Rick Parfitt Jnr has been crowned the 2018 Sunoco 240 Challenge champion after his only remaining rivals, Jessica Hawkins and Matt Hammond, failed to score enough points during their Mini Challenge Cooper class season finale at Snetterton last weekend.
The prize sees this year’s British GT3 champion travel to South Florida in January to drive a GT4 car in the Rolex 24 At Daytona’s 240-minute BMW Endurance Challenge support race, which is also the opening round of 2018’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. A comprehensive test programme during the traditional ‘Roar Before the Rolex 24’ is included, along with flights and accommodation.
Parfitt Jnr becomes the first amateur to win Sunoco’s 240 competition based on results accrued during a British GT campaign. Equally, he is the series’ first representative to claim the 240 Challenge title after both Team Parker Racing co-driver Seb Morris and Jonny Adam won Whelen’s 2017 and ’16 equivalents, while no other driver has become champion while co-driving with a reigning or former Challenge winner.
2018’s edition will also go down as the closest in Sunoco Whelen and 240 Challenge history, with just 0.42 points separating Parfitt Jnr from Mini Challenge JCW champion Brett Smith in the final reckoning.
Hawkins and Hammond entered their final weekend battling each other for both the Sunoco 240 Challenge crown and Mini Challenge Cooper class title. Each required exceptional outings if they were to score the 375 points (out of a maximum 420) necessary to leapfrog ahead of Parfitt Jnr. As a result, the pair could have prevented each other from winning the Challenge by sharing pole positions, fastest race laps and wins, but ultimately it was Sam Weller who gatecrashed the party by annexing all three victories and a pole position.
Hawkins therefore finished third in the final 240 standings and 6.81 points behind Parfitt Jnr, while Hammond was one place and a further 0.22 marks adrift. However, he did at least do enough to win this year’s Mini Challenge Cooper Pro class title.
Rick Parfitt Jnr, 2018 Sunoco 240 Challenge Champion: “I’m totally over the moon to have won the Sunoco 240 Challenge, which is the icing on the cake of what has been a very tough year for me. I’d like to congratulate everyone who took part and will attempt to do you all proud! What a year it’s been: becoming the first driver to win both a British GT3 and GT4 title, helping Bentley and Team Parker claim their maiden British GT Championship crowns, British GT Pro/Am winner with Seb [Morris] and now the Sunoco 240 Challenge champion – it simply cannot get any better than that! Thank you to everyone who has supported me this year – I am hugely humbled and immensely grateful. Needless to say I can’t wait to race at the incredible Daytona International Speedway and be part of one of the world’s biggest motorsport events.”
Anders Hildebrand, Anglo American Oil Company Ltd Managing Director: “What a season for Rick and the 240 Challenge, which has been incredibly competitive from the very start! A stellar British GT campaign meant he was a contender throughout the year, although finishing one position lower at Donington would have actually seen Brett [Smith] win the competition. That’s how close it’s been! Rick maintains British GT’s recent run of winners, and his experience of both GT3 and GT4 means I’m confident he’ll be immediately on the pace at Daytona in January. I’ve no doubt he’ll be learning as much as he can from Seb [Morris] who performed so well there as our out-going Whelen champion earlier this year. Speaking of which, our attention now switches to the Sunoco Whelen Challenge where Stuart Moseley is aiming to prevent another British GT champion – Stuart Middleton – from winning a fully-funded Cadillac DPi drive in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.”
Moseley – who currently trails Middleton by 7.85 points – will have one more chance to overturn his deficit during Radical European Masters’ Barcelona season finale on October 28/29. He requires 329 points of the maximum 420 available, 120 of which can be banked with three fastest laps and same number of pole positions. That leaves 209 more marks to find across the weekend’s three races. Two seconds and a sixth would, for instance, be enough, but with grid numbers and his co-driver’s performance outside of Moseley’s control, there are no guarantees.
Current Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings
Racer Class Now Rounds left Max points Min points
Stuart Middleton British GT4PRO 78.10 finished
Will Tregurtha British GT4PRO 75.90 finished
Stuart Moseley Radical Euro 70.25 3 84.20 56.20
Matt Bell LMP3 Cup 68.21 finished
Colin Noble Jnr LMP3 Cup 68.08 finished
Snetterton 14-15 Oct GT Cup / Radical Challenge / Mini Cooper
Oulton 20-21 Oct Britcar Endurance
Barcelona 27-29 Oct Radical EuroMasters
What are the Sunoco Challenges?
The Sunoco Challenges provide an accurate assessment and comparison of performances across multiple championships during any given season. Points are awarded for qualifying and race results, including fastest lap, which are then converted into an individual average score for each competing driver over the course of a full campaign.
That means each race weekend offers drivers an equal chance to climb and drop down their respective Sunoco Challenge table. It also ensures that performances are taken into consideration across an entire season while placing less emphasis on one-off or unfair results.
As in previous years this season’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion will win a fully funded drive aboard a Whelen-sponsored prototype in the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 240 Challenge champion will contest the 240-minute Daytona support race held over the same January weekend at the wheel of a Sunoco-liveried GT4 car.