Three Thirds from Croft

My first ever races at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire this weekend resulted in three third place finishes and 31.5 points towards the 2019 BRSCC Toyo Tires Porsche Championship title.

Very few of us had signed up to race this weekend and missing from the lineup were my two closest rivals, John Jones and Andrew Pritchard. JJ was already ahead in the points having done the Cadwell Park round a few weeks before, so I had to at least finish every race to stand a chance of catching him in the rounds ahead. Ahead of me would be Hugh Peart, who was leading the championship, and Pete Smith, who started the season late but was already winning races.

To add to the challenge – although I’d been to Croft a couple of times before, I’d never even driven the track so I was going to be qualifying on an almost completely unknown circuit! I soon got the hang of things though and qualified third, albeit 2.5 seconds slower than Hugh.

This was to be a “triple header”, with a single race on the Saturday, followed by two more on the Sunday. The weather had cooled off a bit from the proceeding week but with the strong sunshine, it was still hot in the car. In Race 1, my final lap was the quickest and 2.8 seconds quicker than qualifying – certainly moving in the right direction.

Sunday was a late start – Croft don’t allow racing before 12:00 – and although I’d slowed a little, I pushed harder earlier on to try to keep pace with Hugh and Pete. The final race of the weekend was our traditional reverse grid – although with our small number, it didn’t make much difference. I was able to hold Pete off for the first few corners and stay with them for four laps or so. This time my fastest laps were much closer to the leaders, finishing just 1.2 seconds off Pete’s winning time.

So I headed home with three third places and although it didn’t move me in the championship table, it moved me a lot closer to both JJ and Hugh’s totals. Hugh is to miss the next two rounds – four races in total at Brands and Anglesey – and I should be able to pass both him and JJ and keep close to Pete’s score.

My thanks as usual to Clive Morison at Moluto Motorsport for providing and running the car and my sponsors WeShield and AMPS UK Ltd.

Michelle Debuts at Inaugural 4Pot Trophy Race

June saw the inaugural race of the new CALM 4Pot Porsche Trophy at Silverstone (switched from the GP to the National circuit after Silverstone’s calendar was disrupted for a second resurfacing at F1’s insistence) and the first ever race for famous and successful drift racer Michelle Westby.

In between her first time in the car at Donington back in March, she’d attended a track day at Silverstone and, although the day was dogged by rain, she got some tuition and drove a few laps to start to learn the circuit.

After a very warm Saturday – where I was doing media duties for Britcar – the weather had cooled somewhat so I was relieved I wouldn’t have the same problems with heatstroke that I’d had at Snetterton! The timetable was unkind to us – helpful though for those cars who had gremlins – as our qualifying session was at 09:25 with the race not until 17:05 in the evening. Rarely has a motorsport day felt so long!

Jakob Ebrey – one of the most well-known motorsport photographers in the UK – had brought his silver 944 turbo but ran into problems in qualifying that were later determined to be a failed head gasket. Gary Campbell was more unfortunate, falling ill before he’d even qualified, and his car was to be driven by Matt Holtom from the Civic Cup – once a difficult electrical issue was cured.

Ours was one of two cars on new tyres from sponsor MRF; additionally it had brand new front brakes so we decided I should qualify first, under strict instructions to avoid overheating or glazing the brakes. I only managed four timed laps before Clive brought me in for a driver change and my times were very much off the pace. Michelle, on the other hand, did a fantastic job, posting our three fastest qualifying laps with a best lap over a second quicker than mine.

A long rain shower – that really looked like we would be racing in the wet – stopped about 15 minutes before we were called to the assembly area for the race, by which time the usual brisk Silverstone breeze had started to dry the track. Again I was to take the first stint and by the time I’d completed the two green flag laps, the race surface was almost completely dry. Starting from the back, I held on to the tails of Rick Matthews (yellow car), with only the unfortunate Andy Pritchard behind me – who soon dropped away with a failed battery.

Taking a bit more care than usual with the start, over the period of my stint (watch the video) I overtook #888 double BRSCC Porsche champion Alastair Kirkham, then #47 Rick, then #15 Philip Waters in the sister Moluto car, putting me 2nd in class. Nine of my 15 lap times were consistently in the 1:14s – more than four seconds quicker than I’d managed in qualifying – with a best of 1:14.169.

My 20 minutes were up and Clive boarded me into the pits for the driver change – and the start of Michelle’s first time out in a competitive race environment. She impressed everyone with her driving and concluded her stint with a lap of 1:14.487 – less than half a second off my quickest.

The next 4Pot race isn’t until September, which is to be on the rarely-used Brands Hatch GP circuit. Before then I have two more rounds of the BRSCC Porsches (Croft and Brands) where I hope to land plenty more championship points.

