Preview: European Championship 2016

The European Championship: the fourth of the major F1 championships, its winner earns the right to race under a red and yellow chequered roof for the next twelve months.

First held in 1978, the European moved around a little in its early years. Since 1994, it has been held at Northampton and is now a staple in the schedule, always around mid-July. Suggestions that the drivers are to hold a referendum asking whether the European should leave or remain there are unconfirmed.

Held during a full-weekend meeting, the championship race is traditionally the first F1 race on Sunday afternoon. The top 20 or so available drivers in the grading list are automatically entered – the exact number depends on the number of Dutch drivers, who are also seeded into the race. The remainder of the 32-car grid is comprised of the top performers during the Saturday meeting. The grid is formed in usual grading order – white, yellow, blue, red, superstar – but in a closed grid, so no gap between each grade.

It might not be viewed in quite the same league as the World or National Points titles, but the European is still one that everybody wants to win. Tom Harris took the lead with a lap to go last year, making his way past defending champion Frankie Wainman Junior and Ed Neachell. Will it go down to the wire again this year?

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The grid for the 2014 European Championship

 The defending champion:

Tom Harris has already defended one title successfully this year, retaining the Scottish Championship he won in 2014 with a masterly performance at Cowdenbeath in June. Much of Harris’ racing has been across the Atlantic this year as he looks to build experience in sprint cars, but his occasional appearances in BriSCA F1 show that he still knows how to use the bumper. If he chooses to defend his title, chances are he’ll use a car from the Jamie Davidson stable, and chances are he’ll be the one to beat.

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Tom Harris will be hoping to keep the European title for another year.

The challengers:

Frankie Wainman Junior has won multiple finals this year – including the last meeting final at Northampton – heads the grading points and took the 2016 British title. He must start as the clear favourite to win the red and yellow checks. If he does win the big race, he’ll become the driver with the most European Championship wins to his name – with three titles, he currently shares the record with John Lund and Peter Falding.

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Can Frankie add red and yellow to his already colourful wing?

For the past few weeks we haven’t been able to avoid Boris Johnson, the blonde-haired chap who wants to leave the European Union. Now it’s the turn of Dan Johnson (no relation, we’re reliably informed), the blonde-haired chap who wants to win the European Championship. The National Points Champion has cut down his racing a little this year but he can still be found in the mix whenever a title is on the line. He’d also probably make a better Prime Minister than Boris.

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Shootout Champion Dan Johnson will be one to watch out for on Sunday

Ryan Harrison had a good crack at the British Championship but came unstuck when Lee Fairhurst decided he wasn’t going to let him past without a fight. Ryan made it to the podium ten times in his first six meetings of the season, including two wins, so his enforced absence from BriSCA F1 in 2015 doesn’t seem to have affected his speed. Perhaps he’s even hungrier to win? Well worth keeping an eye on, especially if he ends up close to car 217…

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2013 European Champion Ryan Harrison will be aiming for another title at Northampton

The dark horses:

Stuart Shevill Junior picked up plenty of points while racing from yellow grade and has now been promoted to blue, but since the European Championship race is a closed grid, the disadvantage of starting further back is lessened. Considering that Shevill is a Scotsman, perhaps it would be apt that he wins the title, given the recent enthusiasm his countrymen showed for Europe.

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Stuart Shevill Junior will be hoping to continue his winning form on tar

Up to the start of July, Michael Steward scored a healthy average of 21 points a meeting – the same as his racing buddy Lee Fairhurst. Steward has been a model of consistency so far this season, finishing nearly every heat and final he has competed in, but will need to find an extra burst of speed if he’s going to pass the chequered flag first.

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Could Michael Steward win his first championship race?

Six drivers appeared at all thirteen tarmac meetings to the start of July. One of them was Luke Davidson, a specialist on the hard stuff. He knows how to win this title, having finished first in 2010, and has the benefit of close cooperation with proven winner Rob Speak. If there aren’t too many yellow flags, Luke could well end up taking a second title.

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Luke Davidson will be hoping to add another European Championship to his résumé

Did you know? It’s been fifteen years since a driver retained the European Championship – Rob Speak won it twice on the trot in 2000 and 2001.

Words: Scott Reeves
Photos: Colin Casserley

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