With thanks to Richard Wodhams
The 2020 CSCA Drivers’ Championship was won by Richard Wodhams, who piloted his 2006 Lotus Elise to victory in a season that was very nearly sent careening off into the kitty litter by world events, but was brought back on track by good fortune, determined organisers and committed competitors. We caught up with Richard to learn a little of his story and how he made the most of a tumultuous year.
Image thanks to Gino Valdes
2020 Combined Sports Car Association Sprint Series Drivers Champion Richard Wodhams
I am 54 years old with two adult children Chelsea 24 and Ethan 22. My partner is Kelly Stewart. Kelly comes along to the occasional social event and is very supportive of my motorsport endeavours, but is not a big fan of racing.
I have a chemistry and business studies background and am currently a sales manager working for Tronox , a large multinational corporation manufacturing titanium dioxide pigments for the coatings, plastics and paper industries. Our customers are companies like Dulux, Wattyl and Akzo.
I have always enjoyed watching motorsport and have wanted to get on a track for many years, but only started participating seven years ago after buying my first Lotus. The heritage, look and performance of the cars, combined with their driving appeal, captured my imagination and I purchased my first car, a 2002 S2 Lotus Elise, in 2014 as a private sale.
After first reading the Elise forums, I decided to visit the track during a CSCA event and see what it was all about. Immediately welcomed and encouraged to give it a go, I went on to do a John Boston driver training day, followed by a Lotus Only Track Day run by Simply Sports Cars. I was hooked.
My first CSCA event as a driver was the second round of the 2015 season, which was run by the Jaguar club on Sydney Motorsport Park’s North circuit. I managed 80th out of a field of 109 and soon learned that more than 30 years of driving on the roads had taught me nothing about driving on the track!
The Rover-powered Lotus was a very good car to start learning race craft in. It boasted about 100 horsepower out of the standard Rover K engine, so without much power to lean on, mastering lines and braking was crucial to getting good laps.
With the help of Ritchie at SSC, we spent the next two years making handling improvements, focusing mostly on suspension upgrades, and got into the 1:11s at Wakefield. However, with minimal upgrades available to the standard motor, the frustration of being held up in the corners and left for dead on the straights got the better of me and it was time to upgrade.
In early 2017, the ex-Jeff Morton 2006 Lotus Elise came up for sale and, following discussions with SSC, I traded in the old Lotus to go play with the big boys. This car was based on the 111R, but everything was upgraded. There was nothing left for me to do but drive it.
Coincidentally, my first CSCA round in this car was also on the North circuit, run by the Jag club. With 290hp at the rear wheels I was in for a shock and after my first session on track I thought the car was undriveable!
So began my love/hate relationship with the car, which for the next two and a half years was plagued with mechanical issues, including a gearbox rebuild and not one but two engine failures. As a result, seat time was limited and sporadic, and I struggled to come to grips with the car.
Despite 2020 being a horrible year in many respects, COVID had a positive impact on my track time. I was no longer travelling for work and the Targa schedule was cancelled. The mechanical gremlins had also been ironed out of my car. I entered BMW Club events, Lotus Only Track Days, NSW supersprint events as well as all of the rounds in the CSCA series.
I enjoyed so many highlights in 2020, but the overall round win at Marulan and a 1.06.0 PB at Wakefield bear special mention.
I particularly enjoy the CSCA events as not only do they offer serious on-track competition, there’s plenty of off-track support and we share some great friendships. The driving standards are extremely good and you are able to drive with a much higher level of trust in your fellow competitors than with some other events.
Speaking of which, I’d like to send a big shout out to Colin, Liam, Leigh and in particular Brett Stevens and Martin Duursma for providing the encouragement to push that little bit harder.
Also a huge thanks to Mel, Gino and Dave of Club Lotus Australia, as well as the other CSCA club volunteers, for putting together a program that allows us to pursue our passion for the cars, community and sport. Last year in particular, you persisted in what was the most challenging year from an organisational perspective, when it would have been very understandable to just let the season slide by. I am very appreciative for your commitment and effort.
I’d also like to send a big thank you to Bulk Transport Solutions for providing a set of rubber for the season!
Our thanks to Richard for taking the time to chat with us and put together this story!