After two new winners emerged from Race 1 on Saturday, the title winner of each class was settled in the final race of the season at Spa-Francorchamps, in Belgium. In Trofeo Pirelli, Andrew Morrow (Charles Hurst, Belfast) simply needed to finish the race to secure the title win, or finish 4th in the event that Carl Cavers (Graypaul, Nottingham) secured maximum points available – meaning also taking Pole and Fastest Lap as well as Race Win. In Coppa Shell, Paul Hogarth (Stratstone, Manchester) regained the title lead by just two points from Paul Simmerson (Graypaul, Birmingham) in 2nd, after the Manchester man’s podium in Race 1 made all the difference, leaving it all to be decided in the final race.
Qualifying 2. In the final qualifying session of the season, high drama ensued as a red flag disrupted proceedings before key contenders in the title race could set a lap time. A water pump failure in Morrow’s car leaked fluid onto the tarmac, sending Simmerson skidding off track into the barrier, as both drivers were looking to challenge for their respective class victories. When the lights went green again, it was Trofeo Pirelli title-chaser, Cavers, who took a fortuitous pole with 2:25:482, as Hogarth topped the Coppa Shell with a 2:29:463.
Trofeo Pirelli As Morrow started at the back of the grid after failing to set a lap time in Q2, it was all eyes on the frontman, Cavers, the title-chaser leading the field into the opening corner at La Source. H.Sikkens (HR Owen, London) was trying to go round the outside, as Faisal Al-Faisal (HR Owen, London) looked up the inside, but Cavers, confident and collected, shrugged them both off and held the position. With Eau Rouge looming ahead, Cavers showed no sign of lifting as he approached this fearsome corner, heading into Raidillon faster than Sikkens, who had dropped back into a squabble with Al-Faisal for 2nd . Within half a lap, Morrow had carved his way through the field, gaining five places in almost as many corners. Whilst Sikkens lost out to Al-Faisal through Malmedy for 2nd, a more important duel was happening behind. Morrow was on a mission to clinch the title, but a determined John Dhillon (Graypaul, Nottingham) stood in his path, defending brilliantly to hold off the aspiring champion.
With 20 minutes left to decide his fate, Morrow stepped up the pace and tried everything possible to gain the vital place for the title, but Dhillon closed off every attempt. The pair almost collided as Morrow left his braking far too late into the final chicane with brakes glowing and the rear sliding around. On the 6th lap, Morrow’s persistence proved too much for the man ahead to bear as he went the long way round through Malmedy and came out ahead and now in Championship position. With cheers filling the paddock, he just needed to maintain the position despite Cavers now being 8.5 seconds ahead at the front and setting fastest lap.
With 10 minutes left, a spin from Stuart Marston (Maranello Sales, Egham) into the gravel in Coppa Shell forced a Safety car to bring the field back together, reducing Cavers’ lead. Upon the restart, Al-Faisal nearly profited from a great run out of La Source, but couldn’t capitalise as the order remained unchanged. A miscalculation from Al-Faisal on the penultimate lap sent him careering into Cavers’ rear wheel through the Bus Stop Chicane, damaging the race-leader’s toe-link in the process to send them both out of the race. With only three Trofeo Pirelli drivers left on the grid, Sikkens, Morrow and Dhillon formed the podium as Morrow was crowned the Trofeo Pirelli Champion on his return.
Coppa Shell. Hogarth was crowned Coppa Shell champion of 2023 before Race 2 began, because fellow friend and title challenger, Simmerson, had to bow out of the competition following his unfortunate crash in Q2. However, there was still a race to be run, as Hogarth was determined to finish the season on a high, but Robert Rees (Dick Lovett, Swindon) made an early pass for the lead as a melee of cars exited Les Combes. Marston had significantly bettered his starting position from 7th place and found himself wheel-to-wheel with Hogarth through Eau Rouge, before taking 2nd place.
It wasn’t long before a slightly cautious Hogarth lost out to Chris Smith (Graypaul, Birmingham) as the rookie promoted himself into the 3rd podium spot. Marston managed an inspired overtake around the outside of Rees through the final chicane, as he sailed through in pursuit of his first win. Smith replicated the very same move on Rees just a few laps later, though barely kept it within the track limits, but the Race 1 winner did the gentlemanly thing to let him pass. Marston, in the lead, suddenly pushed a little too hard through Double Gauche before losing control and burying himself in the gravel, which brought out the Safety Car with 10 minutes remaining.
As a result of Marston’s mistake, Hogarth moved back into 3rd, but this wasn’t enough to satisfy the champion. Using his wealth of racing experience and confidence, Hogarth stole the show with a double overtake on rookies Smith and Rees on the final lap to take the race win. Despite each driver losing a place, it was all smiles between the three drivers who enjoyed the champagne for the final race of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli UK 2023 season.