Four Races and Three Winners at Start of Porsche Season
It was a busy race day for the Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli and the Classic Restoracing Championship fields, with two races for each at a warm and sunny Donington Park on Saturday April 20th. The Strasse squad dominated the Porsche Club Championship, Pete Morris and Chris Dyer taking race wins while Ross Morris took both class two wins. Ben McLoughlin claimed the first two Restoracing races of the season, heading home Will Heslop on each occasion.
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli
Simon Clark in his Cayman was the first car out on track for the first qualifying session of 2019, and with drivers who had tested at the circuit predicting times up to a second quicker than before due to changes to the kerbs, the pace was hot right from the start. Pete Morris and Michael Price all headed the times before Mark McAleer set the quickest in his new 997 C2S. Son Jake was second quickest with Price third, the trio separated by less than a tenth of a second, although Price’s day ended in a pall of smoke with an engine problem during the session.
Newcomer Kevin Molyneaux impressively headed class two, ahead of Trevor Lewis and Ross Morris.
At the start of race one the McAleers on the front row – both making the first race starts in cars new to them – were slow away, allowing Pete Morris to launch his 997 past them on the outside and into the lead. At the end of lap one it was Morris from Mark McAleer and Steve Cheetham, with Jake McAleer next up ahead of Clark.
Mark McAleer was pushing hard in his pursuit of Pete Morris, twice setting a new fastest race lap, but he pulled off halfway through lap eight with an engine issue, ending his day’s racing, leaving Morris almost three seconds clear of Jake McAleer now in second. The lead trio closed up, Jake McAleer pulling Simon Clark up to the leader, and with two laps to go it was a three-car front group.
Into the last lap Jake McAleer went round the outside of Pete Morris into the first corner and led down the hill, only to slide wide in his 996 at the Old Hairpin and slip to third, Pete Morris starting his season in style with the win ahead of Clark.
Cheetham had been strong in the opening laps but slipped down the order, recovering to fourth at the finish ahead of Kevin Harrison and Dyer.
“I knew I could get it off the line well,” said Pete Morris. “That was a good start to the season, we had to work through the backmarkers but it is great to start with a win.”
“Once I was in some clear space I could show my pace and close on the lead group,” said Clark. “Really enjoyed that race, we would get spread a little in the backmarkers but I could always get back up there with them.”
“I had a nightmare off the start, just heartbroken I got ahead and then lost it,” said Jake McAleer. “I was in front, cleanly ahead down the Craner Curves, and the rear left let go at the Old Hairpin and I was back where I started – to lead on the last lap and not win is not what I wanted.”
In class two Molyneaux had set the pace, running well clear of Ross Morris before going off after 11 laps. That handed the lead to Ross Morris who made it a family set of class wins with father Pete winning overall. Trevor Lewis took second with Steve Freeman third.
Pete Morris made the best get away at the start of race two, Jake McAleer again slow away and dropping to fifth behind a quartet of cars headed by Morris from Clark, Cheetham and Dyer.
Lapping in a high-speed train of cars, it was Dyer who was on the move, setting a fastest race lap on the third tour and going past Cheetham exiting the final chicane for third. Into lap six he went past Clark at Redgate, and was starting to pressure Strasse team-mate Pete Morris.
On lap 11 Dyer got alongside Pete Morris into Redgate but the leader had the inside line and prevailed, but the pressure was telling and on lap 14 it was Dyer ahead. By now the recovering Jake McAleer was back with the pack as Pete Morris started to tumble down the order, and he took second from Clark with two laps to go on the run down to the first corner.
At the end 2010 overall champion Dyer was clear of the rest to take his first overall win in the Cayman, Jake McAleer heading Cheetham across the line with Harrison and Andy Toon the best of the rest, and newcomer Glen Broster recording his second seventh place finish on his series debut.
“I think I had good tyres as I was so rubbish in race one!” said Dyer. “I could see Pete Morris was struggling and I just went for it. He was defending and I got inside when he made a mistake, and we have worked so hard with this car.”
“Again I didn’t get it off the line, but fair play to Chris, he drove a great race,” said Jake McAleer. “It was a good tight race, with lots of cars close and you are having to be aware of what is in front or behind at all times. I have to be happy, first day in class one and two podium finishes.”
“We were able to be more consistent than in race one, we found a better set-up,” said Cheetham. “I could ease off and bring the tyres back quickly if they got hot and I was being smooth and that paid off.”
Ross Morris took his second class two win of the day and came home ninth overall, with Trevor Lewis running second before being hit with a five second penalty for exceeding the track limits, handing the slot to Angus Archer.
