SuperChamps Season 3 2023 Winners Crowned
As the drivers arrived at Sandown on the afternoon of the 17th there was a strong buzz about the grid. Across both kart categories, and within their weight divisions, close racing had been matched by a competitive comradery between the drivers and there was much jostling and joking around the weighbridge ahead of the last briefing of the 2023 season.
In the DMAX Lights, the championship was still all to play for. Tom Brown had a lead of 6 points over Archie Bullard but also had the opportunity of dropping his lowest-scoring round whereas Archie needed a strong result today to build on his existing points total. Karlis Elmanis sat reasonably comfortably in 3rd with a close fight for 4th between Tobin Leigh, George Masters and Henry Lopes Gracey.
The DMAX Heavy class was a little more settled. Bobby Trundley having a commanding lead after an incredibly dominant performance during the season, often competing with the lighter drivers for the overall race wins. Bobby could afford to drop this round entirely and still wrap up the championship, a luxury not afforded to the group of drivers behind. A three-way battle for 2nd in the standings was led by Justin Hammond, with Jamie Welsh and Olly Cooper-Welton separated by a single point.
Throughout the year the SODI championships had been very close slogging matches for the top spot. In the Lights Jack Harrison led from Luka Nik, just 4 points clear after a full 7 rounds scored. Steve Hannon and Antonio Sholin 3rd and 4th with Jonathan Fuchsel and Jack Redfern just out of contention, having both dropped two rounds on the lead-up. Kireth Kalirai and Stuart Wighton were the main contenders of the Sodi Heavy championship, both having dropped a round and with only 15 points between them it was all going to come down to the final flag.
THE FINAL RACE
The format for the race that was to determine the 2023 campaign for all four of our championships was “Grand Prix”, an exciting event format which rewards consistently strong driving across three rounds.
As drivers hit the circuit for the 10-minute qualifying session the sky began to darken as evening drew in. The circuit was dry, but track temps were low giving an additional challenge for the drivers as grip reduced with natural light. The circuit for all races today was the Alternate layout which saw drivers negotiate a tight complex of corners at the beginning of the lap opening out to a very fast kink along the top straight with heavy braking into the final few bends downhill past the pitlane. The higher average speeds resulted in lap times slightly shorter than the regular GP layout and therefore more laps recorded by drivers on the circuit.
In the Qualifying session, Tom Brown stamped his authority on the round, initially topping the time sheet for the lights and showing his intent to maintain the gap over Archie Bullard, who, after a rocky start to the session, was able to post a time 5th behind Karlis Elmanis with Tom dropping to 9th. The Pole of the lights was secured mid-session by hard chagrining Logan McAlister. A graduate of Daytona Race School and Champion of Junior InKart Logan showed he had pace in any kart securing the top spot by over two-tenths of a second. A comparatively large difference when 2nd place George Lewis back to 10th place Jamie Warner was covered by the same delta. In the heavies Bobby Trundley showed his excellence straight out of the box, leading the session overall for 5 laps until the light drivers settled into their groove, finishing 2 tenths ahead of Olly Cooper—Welton with Jamie Welsh a further tenth back in third.
As the karts rolled down to the grid for the shootout's first 15-minute heat of the day the excitement built and it was a great initial start for Logan who got away from the front cleanly, showing a clean set of heels to the pack behind. Archie Bullard had a brilliant start, taking a brave outside line through turn two to gain 3 positions in the first lap and cross the line in 2nd position. An uncharacteristic mistake from Karlis Elmanis meant that he dropped from 4th in the middle of the race and left Tom Brown, Marcus Allen and George Lewis to scrap over third with Bobby Trundley making his presence felt in the scuffle. At the front, Logan led Archie for every lap and although there were times when Archie was ahead he wasn’t able to make the moves stick through traffic. That was until the final lap when excellent defensive and offensive driving by both drivers resulted in Archie taking the lead over the line by just one-tenth of a second. Olly Cooper-Welton took 2nd in the heavies behind hard-charging Trundley with Jamie Welsh taking third from Justin Hammond after the application of post-race penalties.
The grid for the Feature Race was decided by the Fastest laps set in the Shootout, meaning that some drivers who had finished higher but spent their races in close packs ultimately didn’t set a single fast lap and found themselves further down the grid. The race leaders started on the front row, Logan leading from Archie, but it was then Max Sheldon-Heywood on row two after setting a blisteringly quick time in the first heat. Another strong start from Logan saw him lead the way with Archie and Max in hot pursuit, Bobby Trundley briefly upsetting the apple cart by leading the pack drawing in the front two. Max caught and passed both Archie and Logan with Tom Brown working hard to draw in the pack ahead after starting further back on the grid. As we’ve come to expect from him throughout the season Karlis Elmanis showed consistency and quick decision-making to catch and pass Logan ultimately not quite having the race distance to reel in Archie ahead. A final lap tangle between Tom and Bobby resulted in Tom being promoted a position post-race but it was still Bobby who took the win in the heavies ahead of Olly Cooper-Welton and a very close battle for 3rd between Hammond and Welsh.
