Three More Podiums – But Robbed of a Win – At Silverstone

For the penultimate round of the BRSCC Porsche Championship, we headed to my local circuit of Silverstone for three 20-minute races and to continue my chase of the overall title I needed more than three third-places. As it turned out, I did a lot better than expected.

As with a previous round, qualifying and two of our races had grids shared with the Alfa Championship but with us starting behind them, this mostly didn’t the 924 class races at all. I qualified third behind Pete Smith and Hugh Peart – pretty much where I expected to be – but this proved to be Hugh’s best time and it was soon apparent that, for some reason, he was off his game.

The first race was on a dry track and although I had my usual poor start, I finished second behind Pete and just 0.17 seconds off his fastest lap. So I was already a point up on where I expected to be and pace was again improving.

Race 2 on the Sunday morning – again sharing the grid with the Alfas – was on a damp but drying track and I quickly used my confidence to take the lead. Towards the end of the race a couple of stranded Alfas led to the deployment of the safety car and just as I exited Club corner onto the start finish straight, Pete overtook me under the just-deployed yellows – a clear violation of the rules. Although I expected him to be disqualified – or at least penalised – I did stay with him finishing just over a second behind after one of the Alfas got in the way. Pete and I was, as expected, called the Clerk’s office and his review of my in-car footage confirmed what he had already admitted to. I left before the ruling was given but to my surprise – and disappointment – the Clerk let him off completely and he kept his win and fastest lap point, meaning I’d lost out of at least one extra point. Despite going back to the Clerk later, he wasn’t willing to change his judgement – so I had to live with it.

By the time we lined up for Race 3, the track was completely dry. Yet again I was left behind at the start and while Pete disappeared into the distance, Hugh and my team mate John Jones battled relentlessly, blocking my options for getting past the both of them to challenge the leader. About half way through, on the exit of Abbey, I was closing on the pair of them to try to take them both on the sharp right at Village when Hugh dived right – probably with the same idea – and contacted my front left, spinning me off the circuit. I recovered to chase the pair just in time to get past John to take a third.

Mixed feelings from the weekend, then, as I left with more points than expected – leaving me third in the championship – but fewer than I really deserved. We have just a single weekend remaining – at Donington – which will consist of one 20-minute sprint and a 40-minute race on the Sunday to include a compulsory pit stop. This final race of the year had been planned to be shared with Moluto team mechanic Clive – who raced 924s a while back – but a sudden re-read of the regulations has left that up in the air. It is still possible for me to win the championship outright, but that would depend on a particularly poor performance from Pete which, frankly, is unlikely. I’ll just have to play it as it comes.

 

Class 2nd Shared with Michelle in Second CALM 4Pot Race

Drift ace Michelle Westby – in only her second ever circuit race – shared the 924 class 2nd place with me in the CALM 4Pot Trophy race at Brands Hatch GP last weekend.

Although I was able to get to the circuit on the Friday, neither of us had an opportunity to do a test session so we both went into qualifying on the Saturday morning without ever having driven the full GP configuration before. I’ve raced at Brands many times – in fact had taken my first 924 win there only weeks before – but the GP more than doubles the length and completely changes the character of the circuit. Unlike the Silverstone round, our 10 Porsches would be sharing the grid with over 20 cars from the 750MC Bernie’s V8 – and a more varied mix of cars you’re not likely to find anywhere!

It was decided that I would qualify first to get heat into both the MRF tyres and the brakes and I set out after a frantic early-morning scrutineering session and briefing of the entire 33-car grid. But the session was dogged by hold-ups – no less than four crashes and two red flags – and I wasn’t able to find the pace I wanted. Michelle then jumped into the car – complete with “booster seat” cushions – and while was concerned she would not be able to get the required three laps completed before the session ended, the results sheet later showed just how well Michelle has taken to circuit racing – she’d posted the quickest and second quickest laps of the both of us.

Moluto team chief mechanic Clive and I had discussed who should start the race and we decided that, given it was to be a rolling start, it would give Michelle a chance to be among competition immediately. Having the drviers this way round would also make the driver change a little easier since we would be removing the extra seat cushions and moving the seat backwards.

All three of the other 924s pitted before us but two (#15 Philip Waters/Dan Gick and #69 Richard Jones/Alaric Gordon) suffered electrical problems and did not return to the circuit, leaving only two cars in class – so unless we suffered a DNF, we were already on for a podium finish.

Fortunately the race was not dogged by the crashes and red flags that we had had in qualifying and I spent my entire session racing the #23 944 of new racer Ben Anderson, another entry from the 4Pot section of the grid. We swapped places several times but ultimately he finished around a second ahead of me.

I took the flag 2nd in class, so we shared a trophy – Michelle’s first – in the after-race presentation. From the timing sheet, Michelle again showed how quick she’s adapted to circuit racing with a fastest lap a mere 0.76 seconds slower than mine.

Here’s the in-car video of all of my stint.

Our original aim was to also compete in the annual Birkett Relay on the Silverstone Historic GP circuit which this year falls on the 26th October but unfortunately all drivers need to have completed at least six races – and Michelle has only finished two. So, for now at least, this is the last of Michelle’s circuit races for 2019. Lets hope she is able to land some sponsorship so she can continue to race next year.

