Clark and McLoughlin Double Up at Brands Hatch
The combined Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli and Classic Restoracing Championship fields put on two entertaining races amidst mixed weather conditions at Brands Hatch on Saturday, May 4th, Simon Clark taking his Cayman S to two outright wins, Ross Morris and Trevor Lewis taking a class two win apiece, while Ben Mcloughlin continued to lead the way in the Restoracing class.
Class one racer Michael Price sponsored the day’s trophies via his Forelle Estates company, and duly took two home having come second in race one and third in race two.
It was a busy 20-minute early morning qualifying session with 36 cars on track at a sunny but cold Brands Hatch. Simon Clark set the early pace in his Cayman, with Paul Seagrave the early class two pace-setter and Sam Beckett heading the Restoracing field.
Times slowly fell during the session but going into the final minutes it was Pete Morris quickest in his 997, but as the chequer flag flew Michael Price went quickest, only for team mate Clark to go top just seconds later.
“There was a lot of traffic but it’s the same for everyone,” said Clark. “The car felt good and I finally got a completely clear lap. I like Brands Hatch and have sponsors here today so good to go well!"
Ross Morris moved ahead of Seagrave in class two, with Trevor Lewis ultimately taking second with Seagrave holding onto third.
McLoughlin once more set the Restoracing pace, despite now running with an extra 45kg of ballast over the rest of the field, with Christian Short in the Porsche Centre Wolverhampton Boxster second with returnee Wayne Minogue third.
Clark led the field away from pole, with a fast-starting Kevin Harrison storming into second from fourth on the grid, Craig Wilkins third ahead of Price and Pete Morris. As the leader opened a gap, Harrison became the head of a six-car train contesting the other podium positions, Price getting past Wilkins and into third at the start of lap three.
Steve Cheetham was working his way through the lead pack, into sixth by lap three and able to take advantage of Wilkins being baulked by a backmarker to move into fourth four laps later, Pete Morris following through only to lose out to Wilkins later in the lap. Up to third a lap later, Cheetham was looking on for a strong finish before a touch with Wilkins saw him cruising back to the pits.
Attention now moved to Price, who was sixth on lap eight, but three laps later was in fourth and closing on Wilkins, going past into Paddock bend before starting to challenge team-mate Harrison for second. The decisive move came with a lap to go when he made the better exit from Clearways and was past Harrison well before the first corner.
The lead group finished in that order, Clark easing his pace in the final laps but still with a five second advantage over the rest, Price heading home Harrison in a County Classics Racing one-two-three.
“That was probably the most boring race I have ever had!” joked Clark. “I maybe pushed harder than I needed to at first , then backed off so I wasn’t taking any risks and it is always nice to have a gap at the front.”
“I was working hard and able to make up places,” said Price. “I was quicker than Kevin Harrison on the first part of the lap but he is a very seasoned racer and knew just how to close any gaps. I really had to think about making a final move on him and needed to do it right at the end!’
“That took all my years of experience to hold them off,” said Harrison, “I had a little respite sometimes with backmarkers, but that was really hard work. I couldn’t keep Michael behind me at the end but it is nice to be on the podium.”
Class two was the domain of Ross Morris, who led all the way to take his third win of the season. Once again the battle was behind, Lewis second from Seagrave early on, with Kevin Molyneux coming up the order despite a damaged exhaust.
By lap eight he was into third and looking for a way past the similar Boxster of Lewis, the second-placed driver held on, the pair finishing just over six seconds behind Morris.
“I got a good start and pulled away, the tyres were going a bit towards the end but they held on just enough,” said Ross Morris. “I’m pleased to keep the winning run going on, we’ll have to do it again in race two.”
The Restoracing field lined up behind the Porsche Club Championship runners with two empty rows, but were right with the rest of the field as they reached the first corner. McLoughlin was quickly away in the Porsche Centre Bournemouth car and amongst the Club championship cars on lap one, with Minogue second in class at the end of lap one from Ollie Coles and Christian Short.
With McLoughin clear at the front, Minogue had Coles and Short right with him, Short moving into third at Paddock Hill Bend on lap three. He then looked to go outside of Minogue’s Porsche Centre Nottingham Boxster at the same place on lap 10 only to have tuck back in behind the send place car as the yellow flags flew for a car off in the gravel.
Two laps later Short had made the move stick, before the group were split up as the race leaders lapped them, Short finishing in second ahead of Minogue, McLoughlin well clear to take his third win of the season.
