Noble Jnr and Smith stake their Sunoco Whelen and 240 Challenge claims at Donington

Donington Park played host to a packed schedule of Sunoco-supported series last weekend when a raft of fresh drivers emerged as potential Sunoco Whelen and 240 Challenge contenders.

Indeed, new names top both standings after the third round of racing, with Henderson Insurance LMP3 Cup Championship’s Colin Noble Jnr and Radical Challenge’s Bradley Smith now leading their respective competitions.

Sunoco Whelen Challenge: LMP3 Cup’s Noble Jnr establishes commanding lead

British GT drivers might have initially led the way, but while they continue to dominate the rest of the top-10 it’s LMP3 Cup points leader Colin Noble Jnr who now enjoys a sizeable advantage at the summit thanks to a pair of victories and fastest lap during the championship’s inaugural weekend.

The Ecurie Ecosse with Nielsen Racing ace has 120 points, 34.75 more than Alex Reed and David Pittard scored during British GT4’s opening round a week earlier. It’s certainly a commanding lead, but the Sunoco Challenge’s average points system – worked out across a full season – ensures Noble Jnr must maintain that level if he’s to consolidate his advantage.

The rest of the top-eight remains unchanged, with five drivers less than six points behind Pittard and Reed. Thomas Randle’s score of 75 sees him occupy ninth, albeit 45 points behind LMP3 Cup rival Noble Jnr, while two more of the championship’s drivers – Sarah Moore and Matt Bell – sit 11th and 12th respectively.

Team-mates Pittard and Reed, plus a host of other GT3 and GT4 Pro drivers, have the chance to dent Noble Jnr’s advantage when British GT visits Rockingham for its third round of the season this weekend.

Sunoco 240 Challenge: Perfect Smith leapfrogs Minshaw

A perfect weekend comprising two victories, two fastest laps and two pole positions helped Bradley Smith vault to the top of the Sunoco 240 Challenge standings at Donington Park. The Radical Challenge ace proved unstoppable en route to the 140-point maximum, eight more than British GT3’s Jon Minshaw managed the previous weekend.

Smith is ineligible for the Sunoco Whelen Challenge after winning it and 2014’s Rolex 24 At Daytona prize drive with a dominant Radical SR3 Challenge campaign in 2013. However, a similar season could see him become the first driver to also claim the 240 Challenge.

The breadth of racing on offer at Donington highlighted just how open this year’s 240 Challenge could be. Drivers competing in five different categories currently occupy the top-five positions, and all have 100 points or more.

Most other weekends would have seen Shane Kelly comfortably top the standings, but the F3 Cup driver’s three victories, two pole positions and one fastest lap averaged out at 120 points to leave him 20 adrift of Smith at this early stage.

He’s 4.5 points clear of reigning British GT4 champion Graham Johnson, who competes again this weekend, and 20 more ahead of Alasdair McCaig, who won both LMP3 Cup races alongside Ecurie Ecosse co-driver Noble Jnr.

The rest of the top-10 is covered by just three points, with F3 Cup racer Jacopo Sebastini joining British GT and Mini Challenge JCW drivers in the mid-80s. The first of GT Cup’s contingent, Jonny Mowlem, is 12th but very much in contention on 84 points, while 2016 240 Challenge contender Steve Burgess slots into 14th after claiming two Radical Challenge podiums.

Upcoming Sunoco Challenge-eligible events:

April 29/30: Rockingham

British GT3

British GT4

Mini Challenge JCW

April 28-30: Portimao, Portugal

Radical European Masters SR8 & Spyder RXC

Radical European Masters SR3


Lanan’s Pittard and Reed share early Sunoco Whelen Challenge lead as Minshaw takes control of 240

This year’s Sunoco Whelen and 240 Challenges hit their stride over Easter weekend at Oulton Park where the British GT Championship and Mini Challenge JCW class were making their first appearances of 2017.

The Britcar Endurance Championship had been the only other Sunoco Challenge-eligible category in action up to that point, which offered drivers in both British GT and Mini Challenge a chance to make an early impression.

Sunoco Whelen Challenge: Pittard and Reed out front early

A change to this year’s rules has opened up the senior competition to British GT4’s professional drivers. And with three of GT3’s leading contenders – former Challenge winners Phil Keen, Jonny Adam and Seb Morris – all ineligible for the Rolex 24 At Daytona prize drive, it was a Silver Cup GT4 crew that made the most of an action packed first weekend.

Lanan Racing team-mates David Pittard and Alex Reed won Monday’s second GT4 race after finishing fifth in the opener to not only establish an early lead in the class standings but also hold a slim advantage in the Sunoco Whelen Challenge points.

The Ginetta pair both scored 85.25 points, 2.75 more than leading GT3 driver Matt Griffin whose FIA WEC and ELMS commitments prevented him from qualifying on Saturday. He’s level on points with three more GT4 entrants: Mike Robinson, who twice finished third, and HHC co-drivers Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton, who claimed second on their British GT debuts.

Adam Mackay sits seventh after winning Monday’s first GT4 race, while Jon Barnes is also in contention thanks to a consistent weekend at Oulton Park.

Sunoco 240 Challenge: Rivals no match for mighty Minshaw

Jon Minshaw’s double victory, fastest lap and second quickest qualifying time have given Barwell Motorsport’s British GT Championship leader a handy early advantage atop the Sunoco 240 Challenge standings.

His average score of 132 is 16.5 more than reigning GT4 champion Graham Johnson could muster. The PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport driver twice finished third in class but, crucially, picked up additional points for being the fastest Am driver in qualifying and both races.

Rick Parfitt Jnr’s pole position and fastest GT3 Am lap in the second round compensated for two otherwise tough races, but the Team Parker Racing driver still finds himself third in the Sunoco 240 Challenge table thanks to an 88-point average. He shares the position with reigning British GT3 champion and former Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Derek Johnston, who twice came through from 11th to finish second and third.

Positions five to seven are shared by Mini Challenge drivers, with Charlie Butler-Henderson and JCW class rival Mark Wakefield both half a point behind Parfitt Jnr and Johnston but 2.5 clear of Brett Smith. British GT4 race winner Adam Balon is a little further adrift in eighth, with British GT3 driver Mark Farmer and Mini Challenge racer Rob Smith completing the top-10.

Javier Morcillo is the first of Britcar’s entries in 13th, albeit 84.25 points behind Minshaw.

2017 Sunoco 240 Challenge winner Max Bladon would be level on points with fellow Mini Challenge racer Brett Smith were he not ineligible to compete for the Daytona support race prize drive this year.

Upcoming Sunoco Challenge-eligible events:

April 22/23: Donington Park

F3 Cup

GT Cup

LMP3 Cup Championship

Radical Challenge