My thanks as usual to Clive Morison of Moluto motorsport for running the car; Philip, Ryan and Karl for organising and running 4Pot and John of MRF for his very generous donation of the two sets of tyres the Moluto cars ran on – we were impressed! And thanks of course to my sponsors WeShield and AMPS UK Ltd.

Photos kindly donated by Jakob Ebrey photography.

More Points – and a Trophy – from Snetterton

Remiss of my, I know, but I forgot to write this report in the days after the race – so this has been authored in early June!

The championship points kept coming – together with another trophy – at the second round of the Toyo Tires BRSCC Porsche Championship at Snetterton in April. The weather was to prove a factor for all as the temperature climbed to around 26C. I stupidly didn’t drink enough before the morning qualifying session and suffered heatstroke as a result. On the grounds of safety, I skipped the first race – so already made a bad start to the weekend, giving away valuable championship points to the others.

Onto the Sunday and in the second race I suffered a failure, towards the end, of the refurbished alternator that had been fitted after the last round. This took me from a safe 2nd to an unfortunate 4th but frankly with the car starting to stutter on corner exits, I felt I was lucky to finish!

We then had our traditional reverse grid for the final race of the weekend. Again I made a good start and managed to keep hold of the lead the race for two laps until Hugh finally got past. I finished 2nd – but only just as John and Andy we right on my tail – in fact made slight contact at the last corner, Murray’s.

The next scheduled round was Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire – a very narrow circuit which I pretty much vowed to never race, so the next outing was to be the inaugural CALM 4Pot Porsche Trophy at Silverstone at the beginning of June.

Double PDA Podium to Start the Season

The first round of the 2019 BRSCC Toyo Tires Porsche championship saw me land my first podium, and take home my first trophy, from the series since I started racing back in 2012.

I’d driven the car (with Michelle – see previous story) just the previous weekend, which was useful in getting me back into the groove of being on track again.

924s in the Brands Assembly Area

A sadly depleted grid – the lowest opening round entry for at least 7 years – meant we were only going to be receiving half points but it also meant I had even fewer exuses to not finish on the podium – third at the very least. I would be up against Hugh Peart – expected to be a prime contender for the championship title this season, having finished second overall last year; Andy Pritchard – who sold his car and took a year out of racing; and John Jones – for whom this was to be his first racing weekend. John was to be my Moluto team mate having bought the red 924 that Ryan Lowry raced briefly, and very quickly, a few seasons ago, winning his first race in it at Donington. Andy’s car was bought from Steve Potts, who competed in the same championship a few years back, but who’d switched to other series and the car had laid idle ever since. Karl Rossin was on hand to help restore that car to racing condition, but even so, its setup wasn’t expected to be perfect.

Despite our numbers, qualifying was busy as we were forced to share the track with the BRSCC Alfa Championshop – their numbers were also low, but not as low as ours. I was going out on brand new discs and pads, and after cooking new ones at Donington last year, was under strict instructions from Moluto mechanic Clive to take it easy for the first few laps, come in, then push for a position on the front of the grid. I obviously didn’t push quite enough as Andy managed to beat me, so I was a little disappointed.

Me leading Andy (green/white car) and John (red) in Race 1 – here approaching the Druids hairpin

If you’re at all familiar with Brands Hatch you’ll know that the grid straight isn’t flat and the circuit had caught me out a few years ago and was the only venue where I’d managed to stall on the grid. This time I was determined to improve my starts and for both races I managed a quick get away – in fact I was past Andy at turn 1 (Paddock) and started to pull ahead of him and John as I desparately tried to keep up with Hugh. That I didn’t manage, but I did pull away into what I foolishly expected to be a comfortable lead. However, Andy and John must have been pushing hard and before long, the pair of them appeared in my mirrors. Having caught up with me obviously spurred Andy on and he took 2nd from me with a daring move up my inside at Paddock – and the battle between us then continued for the rest of the race, with John hanging on very well hoping one or both of us would make a mistake, providing entertainment for the small crowd – and good footage for the TV coverage being recorded by AJK TV.

As my in-car video highlights show, I got past Andy again at Graham Hill Bend, following one of the lapping Boxsters, and held on to the lead to the flag to land my first ever 2nd place.

For the second race I have to guess that Andy realised beating me was on the cards and sure enough, he and John were again able to eat away at the lead I’d established by starting off the front row. Again he made a move down the inside at Paddock – I should really have been ready for it! – and at the flag took 2nd – and his first PDA trophy – with me third and John 4th. All three of us had shaved a massive chunk off our qualifying times and I posted a sub-1 minute time for my final lap in both races.

Our next races are at Snetterton in April, a circuit where corner exit speeds are even more crucial followed by very long straights. I’m already setting my sights on more podiums!

Photos are courtesy of Derek Partridge.