“That was a fun race,” said McLoughlin. “I was with some of the class two cars for a while but lost ground when we hit a couple of backmarkers. Great fun to be out there on this circuit.”
A heavy rain shower around 20-minutes before race two quickly cleared but left the Porsche Club Championship contenders with a tyre dilemma – use the slick Pirelli tyre they had raced on earlier in the day or opt for the wets. Most of the front-runners opted for the treaded tyre, but a few took the risk on slicks hoping that the track was going to dry quickly.
The field got away well on the damp track, Clark again leading them into the first corner, but down the hill from Paddock Hill Bend there was chaos in the mid-pack which resulted in class two runners Steve Freeman and championship leader Ross Morris in the gravel trap and out the race. That brought out the Safety Car in a race already reduced to 18-minutes due to incidents earlier in the afternoon’s race schedule.
Racing finally resumed as the field started lap five with ten minutes of race time remaining, Clark again getting away well at the front, Matt Kyle-Henney heading class two in just his third race, and McLoughin first of the Restoracing pack.
Again Clark was able to ease away in his Cayman, Wilkins second with Price looking for a way past. Wilkins held Price at bay for the remaining four laps to take second behind Clark, Pete Morris fourth ahead of Harrison.
“Conditions were changing corner by corner, some places seemed really dry, others very wet,” said Clark. “I like the car moving around so I was quite happy, and I got a good safety car restart, that was my first in this series so I’m glad it went well. A really good day all round.”
“That wasn’t the nicest conditions to race in and I was grateful for some backmarkers towards the end to put some distance between Michael Price and me,” said Wilkins. “He was making me work hard.”
“That was an interesting race but I enjoyed it’” said Price. “The conditions were tricky and the car was moving around and the track was changing lap by lap. Overall – not a bad day with two very contrasting races.”
Behind, Kyle-Henney continued to lead class two but had the experienced Lewis closing in after starting at the back of the pack, and lost the lead on lap seven, Lewis taking the class win, Kyle-Henney holding on to second.
“I got delayed going out onto the circuit at the start,” said Lewis. “I started dead last on the grid and had a very exciting first lap, I think I passed twelve cars before the safety car came out. It was great to race with young Matt Kyle-Henney, he is a good lad…but I don’t feel guilty about passing him!”
McLoughlin was untroubled at the front of the Restoracing field and a superb 14th overall, the conditions playing into the hands of his treaded Pirelli tyres. Behind, a great battle for the remaining podium positions was a highlight of the race, as Short, Minogue and Paul Blakesley in the Porsche Centre Cambridge car lapped together.
A shake-up in the that group on lap seven put Blakesley into second and he held on for the remaining two laps, Short just failing to chase down Minogue on the run to the flag at the end of the race.
“It was incredibly slippery out there,” said McLoughlin. “At times it was a challenge to keep the car straight and early in the race you couldn’t even go flat heading onto the pit straight. It was a challenge for the whole field – and anyone who kept the car pointing in the right direction has done a good job.”
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli and Classic Restoracing Championship (25 Minutes): 1 Simon Clark (Cayman S) 15 Laps; 2 Michael Price (997 C2S) + 5.515s; 3 Kevin Harrison (996 C2); 4 Craig Wilkins (996 C2); 5 Pete Morris (997 C2S); 6 Mark McAleer (997 C2S). Class Two: 1 Ross Morris (Boxster S); 2 Trevor Lewis (Boxster S) +6.921s; 3 Kevin Molyneux (Boxster S). Classic Restoracing Championship: 1 Ben McLoughlin (Boxster S); 2 Christian Short (Boxster S) +1 Lap; 3 Wayne Minogue (Boxster S). Fastest Lap: Clark, 1m37.535s (89.78mph).
Race Two (18 Minutes): 1 Clark 9 Laps; 2 Wilkins + 2.225s; 3 Price; 4 Pete Morris; 5 Harrison; 6 Andy Toon. Class Two: 1 Lewis; 2 Matt Kyle-Henney (Boxster S) +3.482s; 3 Molyneux. Classic Restoracing Championship: 1 McLoughlin; 2 Paul Blakesley +24.944s (Boxster S); 3 Minogue. Fastest Lap: Clark, 1m49.339s (80.09mph).
Next Races: Brands Hatch, Kent, July 6th and 7th.
Pictures: Gary Hawkins