After a thrilling weekend at Brands Hatch, the top three Porsche Carrera Cup GB drivers – Michael Meadows, Stephen Jelley, James Sutton – go into the last round of the Championship with an equal chance of clinching the title
■Just twelve points covers the top three drivers after seventeen races, underlining just how close the racing has been between the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars this season■George Brewster and Keith Webster also take their Pro-Am2 title battle to the final race weekend at Silverstone on October 15/16■Pro-Am1 title clinched at Brands by jubilant Jonas GelzinisNick Tandy and Stephen Jelley shared victories in round 16 and 17 of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Brands Hatch over the weekend (1/2 October) as the action on the track was as hot as the record-breaking weather.
The packed grid of twenty-four 450 hp Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars were an impressive sight as they raced in the Kent sunshine, their distinctive flat-six engines echoing through the trees around the famous 2.3-mile Grand Prix circuit.
With Michael Meadows and James Sutton also achieving good results, the stage is set for a tense season finale between Meadows, Jelley and Sutton at Silverstone on October 16. However, the Pro-Am1 title is now secure in the hands of Jonas Gelzinis who clinched the category with a win in the opening race of the weekend. In Pro-Am2, title contenders George Brewster and Keith Webster both scored well and will now settle their title battle at Silverstone.
Tandy (Bedford) – who also races a 911 in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland and Porsche Supercup - got the start he wanted from pole position to head the field into Paddock Hill Bend and immediately set about building his lead as Sutton (London) followed in second from Jelley (Leicester) and Gelzinis (Lithuania).
At Surtees Bend further round the first lap, Porsche Carrera Cup GB Scholar Ben Hetherington (Hulme Walfield) was unfortunate to suffer a broken radiator after a tangle in the pack and consequently left coolant on the track. Next time around, the leaders were able to avoid the slippery section of track, but Rory Butcher (Kirkcaldy) slid wide and lost time and further back Pro-Am2 poleman Richard Denny (London) spun and dropped to the back of the pack. Up front, Tandy established his leading margin at up to two seconds as Sutton concentrated on fending off Jelley.
Gelzinis then ran wide at Surtees and lost a lot of ground slithering across the grass - he managed to rejoin just ahead of his Pro-Am1 rivals Ahmad Al Harthy (Oman), Butcher and Derek Pierce (West Kilbride).
“Over the first few laps I pushed to build a gap ahead of the pack,” said Tandy, who was never more than two and a half seconds clear of Sutton. “Then I eased off to protect the tyres and stay off the kerbs. We were all pushing hard.”
Sutton knew that chasing Tandy to the flag was a good result for his title ambitions, and he was able to fend off third-placed Jelley. “Nick is doing an extraordinarily good job; I thought I might be able to give him a race in the second half,” he said. “James put up with the pressure very well,” added Jelley after taking the final podium place.
Euan Hankey (Taunton) had run right behind Jelley for many laps before sliding off into the gravel at the Druids hairpin, and so Meadows (Banbury) moved through to fourth with Kieran Vernon (West Chiltington) and the recovering Gelzinis close behind. Richard Plant (Sheffield) dropped out of this battle prematurely with a puncture, as Al Harthy and Butcher battled for second in Pro-Am1. Pierce was another to go out with a puncture.
The action was just as busy in Pro-Am2 as Brewster (Aberdeen) went ahead in the early stages. However, Steve Parish (London) and Webster (Hook) chased hard and battled at just about every corner. Just as the three cars got very close together, Parish spun at Surtees and which delayed Webster and allowed Brewster to rebuild his leading margin. Webster never stopped chasing on his way to second while Yucel Ozbek (Turkey) took third, despite a spin at Paddock Hill Bend.
“That’s job done,” said Brewster. “I got a decent start and managed to avoid the dramas. Thankfully we got it to the end.” Webster, meanwhile, lost his chance of challenging Brewster when Parish spun out of the race.
“I had to back off big time when Steve spun,” he said.
From the start of the weekend’s second race, Tandy went clear, but a rear puncture ended his race after six laps. Thus it was Jelley who moved ahead to take a very important victory as Meadows and Hankey completed the overall podium. When Gelzinis also went out with a puncture, Al Harthy took the Pro-Am1 victory and the ‘Driver of the Weekend’ award. Denny drove a fine race to win Pro-Am2, while Celtic Speed clinched four podium finishes to earn the ‘Team of the Weekend’ award.
Tandy had everything under control at the head of the race until he plunged through Paddock Hill Bend for the seventh time. “As soon as I hit the compression at the bottom of the hill - just as I’ve done all weekend - the tyre went down,” said Tandy. “We think it might be a cut from a stone; it’s a disappointing end to a superb weekend.”
Jelley took over the lead and ran smoothly to the finish, but there was nearly disaster as he had a rear tyre go flat as the car stood in parc ferme after the race. “It got a bit racy in the first couple of laps, but someone was on my side today,” he smiled, having battled hard to take second place from Meadows at Surtees on the third lap.
Meadows had to spend the whole race defending second from Hankey and there was only a third of a second between them at the flag. “I didn’t seem to have the pace at the start and that was when Jelley made the move,” said Meadows. Hankey was pleased to be back on the podium as they stretched away from the battle between Sam Tordoff (Leeds) and Sutton. It was a strong run from Tordoff to fend off title contender Sutton as Vernon chased them home to round out the top six.
Gelzinis ran fifth overall in the early laps but was another to fall foul of a rear puncture and pulled off to retire, leaving Al Harthy to head the class under pressure from Butcher. Over the first half of the race Butcher attacked Al Harthy, but little by little Al Harthy edged clear for an impressive victory. “It was so important to get this win; it’s exactly what I needed,” he said. Alex Martin (Somerset) was heading for third in Pro-Am1 after a fighting drive, but another puncture put him out on the penultimate lap and so George Richardson (Alderley Edge) wrapped up the Pro-Am1 podium.
Denny was mighty in Pro-Am2 and won from the front as Ozbek fended off Brewster for second. “I had a good start and just drove as many qualifying laps as I could, and tried not to make any mistakes,” he said. “The team has worked so hard for this.” Ozbek had to race hard to hold off Brewster for second, while Webster got ahead of Parish for fourth after a long battle.
The scene is now set for a thrilling finale to the 2011 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship at Silverstone on October 15/16.