Round 7 of The SOP Motorsports Sprint Cup Series was the finale of a frantic season. Everything over the last 3 months for these drivers boiled down to one final race. In the Pro class the top 7 drivers were all mathematically in with a chance at gold, whilst anyone in the top 10 could grab an overall podium, whilst in the Silver class the top 5 were in the same position for gold with anyone inside the top 7 capable of the overall podiums. Which meant tensions were high for these drivers. Let’s find out what happened and let’s find out who was victorious.
Round 7 – Suzuka
Qualifying was an exciting affair and it set up a thrilling final race with everything all to play for.
In the Silver class who were first up in qualifying it was the man who had led the championship from round 3, Andre Dixon Chen, who stuck it on pole position to insert his dominance and intentions to become champion. He was .200th faster than Chris Fielder who left his best performance to the last race of the championship. Kris Vickers who is another title challenger qualified in third place to keep his hopes alive. All other title challengers qualified inside the top 10, all within 1 second of the pole sitter.
Pro qualifying occupied the second half of the session and the main 5 title protagonists all found themselves within the top 5 of qualifying separated by half a second, with some of them carrying success ballast from the previous race. Luca Tavernari stuck his Porsche on pole ahead of Iain Egan and Thomas Mourant. This was significant because Mourant was leading the championship heading into the final round and Tavernari had to finish in front to be crowned champion.
Let’s just say there was heartbreak and adulation in abundance from this race as unwanted incidents unfolded and drivers in the hunt for championships picked up problems that meant in heavy damage for some, retirements for others, championships lost, and championships won. This race had it all.
Rewatch the entire race for yourself below:
The race in the Pro class almost ended in tears at turn 1 as Thomas Mourant tagged the rear quarter of Luca Tavernari, but fortunately for Luca he was able to hold it and Thomas backed off which meant it was status quo with Luca leading the field away, Thomas jumping Iain, with the rest of the field following, trying to sort themselves out in some type of order.
In typical fashion then, Luca pulled the gap out front, maintained his pace, set the fastest lap of the race and slowly pulled out a 10+ second lead to Thomas Mourant, the man he had to finish ahead of to be champion. With no issues and no threats from behind, Luca Tavernari took his third win of the season and in doing so became the SOP Motorsport Sprint Cup Champion.
Thomas Mourant took his fourth 2nd place finish of the season showing his tremendous consistency but missed the championship by six points. Iain Egan finished third at Suzuka some 10 seconds further back to claim his fourth podium of the season and 4th in the championship, missing out on the overall podium to Liam Page who only visited the podium three times, but claimed a victory in the season to help his championship.
Of the 24 car Pro field only two other drivers picked up wins this season. Those drivers being Milton Tomlison Dennis – who won twice but missed round 1 and retired from the final round to give him an up and down season, and Jonathan Reid – who also missed round 1, but won round 6 and finished inside the top 10 of every other round.
The race in the Silver class was just as crazy and the start of the race couldn’t have been more beautiful for Andre Dixon-Chen who looked to be on track for the championship cruising out in front. All this was undone midway through the race when he was an innocent bystander in a battle that ensued between Pro and Silver class drivers which left a stranded car just after 130r which he couldn’t avoid. He had to pit to fix the damage which dropped him down the order and then he had another spin soon after leaving the pits which meant he was then lapped by Markus Jousma and Kris Vickers, his championship rivals in the hunt for the victory in the race and overall.
After the issues for ADC, there were also issues for Koderman and Horne, who were also in the hunt for the championship. This meant it was a straight fight between two drivers. Markus Jousma and Kris Vickers. Not only were they fighting for the win at Suzuka, whoever finished in front of the other would be crowned the Silver class champion.
They had a truly fantastic battle through the race. Before the pitstops Kris Vickers looked to be in a great position to be champion but after the pitstops had been completed, roles were reversed and Jousma who had only qualified in sixth found himself leading the class but Kris Vickers was rapidly closing. Lap after lap they battled side by side but a great defensive drive stopped Vickers taking over the lead until the pass looked on due to an overlap coming down the main straight. Unfortunately, Vickers bounced over the curb which unsettled the car, saw him collide into the side of Jousma, which saw him veer off the track and lose second to James Rawlins.
Positions would stay like this until the flag and so Markus Jousma who needed nothing less than a victory at the final round had his wishes come true to become champion. James Rawlins claimed second, and Vickers crossed the line in third, to take third in the standings from Dixon-Chen.
Six different drivers won in the Silver class with Matt Lee, Riccardo Malgotti, Marjan Koderman, Andre Dixon-Chen and Kris Vickers all taking one win each along the way with Jousma being the only double victor in what was a majorly tight fight all season.
The full standings after the race can be found below:
Championship Round Up
What an ending to a fantastic sprint cup season here at SOP Motorsport. Up and down the field we had deserving champions, deserving podium finishers and to be frank, wherever a driver finished in the standings they know they had to work hard for it. This was probably the most competitive sprint series we have had in a long time.
Just a small shoutout to Chris Fielder pictured above who definitely had the best livery this season. Just look at that bonnet!
We hope to see many competitors here again for our new seasons. Which is going to be a little slower in pace and frequency as we bring a multiclass, bi-weekly all Italian championship which will see us through November and into December.