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Wilkins and Sumpter Win in Porsche Club 2018 Season-Opener

An impressive field of cars contested the opening two rounds of the 2018 Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli, Craig Wilkins and Mark Sumpter taking the overall wins from two exciting races at Donington Park, Saturday April 14th.
 
Jonathan Evans, Carl Hazelton and Del Brett all took two class wins each, with each race featuring an early safety car period.
 
Qualifying
Pete Morris set the early pace in qualifying in his 997, the model newly eligible this season, before Sumpter moved to the top of the timesheets. Behind, the other 996 runners gained pace, McAleer second until Wilkins, who had spun early in the session, improved to second right at the end.
 
“It took a few laps but a fantastic start,” said Sumpter. “There was some mud on the circuit but I knew I could go quicker so I’m really pleased. It is very noticeable that we have more cars out this year – you had to work to get a clear run, and when you go for one you have to make it count.”
 
Morris finished the 20-minute session fourth, ahead of the Caymans of team-mate Chris Dyer and series newcomer James Birch.
 
Jonathan Evans headed class two on his return to the series, with fellow Boxster drivers Trevor Lewis, Angus Archer and Paul Seagrave next up. Carl Hazelton headed class three and Del Brett class four.
 
Race One
Wilkins made the best start to head Sumpter into the first corner, while behind the fast-starting Mike Johnson ended up spinning out the pack and stranded on the wet grass – the field greeted by the safety car at the end of the opening lap.
 
Once racing resumed at the start of lap four Wilkins led from Sumpter, Morris, McAleer and Dyer, Evans heading Seagrave and Lewis in class two. McAleer went past Morris and into third on lap six, and was soon right with Sumpter, looking to go past with a move on the outside at Redgate at the start of lap nine.
 
He finally moved into second later that lap down to the chicane, only to promptly retire with a gear linkage failure, putting Sumpter back to second ahead of Morris. The race was halted at the end of lap 13, the result rolled back a lap, with a car off at the end of the track at Coppice. That saw Wilkins winning from Sumpter and Morris, with Dyer fourth benefitting from the roll back as he had gone off track dodging the incident at Coppice.
 
“I got Mark Sumpter off the line, but I have a sneaking suspicion I was holding him up a bit,” said Wilkins. “I had them right with me the whole time, and it seemed that if I did get any breathing space then I would lose the gap due to a backmarker – but it was a good race.”
 
“I was enjoying the race and would have liked it to have run full distance,” said Sumpter. “Craig was starting to slide a little, he had been defending hard for a long time, but it’s good to get a podium and bank the points early on. We are only doing this to have a good race, and that was really fun.”
 
“I am so pleased to put the 997 on the podium on its first race,” said Morris. “It just shows how well we built the car and the set-up is right there. It was overweight at the end of qualifying but now it is bang on and I was biding my time in the race, I was looking at second but I got a little baulked by a backmarker and that was that.”
 
Birch finished fifth, after a race long battle with fellow Cayman racer Simon Clark which saw them swapping places through the race,
 
Evans dominated in class two, almost two seconds clear early on before the safety car, and then made a good restart to build a lead once more. Behind, Paul Seagrave ran in second early on before losing out to Trevor Lewis on lap eight.
 
“I really enjoyed that,” said Evans. “This isn’t the car we were expecting to be out in this year but our new one isn’t quite ready, so we pulled the Boxster out of the back of the garage and thought we would see what happens. I had no gauges and we had to bump start the car, but it went well and that was a good race.”
 
With Evans taking the win, Seagrave stayed within a second of Lewis, and held off series newcomer Angus Archer in the final laps to claim third.
 
Race Two
Sumpter made the best start at the second time of asking, McAleer and Morris side by side exiting the first corner, only for McAleer’s gear linkage problem to strike again, putting him out on lap one. At the end of the lap Sumpter led from Morris and Wilkins, Dyer fourth ahead of Birch and Clark.
 
After three laps of racing the safety car emerged again as race officials moved McAleer’s stranded 996, the field being released again at the start of lap six. Sumpter stamped his authority on the race with a fastest lap, Wilkins in third then also setting a new best mark, these three clear of Birch who had got past Dyer for fourth.
 
With five laps to go Sumpter raised his pace and started to extend the gap to Morris, the top three taking the flag in that order. Behind, the all-Cayman S battle for fourth had seen Dyer and Clark close back in on Birch, both passing the latter as he lost grip, Clark crossing the line close behind Dyer.
 
“I was looking after the brakes as the race went on, then got caught out by a couple of backmarkers and I realised the margin I had wasn’t enough,” said Sumpter. “I didn’t want the them too close so I decided to get my head down for two laps and break away, and fortunately Craig got back with Pete and he had to defend. I’ll settle for this for a start to the season.”
 
“I went round the outside at the first corner and sat it out with Mark McAleer,’ said Morris. “To be honest, I was going to be happy to stay with Mark Sumpter as he is always quick here, and two podiums first time out in this car is a great performance. There is some more to come from the car but we are really happy.”
 
“I made a good start right up the point when I went for third and I missed it, and got swallowed up,” said Wilkins. “I could catch Pete Morris but not do anything with him, through the chicane he was slower than me, catching me between gears and I was bogging down – though I did manage to have a look outside him once into the first corner.”
 
A stunning first lap from Evans saw him head class two at the end of lap one from sixth on the class grid. His advantage was erased by the safety car but he was again able to open a gap and add a second win to his race one success. Behind, the battle for second in the class was a highlight of the race, Lewis under pressure race long for the position, at times heading a train of five battling Boxsters.
 
Archer was third in class in the first part of the race and looking for a way past Lewis, but the driver on the move was Andrew Muggeridge, who had a driveshaft problem earlier in the day and started ninth on the grid. Climbing up through the order he was second in class on lap 15, Lewis holding on from Muggeridge and Archer, these three crossing the line less than a second apart.
 
“I had a bit of a strategy for the first lap that I thought might work!” said Evans. “Everyone went to the inside at the first corner so I let the car run wider and braked round the outside of them. We now have to go away and decide what to do, we have scored points in class two now but it would be nice to get the new car going on and mix it with the guys at the front.”
 
“I really had to work for that,” said Lewis. “I was defending all the way.”
 
In classes three and four Carl Hazelton and Del Brett took two wins apiece.
 
Petro Canada Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli, Race One: 1 Craig Wilkins (996 C2) 12 Laps; 2 Mark Sumpter (996 C2) +0.581s; 3 Pete Morris (997 ; 4 Chris Dyer (Cayman S); 5 James Birch (Cayman S); 6 Simon Clark (Cayman S); 7 Andrew Toon (996 C2); 8 Karim Moudi (996 C2); 9 Peter Erceg (Cayman S); 10 Jonathan Evans (Boxster S). Class Winners: Wilkins; Evans; Carl Hazelton (Boxster S); Del Brett. (Boxster). Fastest Lap: Wilkins 1m15.676s (94.14mph).
 
Race Two: 1 Sumpter 19 Laps; 2 Morris +4.639s; 3 Wilkins; 4 Dyer; 5 Clark; 6 Birch; 7 Michael Prics (997 C2S); 8 Erceg; 9 Toon; 10 Moudi. Class Winners: Sumpter; Evans; Hazelton; Brett. Fastest Lap: Sumpter 1m15.220s (94.71mph).
 
Next Rounds: Brands Hatch, Kent, May 5th.