Mark Sumpter and Jonathan Evans took two wins apiece in the leading two Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli classes as the series visited Brands Hatch for the first time in 2018. The race day saw the debut of class three of the series, featuring restored Boxsters under Porsche’s Restoracing banner, the experienced Ben McLoughlin taking the wins, with newcomers Will Heslop and Josh Morris second each time and taking the championship points. Stuart Ings took both class wins.
Thirty-two cars came out for qualifying, and it was Sumpter at the top of the timesheets for most of the session, the 996 C2 racer even improving his time in the final minutes to finish over half a second clear of the Cayman of Simon Clark. Michael Price had his 997 third quickest, with the Caymans going well at Brands and Peter Erceg, and James Birch next up.
“I was worried about having all the new cars out there, but they were very well-behaved,” said Sumpter. “Right at the end I felt I had to push again, you can’t relax for a moment, and got a good lap in which was completely clear. We could maybe go just a little quicker, we have a good balance in the car.”
“This circuit is fast and flowing and the balance of the Cayman helps us be right up there,” said Clark.
Evans set the class two pace, with Trevor Lewis second and Paul Seagrave next up, all in Boxsters.
Josh Morris was quickest of the Restoracing Boxsters in the Porsche Centre Bolton car, just a tenth of a second clear of McLoughlin, who in turn headed Will Heslop by two hundredths of a second.
“The car felt good, which helps you feel confident,” said Josh Morris. “It’s my first time out on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in it so I was dialling it in and trying to set a good time.”
From the start Clark stayed right with Sumpter, the two cars side-by-side up to Druids, Sumpter on the inside and emerging ahead. At the end of lap one the lead two were a second clear of Price, who had Erceg right with him. Evans headed class two after early challenger Craig Wilkins had slipped down the order, McLaughlin first in class three, opening lap contact at Druids seeing Josh Morris lose places.
The cars were greeted by the safety car at the end of lap two, a class three Boxster off at Paddock Hill Bend, and they circulated in order for three laps before racing resumed.
Sumpter made a good restart, Clark staying with him but Sumpter set a new fastest race lap and began to ease away. Behind, Price was still third in his 997, with Mark McAleer closing in, Erceg having retired on the pit straight.
At the end of the 25-minute race Sumpter took his second win of the season, with Clark recording his first podium in the championship. Price had to work to stay clear of McAleer in the final laps to also record his first top three finish of the year.
“It’s all going very well today!” said Sumpter. “I really didn’t need to see the safety car out there, I had just broken the tow on the car behind and thought I was away. In the end it didn’t really hurt me, I got a good restart and I have saved some wear on the tyres for race two.”
“In the early part of the race I felt I was quicker round the back of the circuit,” said Clark. “I just wasn’t ever quite close enough to make a move on him, and the backmarkers were good when we caught them. Really pleased with the result.”
“That was hard work, my car was a little loose at the back,” said Price. “I had to work hard through Paddock Hill Bend but had a good balance so I had something to work with. I didn’t get the best of starts, and was holding onto the front two after the restart but could see the cars closing behind and I had to protect third.”
Evans continued his domination of class two, pulling clear again once the safety car released the field to race, and recorded his third win of 2018. Paul Seagrave ran second with Andrew Muggeridge third before having to retire his Boxster, Lewis taking the final class podium position.
“It was looking like a straightforward race but I got passed by Craig Wilkins,” said Evans. “Then he did a bit of rallycross out the back of the circuit and from there on I was clear at the front and could pull away. A good run, the tyres were going towards the end but we are scoring points.”
In class three the McLoughlin in the Porsche Centre Bournemouth Boxster made the most of the advantage he held at the start of the racing, only to lose his advantage as the safety car slowed the field. At the restart he came under pressure from the pink Boxster of Heslop, the two close until a trip through the gravel trap exiting Paddock Hill bend for Heslop saw him lose ground.
McLoughlin pulled a slight gap as behind, a great battle developed for the other podium positions. Ollie Coles in the Porsche Centre Swindon Boxster went past Heslop for second on lap 10, but working his back into contention was Josh Morris. Into fourth by lap 12, he closed on Heslop who in turn was pressuring Coles.
