at Brands Hatch
The Porsche Open runners headed the field as the Open and Porsche Club Championship fields combined to provide a monster grid to entertain the large crowd at Brands Hatch's A1GP meeting. Paul McLean won Saturday's race after a puncture for Mike Donovan saw their battle ended on the final lap - Donovan taking second as he drove down the pit lane. Roles were reversed on Sunday as Donovan won, Peter Fairbairn retiring the car he shares with McLean.
Paul Winter took both Class Two wins, and a superb second overall on Sunday, while Tony Brown continued to impress in Class Three.
Qualifying Donovan claimed pole for Saturday's race, a second clear of McLean, who only did five laps in order to hand the car over to Fairbairn to gain some track time for his first race of the season. Winter continued his run of form to head Class Two and take third overall, with Brown the quickest Class Three car.
Race One McLean was initially slow away, but slipped past Donovan to take the lead, the two close round the first lap. Mark Chilton went off at Druids, but caused no race stoppage.
Donovan was putting McLean under pressure, looking for a way past at Paddock Hill Bend and Druids on lap four. The pair were quickly in traffic, McLean badly baulked by a slower car at the entry to Graham Hill Bend on lap seven. On lap eight the pair caught two fighting Porsche Club frontrunners, McLean again being briefly blocked and Donovan going past.
Donovan opened a gap, but McLean started to close in, invariably quicker over the first part of the lap. Together over the final laps, McLean was looking to the outside of Donovan into Hawthorns when the leader slowed with a rear puncture. McLean took the win, and such was the advantage of the lead pair that Donovan managed to limp round to the pits and still take second - crossing the line in the pit lane.
"Yet another exciting race with Mike Donovan!" said McLean. "I felt at times I caught the worst of the back-markers, and Mike got past me after I got blocked by a slower car. In the middle of the race my tyres went off a bit, but they came back near the end and I was able to close back in on him and push him hard.
"Going into Hawthorns at the end we were side by side, I had the speed from the previous corner so was trying to pressure him, and that was when he backed out and I presume he had a problem. I would have preferred to win by battling him all the way. At least I have given Pete a pole position start for tomorrow's race."
"That was an exciting race," said Donovan. "Paul has a lot more power, and is quicker down the straight, but I thought had him covered. I picked up a puncture - I thought at first it was just a tyre getting hot and causing oversteer, but on the way down to Hawthorns it started vibrating and I knew what it was. I was pleased to take second under the circumstances - even if it was in the pits!"
Winter was second for much of the race, but Paul Livesey was closing in and powered past to take third on lap 13. On the final lap Livesey just failed to catch the limping Donovan, on the pit straight as the former crossed the line.
"This car takes a while to warm up so I took it easy at the start," said Livesey. "We didn't get enough time in qualifying to do any set up work as I went off, and there is along way to go with this car and it still doesn't feel right on the circuit."
"I could see Paul coming, and Knew he could lap quicker than me," said Winter, who won Class Two. "I can catch him in the corners but he is way quicker on the straights. I did think I had a chance at one point through Dingle Dell, he missed a gear - but he pulled away down the straight. You get complacent about how quick these cars actually are - then you catch a backmarker and see the difference. The guys were brilliant though, very sensible when they saw us coming."
Tony Brown claimed his third Class Three victory of the season: "I was being consistent on my lap times, I just need more opposition in class! The race seemed to be cut a bit short, I had been watching in my mirrors for the leaders closing up and they went past just before the end."
Race Two Peter Fairbairn took over the race winning GT2 for Sunday's race, his first Open outing of 2008, but it was Donovan who led at the end of lap one, and on the next lap Fairbairn was slowing, the GT2 out with transmission woes.
Donovan extended his lead over the next laps, Livsesey having passed Winter to take second. Chilton's 993 was smoking, and pitted in response to the official's flags. By now the track was very slippery with oil, two Porsche Club cars going off at the exit of Surtees seeing the Safety Car come out with other cars also spinning.
Released to race again on lap seven, Livesey spun at the bottom of Paddock Hill Bend, and the Safety Car was again scrambled to move his 993. On the second re-start, Winter was right behind the leader as they crossed the line, and had a look at the leader at Druids before the power of the Class One car held sway.
Randeria, in his first weekend in a 993 RSR, was now third ahead of the battling Robin Clark and James Fillingham, Bob Lyons having pitted to have his windscreen cleared of oil. Donovan stayed clear till the flag, Winter taking second and winning Class Two.
"It was a frustrating race, the oil made it difficult to lap consistently," said Donovan. "I had to drive cautiously after the Safety Cars as it was so slippery. I was a bit slow away on the lights, but got a good start and went round the outside of Peter at the first corner. A win is a win!"
"It was so greasy out there," said Winter, "I could se everyone else struggling for grip. I had a look at Mike on the second restart into Druids - you have to have a go - but he has more power and was away."
"That was good fun, just every slippery," said Randerio. "It was ok when you were racing on your own, but tricky if you were battling with another car. Once you knew where the oil was you could drive round it, but it is my first weekend in this car and it has gone nicely - it's a good car to drive, and it was great to be on the car for the lap of the track after the race, there were a lot of people out there waving and sounding horns."
Brown had a lonely run to take Class Three, finding the lead battle of the Porsche Club runners right behind him during one of the Safety Car periods, and electing to let them by rather then compromise their race.
"After the Safety Car I had the Porsche Club lead battle right behind me," said Brown, "so I let them through then sat there and watched the entertainment! There were very evenly matched - I could probably do the Club race report myself! An enjoyable race even with the oil slick."
Porsche Open, Race One: 1 Paul McLean (993 GT2) 16 laps in 25m36.388s (138.8kph); 2 Mike Donovan (997 GT3) +39.530s; 3 Paul Livesey (993); 4 Paul Winter (996 GT3); 5 Bob Lyons (997 GT3); 6 Zubin Randeria (993 RSR); 7 James Fillingham (996 GT3); 8 Robin Clark (996 GT3); 9 Tony Brown (964 RSR); 10 Adrian Clark (928 GTS). Class Winners: McLean; Winter; Brown. Fastest Lap: McLean 1m33.693s (142.3kph). Pole Position: Donovan 1m34.636s (140.9kph).
Race Two: 1 Donovan 13 laps in 25m34.257s (113.0kph); 2 Winter +3.791s; 3 Randeria; 4 Robin Clark; 5 Fillingham; 6 Brown; 7 Lyons; 8 Adrian Clark. Class Winners: Donovan; Winter; Brown. Fastest Lap: Donovan 1m35.360s (139.8s). Pole Position: Peter Fairbairn (993 GT2).
Next Races: Silverstone, Northants, May 31st.