Classic Restoracing Championship
Ben McLoughlin was the pace-setter all the way through the 20-minute qualifying session the Classic Restoracing Championship field, improving through the session to end up over a second clear of the rest of the field. Double race-winner from 2018 Ollie Coles in the Porsche Centre Swindon Boxster was second quickest, with journalist Matt Bird third ahead of Will Heslop, another front-runner from last season to return.
McLoughlin was briefly headed off the line by Bird, but by the end of the lap was back in front and starting to ease away. Heslop was into second ahead of Coles, Alistair Nelson and Bird, Coles then dropping out the top ten leaving Bird to look for a way past Nelson.
Into lap four Bird had his Premier Panel Skills car into third and setting was off after Heslop, with McLoughlin already two seconds clear at the front in his Porsche Centre Bournemouth Boxster S. Over the following laps Bird got right up with Heslop, while behind Nelson was now under pressure from Carl Hazelton.
These pairs provided the entertainment in the final laps, Heslop just holding off Bird, while in turn Nelson kept the Porsche Centre Chester car of Hazelton back in fifth as they took the flag, McLoughlin almost five seconds clear.
“I didn’t get a great start, a few too many revs,” said McLoughlin. “I saw this pink car right with me and it was great to play with Will – I was able to brave it out down the outside of the Craner Curves to get in front. The cars are a bit lower and stiffer this year – proper little race cars!”
“I got a good start and into the first corner,” said Heslop, “and I was trying to stay with Ben, but he is just so smooth and consistent. One little mistake and he opens a gap you can never draw back, but I’m really happy with second.”
“I was trying very hard,” said Bird, “I was trying to catch him but figured there was another race later on. Will was very quick and we were working our way through the backmarkers, I really enjoyed that!”
A strong start by McLoughlin saw him clear early on and easing away in the opening laps, Heslop in second from Coles. Charging through from sixth at the end of lap one was Bird, who was into third by lap four and targeting Heslop.
Bird was into second on lap five, only to make a mistake and fall down the order, while Hazelton was into third on lap six but with Coles and Nelson in close attendance.
McLoughlin’s big lead was negated when the Safety Car came out and closed them up on lap eight, and when racing resumed at the start of lap 12 Heslop correctly gauged when the leader was going to make his jump and went with him, these two quickly clear of the rest.
The win was McLoughlin’s after the 25-minutes with Heslop almost five seconds back by the end, Nelson winning the battle for third after a big challenge from Hazelton, the latter finishing behind Porsche Centre Nottingham’s Ashley White and James Cannon after having to gather up a big moment.
“We had a few problems with the car, but the crew fixed them and we made a set-up change for race two that let us be very consistent, and I think that was our advantage,” said McLoughlin. “We are not that much faster than everyone else, we are just able to be right on it lap after lap, great to start with two wins.”
“I saw Ben close his window so I guessed he was getting ready for the restart!” said Heslop. “I was in the right gear and ready to go got a good pull out the chicane, and that put us two clear – I learn a lot just by following him.”
“We have been in the mix all day and just missed out on a podium in race one, so great to achieve that in this one,” said Nelson.
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli, Race One (25 Minutes):1 Pete Morris (997 S C2) 20 Laps; 2 Simon Clark (Cayman S) + 0.561s; 3 Jake McAleer (996 C2); 4 Steve Cheetham (Cayman S); 5 Kevin Harrison (996 C2); 6 Chris Dyer. Class Two: 1 Ross Morris (Boxster S); 2 Trevor Lewis (Boxster S); 3 Steve Freeman (Boxster S). Fastest Lap: Clark 1m14.655s (95.05mph).
Race Two (25 Minutes): 1 Dyer 20 Laps; 2 Jake McAleer +4.639s; 3 Cheetham; 4 Harrison; 5 Andy Toon (996 C2); 6 Glen Broster (996 C2). Class Two: 1 Ross Morris; 2 Angus Arher (Boxster S): 3 Lewis. Fastest Lap: Dyer 1m15.316s (94.59mph).
Classic Restoracing Championship, Race One (25 Minutes): 1 Ben McLoughlin (Boxster S) 19 Laps; 2 Will Heslop (Boxster S) +4.926s; 3 Matt Bird (Boxster S); 4 Alistair Nelson (Boxster S); 5 Carl Hazelton (Boxster S); 6 Julian Morris (Boxster S). Fastest Lap: McLoughlin 1m21.014s (87.94mph).
Race Two (25 Minutes): 1 McLoughlin 17 Laps; 2 Heslop +4.896s; 3 Nelson; 5 James Cannon (Boxster S); 6 Hazelton. Fastest Lap: McLoughlin 1m20.889s (88.07mph).
Next Races: Brands Hatch, Kent, May 4th.
Pictures: Gary Hawkins