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Sumpter Double Sets Up Title Showdown

Mark Sumpter had the perfect day at Brands Hatch as the Petro-Canada Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli made its second visit of the season to the Kent circuit on Sunday September 10th, with two pole positions, two fastest race laps and two wins. With Sumpter scoring a large points haul and championship leader Mark McAleer finishing down the order in both races the title battle now goes forward to the final two races at Castle Combe in October.
Jake McAleer did his part by winning class two in both races, taking points away from title challenger Steve Cheetham who had suspension issue sin race one.
Once everyone was convinced the damp patches under the trees on the full Grand Prix circuit were off line the times tumbled and it was Sumpter who set the pace in his Paragon Porsche, while Mike Price was second in his County Classics Racing 996, a late improvement not quite enough to depose Sumpter. Craig Wilkins jumped over Kevin Harrison on his last lap to take third, Mark McAleer only fifth after not getting the best from his tyres.
“First couple of laps it was damp under the trees but that was a good session,” said Sumpter. “I really like the full GP circuit, the back part of it hasn’t changed in years other than Dingle Dell. It will only feel really hooked up out there on the final lap of race two – you need to take a brave pill to be quick. It’s close at the front and should be a good race.”
Jake McAleer set the class two pace in his Boxster, over a second clear for much of the session before Cheetham improved late on. Paul Seagrave was third with Ross Morris fourth.
Race One
As front row starter Michael Price got out of shape coming off the line, Sumpter led away with a fast-starting Kevin Harrison blasting through from the second row to briefly sit it out alongside the leader in the first corner before settling for second. Wilkins slotted into third with Mark McAleer fourth ahead of Price.
On lap two Sumpter and Harrison were together out the back of the circuit, these two starting to ease away from Wilkins. Harrison was with Sumpter until lap six when his clutch pedal went to the floor, forcing him to pull off then rejoin well down the order.
With Sumpter now handed a useful lead, Wilkins was up to second but with Mark McAleer and Price right with him, a train of cars that grew to five at one point in the race. Wilkins was forced to battle oversteer and be defensive, Mark McAleer looking for a way past to bolster his title challenge, with Richard Higgins now behind him having got past Price.
Light rain began falling late in the race, and times for the slick-shod Porsches slowed, but Sumpter was well clear and took win number three of his season. Behind, Mark McAleer was still pressuring Wilkins but got tapped from behind and into a spin on the final lap as they exited Surtees, Wilkins coming home second with Price now up to third as they took the flag.
“Kevin Harrison did really well at the start,” said Sumpter, “and it was a bit scary for a moment but he has been racing long enough to know once you get to the apex of the corner going round the outside is not going to work. Once I was out of Druids in the lead I knew it was mine to lose.”
“My car was oversteering which made it hard,” said Wilkins. “I knew I was backing Mark McAleer into the cars behind and I’m sorry he then got tagged. I was pleased to hold onto second, but I was never going to catch Mark Sumpter.”
“My start was strange, I got away and then the rear tyres lit up,” said Price. “I knew I had good pace from qualifying and I’m happy to be on the podium.”
Steve Cheetham was the early leader in class two, his car just ready in time for the race after suspension issues in qualifying, but within two laps it was Jake McAleer in front as Cheetham still battled his handling. Paul Seagrave passed Cheetham on lap six to take second, and they finished in that order, Jake McAleer well clear.
“I made a really bad start, too much wheelpsin,” said Jake McAleer. “I got a run on him down the back straight and managed to pull away. I was trying to protect the car as there are some big kerbs here but Steve must have had problems as I expected him to be right with me.”
Race Two
Rain shortly before the start of the second race saw the field on treaded wet-weather Pirellis, and Sumpter got away well with Price into second despite Harrison again being quick off the line and briefly looking at the inside line at the first corner. At the end of lap one it was Sumpter from Price and Wilkins with Harrison fourth and Mark McAleer next up, while Cheetham led class two from Jake McAleer.
Sumpter was the quickest in the tricky conditions and eased away, Price coming into the pit straight at the end of lap four with Wilkins right with him, the latter on the inside line and ahead into Paddock Hill bend. Behind, Harrison was still fourth but Gary Duckman had moved past Mark McAleer.
Price lost further ground on lap 11, tumbling from third to fifth, Harrison really finding his pace once into third and closing in on Wilkins. Into second with two laps to go Harrison stayed there to the end, Sumpter taking his second win of the day.
“The last few minutes were hard as the tyres were overheating and every time you turned into a corner you almost had to turn back out again and have another go,” said Sumpter. “It was good I had built up that lead and it has been a good day today, it’s our local circuit, we have lots of guests here and we have scored plenty of points.”
“That was fun,” said Harrison. “I like those sort of conditions and the car had good pace and grip was changing lap by lap. I’m only doing selected races and really enjoying myself.
Wilkins held third with Duckman fourth after holding off a stern challenge from impressive series newcomer Simon Clark.
“I’m pleased to get another podium,” said Wilkins. “The car felt like it was rear-wheel steering by the end so we need to check it over, I think Kevin Harrison was being held up before he got free to chase me down but good to take two podiums from a day – though I’d still love to take a win.”
Cheetham again led early in the race in class two, but Jake McAleer closed in and got inside Cheetham at Druids on lap 12, Cheetham having the back of his car step out on the slippery wide line and Jake McAleer going onto take the win, Ross Morris third.
“That was one of my best races of the year,” said Jake McAleer. “I felt like Steve and I were both pushing hard and it was an exciting race to be involved in. He ran a little wide into Paddock Hill Bend and I got inside him and into Druids which put him on the slippery stuff out wide.”
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli, Round 11: 1 Mark Sumpter (996 C2) 15 Laps in 25m02.376s; 2 Craig Wilkins (996 C2) +7.011s; 3 Michael Price (996 C2); 4 Richard Higgins (996 C2); 5 Gary Duckman (Cayman S); 6 Simon Clark (Boxster S); 7 Mark McAleer (996 C2); 8 Chris Dyer (Cayman S); 9 Andy Toon (996 C2); 10 Peter Erceg (Cayman S). Class Winners: Sumpter; Jake McAleer (Boxster S). Fastest Lap: Sumpter 1m38.873s (88.50mph).
Round 12: 1 Sumpter 14 Laps in 25m29.670s; 2 Kevin Harrison (996 C2) +9.256s; 3 Wilkins; 4 Duckman; 5 Clark; 6 McAleer; 7 Erceg; 8 Price; 9 Toon; 10 Jake McAleer. Class Winners: Sumpter; Jake McAleer. Fastest Lap: Sumpter 1m47.135s (81.76mph).
Final Rounds: Castle Combe, Wiltshire, October 14th.