixth and eighth respectively.
Peyrau’s hat-trick of race wins virtually settled the Winter Cup before night fell, as he opened up a 29-point advantage over Wood (two seconds and an eighth), although he could not challenge Wood for the overall title, having missed all but two rounds of the Summer Series. Parkinson finished behind Wood in all three of Saturday’s races, while Read beat him only once, so ‘Woody’s’ overall title hopes were well on track.
Pole position also went to Peyrau on Sunday morning, with Wood again alongside, this time ahead of Carlos Edwards (Team Rock Hard Cement), equalling his best qualifying performance, and Husbands. Peyrau beat Wood to the chequered flag once again, picking up his third fastest lap along the way, but it would be his last win of the weekend. In the reverse-grid second race, Wood, Husbands, Parkinson and Barry Gale (Team Gale’s Hatcheries) all took the Joker on the first lap, which created a lively seven-car tussle at the rear of the field. As seemingly half the field made contact at the W’s, Wood and Peyrau took advantage, Wood going on to win, with Catwell second, while Peyrau dropped to fourth behind Parkinson after taking his Joker. It was fitting that the weekend’s last race was won by less than a second, Wood leading fellow champion-elect Peyrau across the line, with Gale completing the podium after an impressive weekend.
The last few seconds of Saturday morning’s SR3 Cup qualifying were electric, as first British teenager Jack Manchester, then Jeffrey, claimed provisional pole, before Esuf grabbed it on his final lap, despite having missed practice with throttle cable failure. Stuart Maloney, David Simpson and Sean Maloney completed the top six. Esuf defended well for the first four laps, but Jeffrey found a way past pulling away for the first of two Saturday victories. Finishing third behind Sean Maloney and Simpson in the middle race gave him a 15-point lead in the Winter Cup, while Sean Maloney had edged a couple of points closer to Esuf in the overall title chase.
Jeffrey prevailed in Sunday’s qualifying, with Manchester again at the sharp end in second, ahead of Stuart and Mark Maloney, Esuf and British visitor Brian Caudwell. While Manchester certainly proved he has the pace, a difficult weekend for the race-winner in European events meant he did not achieve the results he was hoping for.
Esuf’s overall title aspirations took a big knock in Sunday’s opening race, when his car was seriously damaged in an accident at The Hammer, which also involved United Kingdom brothers Brian and John Caudwell. A massive effort by crews from up and down the pit-lane saw his car restored to a useable, if rather battle-scarred, condition for the day’s second race, which was delayed until after the final Swift Cup event had been run. Esuf repaid the efforts of all involved with victory, restoring his advantage over Sean Maloney, so that seventh place in the final race of the weekend was sufficient to win an impressive first major championship title exactly a year after his circuit racing debut.