SODI qualifying was a busy affair with 29 karts hitting the circuit meaning that finding a gap and setting a quick time was going to be critical to finishing positions later in the day. It was exactly that which Jack Harrison did, leading all laps but one of the sessions to take the pole spot from Benjamin Hamilton. William Mallard took third on the grid alongside Jonathan Fuchsel with Formula 4 race winner James Higgins in 5th. William Tidnam took pole in the heavies from championship leader Kireth Kalirai and contender Stuart Wighton.
The Shootout provided frenetic racing with the large pack of karts meaning that several groups of close racing developed throughout the race. Jack Harrison swapped the lead back and forth with Benjamin Hamilton ultimately taking the win by less than half a second. Robert Charles worked his way through the pack to catch and pass Jack Redfern for third with championship contender Luka Nik putting in a good recovery drive to finish 6th after a difficult qualifying session. William Tidnam managed to keep ahead of Kireth Kalirai despite Kireth's pace and Stuart Wighton took third just off the back of the battling duo.
With the grid recalculated for the SODI Feature race the championship positions were still up for grabs and there was an air of excitement as the drivers rolled down towards the floodlit startline for the final time of 2023. Luka Nik got a great start from the front row with Steve Hannon absolutely glued to his rear bumper as they completed the first lap of the 25-minute race. The front two were soon joined by Benjamin Hamilton and Robert Charles, making it a four-driver scrap at the front. The racing was frenetic and whilst Luka drove masterfully to keep the lead throughout this phase of the race there was an ever-changing order behind. Oscar Cole began to gain on the leading pack having worked his way through the pack behind and ultimately passed Charles and Hannon to battle with Nik and Hamilton into the final laps. As the leaders approached the final corners for the final time it could have been any one of them that took the win with Benjamin Hamilton securing first from neck and neck Luka and Oscar. An even stronger performance from William Tidnam saw him take the win in the heavy category, 17th overall.
With the racing done, the drivers met on the decking anxiously awaiting the calculation of the Overall Championship standings. Calculators were seen alongside the patting of backs and the biting of nails. When Race Director Sebastian Debertrand walked onto the decking with the points in hand a hush fell over the decking as he began to reveal perhaps the closest finish to a SuperChamps season in the history of top-level karting.
Whilst William Tidnam’s presence set the cat amongst the pigeons in the final round, Kireth Kalirai did what he needed to take the overall victory from Stuart Wighton, with Carl Grocott taking the third step on the heavy Championship podium.
Steve Hannon pipped Antonio Sholin and Jack Redfern to third of the Sodi Lights with Jack Harrison just 7 points ahead of Luka Nik after eight rounds of super close racing!
Bobby Trundley wrapped up the DMAX Heavy category after an incredibly strong season with Justin Hammond taking second from Olly Cooper Welton by just two points, Jamie Welsh only a further 2 points behind!
The real climax came in the DMAX Light category however with Karlis Elmanis managing to rebuff a strong round from Tobin Leigh to take 3rd overall. At the front, the drama which had played out all season between Tom Brown and Archie Bullard resulted in a dead heat! With 375 points scored by each driver after dropped rounds were counted the deciding factor fell to who had the most race wins. So, it was a jubilant Archie Bullard who took the top spot from an equally triumphant Tom Brown.
After a fantastic final round to the season, discussion turned to the 2024 season and upcoming Race of Champions series, the latter taking part at the Milton Keynes sister venue. The young drivers coming up from the Junior series continue to impress and reshuffle to top finishers. It will be exciting to see the next wave of fresh talent enter the series as well as the further development of the existing grids.
DMAX LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONS
1st - Archie Bullard - 375 points
2nd - Tom Brown - 375 points
3rd - Karlis Elmanis - 344 points
DMAX HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONS
1st - Bobby Trundley - 427 points
2nd - Justin Hammond - 377 points
3rd - Olly Cooper-Welton - 375 points
SODI LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONS
1st - Jack Harrison - 389 points
2nd - Luka Nik - 381 points
3rd - Steve Hannon - 335 points
SODI HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONS
1st - Kireth Kalirai - 413 points
2nd - Stuart Wighton - 399 points
3rd - Carl Grocott - 110 points