In the final laps Heslop claimed second back, and the biggest haul of championship points, McLoughlin adjudged too experienced with the series aimed at new drivers, and Morris further demoted Coles to take third at the end of the race.
“That was fun,” said McLaughlin, “a good race and great to have drivers coming up in parc ferme afterwards just to talk about what happened. I got a good start, I got a little nudge when everyone concertinaed up into Druids on lap one, then we had the safety car. I was keen to push hard from the restart and managed to do it and get with some of the class two cars.”
“I don’t know how I came out of that gravel trap in one piece!” said Heslop. “The car was really good and it was great fun.”
Ings claimed class four.
Late in the afternoon race two saw Sumpter get away well from Clark, Dyer settling into third from Price as McAleer sat it out with Birch on the run up to Druids but had to concede fifth place. Just as the race was settling, once again the safety car came out to gather the field up, an incident on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix loop eliminating Price and Kevin Harrison, Pete Morris also out after bringing his 997 back to the pits.
The long clear up process meant there were only three race laps left once the field were racing again, Sumpter once more making a good start, taking Clark along with him, Dyer third but with Birch right there. Sumpter just stayed clear to take win number two for the day from Clark, Birch diving past Dyer into Druids for the final time to take third and his first top-three finish.
“A pretty good day,” said Sumpter, who also recorded fastest race lap in both races. “I got two good starts in that race, and when I was leading behind the safety car I was probably the only driver out there who would have been happy for the race to end that way. Not only did I get maximum points but we have had some different people on the podium so the other points have been shared around.”
“I felt more competitive against Mark that race, I just needed a few more racing laps!” said Clark. “I had a feeling my car was going to be a little better across the race, but I am more than happy with two podiums.”
“I made a terrible start,” said Birch, “losing a couple of places but I was able to get them back. I got in front of Michael Price before he was part of the incident. We were behind the safety car for a long time, then I knew I was quicker than Chris Dyer but had to find the right place to overtake him.”
Evans again claimed class two, Lewis this time second from Seagrave.
“The season is going well,” said Evans. “That race was pretty uneventful, I had been worried about the tyres but the safety car helped us with that. I was able to ease away from the others at the restart and we have to just keep pushing and scoring points.”
McLoughlin led Morris and Heslop early on in class three, power-steering failure putting Heslop out just as the safety car came emerged. Once they were racing again McLoughlin stayed clear to take his second win, Morris second on his race debut from Jamie Woods.
“Credit to the guys at Porsche Centre Bournemouth for building such a good car – but the other cars must be good as well as I had people right with me,” said McLoughlin. “I managed to pull a gap on the others in the end, shame about all the time behind the safety car though. A great day, my first wins in 15-years!”
“We managed to get past a couple of class two cars on the first lap,” said Josh Morris, “Ben and I were then having our own race, and I had to make sure I got a good start after the safety car. It was my first race day, so really pleased.”
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli, Brands Hatch, Race One: 1 Mark Sumpter (996 C2) 14 Laps; 2 Simon Clark (Cayman S) +0.640s; 3 Michael Price (997 C2S); 4 Mark McAleer (996 C2); 5 Kevin Harrison (996 C2); 6 Chris Dyer (Cayman S); 7 James Birch (Cayman S); 8 Pete Morris (997 C2S); 9 Jonathan Evans (Boxster S); 10 Paul Seagrave (Boxster S). Class Winners: Sumpter; Evans; Ben McLaughlin (Boxster S); Stuart Ings (944 S2). Fastest Lap: Sumpter 1m38.467s (88.92mph).
Race Two: 1 Sumpter 12 Laps; 2 Clark +0.319s; 3 Birch; 4 Dyer; 5 Evans; 6 Trevor Lewis (Boxster S); 7 Seagrave; 8 Craig Wilkins (Boxster S); 9 Alan Muggeridge (Boxster S); 10 McAleer. Class Winners: Sumpter; Evans; McLaughlin; Ings. Fastest Lap: Sumpter 1m38.682s (88.73mph).
Next Rounds: Silverstone, Northants, June 2nd.