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.
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.
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.
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!
Saturday 9th March saw the first test day of the season and the first time my new co-driver – for the CALM Classic 4Pot Porsche Trophy – Michelle Westby had a chance to drive the 924 we’ll be racing in this new series.
I’ve known Michelle now for about 10 years, having first met her when she was working as a grid girl for the Lotus Elise Trophy at Brands Hatch. Since then I’ve kept an eye on her career, where she’s become one of the UK’s leading drift drivers, and speaking to her at MotorsportDays Live at Silverstone earlier this year discovered that she had an ambition for 2019 to sample other kinds of motor racing.
I had already enroled in the new Porsche race series for the season and I thought it might present Michelle with a way of sampling circuit racing at minimal cost to herself, since she would be sharing the drive. A track day earlier in the year at Silverstone had been cancelled due to very cold weather so instead we booked into the 750 Motor Club’s own track day at my favorite UK circuit – Donington.
Heading out onto the GP circuit for the first session and it was already raining. After a lap or so, what little grip there was evaporated as the heavens properly opened. With the single windscreen wiper working only on the driver’s side, poor Michelle was unable to see much and before long, in my over-exuberance, I’m afraid to say I eventually parked the car in the Redgate gravel, leading to a red flag.
Back to the pits, apologies at the ready, but Michelle was already hungry for more and after a check over of the engine – and removal of unwanted aggregate – we saddled up for the second session. This was Michelle’s first opportunity to drive the car and she was immediately taken aback by just how “mechanical” the 40+ year old Porsche was to drive. Zero driver aids, no power steering and a cable throttle meant this car would more effort just to get from A to B, let alone be raced around Donington.
The start of the session was delayed quite considerably while a crashed MINI was recovered and the associated dropped fluid cleaned up. Michelle showed no signs of nerves as we waited patiently in the pit lane. We were eventually released and the organisers did adjust the session timing so that we still managed to get quite a few laps in. I was very quickly impressed with how Michelle took to driving the car and apart from relatively minor issues with three corners, she drove really well and was starting to push the car towards its limits by the time the chequered flag appeared.
A break for lunch, and some pre-arranged interviews that Michelle and 4Pot organiser Philip Waters had scripted, and we went into the third session of the day. I started in the driver’s seat as I wanted to give Michelle some specific pointers about Redgate (turn 1), Starkey’s Bridge (the gentle left in the middle of Craners) and the approach to Coppice. After about five laps we pitted in order to swap over but unfortunately, damage done earlier to the alternator caused by trapped gravel meant the car stuttered and died under Michelle, so she wasn’t able to put the advice into pratice.
It was my intention all along that Michelle would have the final session to herself and after an alternator swap, that’s exactly what we did. Although the seat wasn’t in an ideal position for her – we’d not been able to adjust it on the day – she got quicker and quicker and by the chequered flag, I felt that she’d really got to grip with the car and was starting to find its grip limit on the by-now fully dry track.
Unfortunately, Silverstone have been forced to close their circuit – home of our first race together – for the entire month of June so it can be re-surfaced for both the F1 and Moto GP, so Philip is now looking to reschedule our race for another time.
My thanks to Clive of Moluto Motorsport for running the car, and Philip and Ryan for their assistance through the day.
I attended the Britcar awards dinner in January to collect the trophy for finished third overall in Class 4, sharing the podium with Stewart Lines (2nd) and Matt Greenwood & Sarah Moore who not only won the class but also won the Endurance category overall. Matt was in fact the youngest driver to win a Britcar championship and Sarah the first female.