Photos kindly supplied by Darren Skidmore

A Pot and Two Podiums from First Anglesey Visit

This was my first ever visit to the circuit. With a drenched car unwilling to start, I’d managed one session of testing in pouring rain on the Friday. In my continuing chase for the championship title, I went into the weekend needing as many points as possible from this and the second race if I am to stand any chance of catching Hugh and Pete. Bolstering the grid were part-timers Karl and Andrew but we didn’t quite make six cars – which would have given us full points – as local man Alastair had sold his car earlier in the week.

Qualifying was the only activity for us on the Saturday and the rain had mostly disappeared, to be replaced by intermittent clouds and sun. I did most of the session without a need to come into the pits (both brakes and tyres had already seen action at earlier rounds) but in Parc Ferme I was annoyed at myself when I discovered I’d qualified only 4th in class from 5 entries.

I knew that Moluto team mate John was excellent off the line and was likely to get the jump on me at the start of the first of our two races on Sunday – and that’s exactly what happened. He stayed just ahead of me through the first corner but I went up his inside at The Banking and then grabbed the lead – with a slight exchange of paint along the way. It was then a case of maximum effort to catch Pete and Karl up front – who were occupied with their own little battle for a couple of laps. With Karl leading – although very familiar with Anglesey – this gave me some hope as I reckoned I might be able to cash in on his rustiness.

Pete got past Karl as the latter ran slightly wide on the loooong right-hander at the back of the circuit and we all bunched up yet again on the up-hill approach to Rocket. Karl had admitted he was having problems getting Corkscrew right and I nearly went into the back of him there on lap 5. His car became unsettled at Rocket on the next lap and I took 2nd place from him up his inside on the exit. With Karl now on my tail, I tried to reel Pete in, occasionally locking up as I braked ever later and harder. I was absolutely determined to beat Karl – and grab the extra point by finishing 2nd – and at the eventual flag, I finished 9.2 seconds behind Pete but just 0.8 seconds in front of Karl. With five in the class, as well as the vital points, I got a pot to take home with me.

I started Race 2 on the front row but sadly I just couldn’t match the pace I’d managed in Race 1 and Pete and Karl slowly pulled away leaving me to watch them build a lead and leave me with a 3rd place finish.

So, after the disappointment of qualifying, I left Anglesey with a trophy, two podiums and a vital 22 championship points. I’ve closed the gap to John to only three points, so I can pass him at Silverstone, which is a triple-header. Whether I’m able to catch Pete or Hugh is another question – but I’m not giving up on the Championship title until the last round is done and dusted.

Photos kindly provided by Neil Brownlee.

Full in-car footage from Race 1:

First PDA Win – And in the Wet Too!

The last weekend of July saw the BRSCC Toyo Porsches return to Brands Hatch for a pair of races and it proved to be an extremely eventful weekend for me, landing my first win in the Championship followed by a 2nd place on the Sunday.

The forecast suggested rain was quite likely, at least on the Saturday if not both days and up until now I’d never had much confidence – or even done remotely well – on a wet track. It was therefore quite a surprise to climb out of the car after qualifying to be told I’d not only held pole for much of the session but also, at one point, to have been third overall in the 8-car grid.

Although the rain subsided for a while, it returned to make Race 1 as wet as the qualifying session had been. I started on the outside of the front row next to Pete and my start wasn’t quite quick enough to beat him to turn 1. Tucking in behind him – which of course made it pretty difficult to see – I hung on for lap after lap, never quite in a position to challenge him, but the close, relentless pursuit finally paid off when he made a mistake at the notorious Graham Hill bend, spinning off to the left onto the grass. With only one and a half laps left, I just need to keep a cool head to grab my first ever 924 class win. Pete had posted fastest lap so gained an extra point, which I could have done with. The rain meant that the Boxsters just couldn’t use their power advantage and I wasn’t overtaken at all in the race, completing the 20 minutes just under half a lap behind the overall winner, and finishing ahead of one of the Class A cars.

As much as I really wanted it to rain again, race 2 on the Sunday was on a completely dry track. I was on pole with Pete to my left and Moluto team-make and 2019 rookie John Jones just behind us. John made a great start, slotting up the middle of Pete and I. With me closest to the apex, John held on to 2nd into Paddock, delaying Pete enough to help me hang on to the lead for an incredible 6 laps. On lap 7, Pete got a better speed through Paddock and up the hill, meaning he was quick enough to try an overtake up my inside at the Druids hairpin. I hung on to his tail for a while, threatening a move to re-take the lead at Druids on the next lap, but I didn’t want to take too much of a risk and eventually Pete pulled away to win, leaving me to land a safe 2nd.

Our next races – again just two spread over the weekend – are to be at Anglesey – a circuit I’ve never even visited, let alone raced on. Its possible that we’ll see a much increased grid, with some part-time drivers and possibly even a multiple ex-champion (who I have since beaten once) join us on the picturesque circuit. I will need good finishes in both races in order to catch Pete and John, who are now in joint second place in the points table.