It was a day of firsts as the Porsche Club Championship visited Donington Park on Saturday June 30th, Mark McAleer giving the 996 C2 its first win in the series in the opening race, while in the later round Richard Ellis took his first outright win, with Tim Speed claiming his debut Class Two victory. Add to that a debut pole for Ellis, quickest in qualifying for both races, and for Class Two’s Mark Koeberle in the second race, and it was all change for the series at the East Midlands circuit.
With championship leader Mark Sumpter not at Donington and second placed Alex Eacock eliminated after a qualifying incident – it was all to play for in the points table, Paul Follett profiting after a win and a second place in Class Two.
Andy Purdie headed the times early in qualifying, but as the session went on Pete Morris was the first to duck under the 80-second mark before Ellis stamped his authority on the session in his 993 C2 to be quickest ahead of McAleer and Morris.
“Everything just went perfectly,” said Ellis, “we knew the car would be strong here and we just made a few adjustments that really made a difference. I could see I was quicker than Mark McAleer in certain places so it’s looking good for the race.”
In Class Two Alex Eacock set the quickest time, but his session was curtailed when he came together with the Boxster of Stuart Ings, the accident damage seeing both taking no further part in the day’s action.
In front of a large crowd round five opened Donington’s race action, McAleer sitting out with Poleman Ellis into the first corner before having to give best at the exit and slot into second ahead of Purdie and Morris. Mark Proctor made a storming start to go past the Boxsters of Ben Demetriou and Marcus Carniel on the row in front and come round fifth at the end of lap one.
Ellis was being pressured by McAleer, having to be defensive into certain corners, but held on at the front as Morris went past Purdie on lap two and Proctor closed on the lead group. The lead pair crossed the line side-by-side to start six, but Ellis had the inside line into Redgate and emerged still in front. A lap later it was McAleer to the front though, going past at the Old Hairpin.
Morris slipped past Ellis to take second on eight, only for Ellis to return the gesture a two laps later. It all changed in the chicane on lap 12, Proctor, who had moved up the order, going inside Ellis on the way in, which compromised the former leader’s exit and saw him passed by both Purdie and Morris on the way down to the first corner.
With the leaders in backmarkers the gaps fluctuated, but Proctor eased closer to McAleer to be within a second with a lap to go, though the leader had enough in hand to stay clear. Purdie clamed third after Morris slid off on lap 14, Ellis taking fourth ahead of Demetriou and Chris Dyer in the final results.
“That was full-on for 25-minutes,” said McAleer, “which is how it should be and I really enjoyed it! My advantage was being at the front while everyone behind were tripping over themselves, my only real worry was the backmarkers. It is nice to show we are getting to grips with the 996 and seeing how it works, and great to be the first to give the car a win.”
“We are starting to make a habit of podiums, we just need to get on the top step,” said Proctor. “It was crucial to get the Boxsters on the start, then it was a case of watching what was going on ahead, Ellis was doing a cracking job to stay in front but Mark was quicker than him. When Mark got past Ellis I knew I had to go, there were moves going on all over, it was a good race and if we can do the same again we might get that win.”
“It was a bit of a blur,” said Purdie, “you almost didn’t want to be leading as you were just a target sat out there. We had five cars of equal pace and we were just all over each other, coming third felt like having a podium in a 24-hour race! I rushed a couple of gear changes and lost ground each time, but it was always going to be a tricky race and each time you made a move it let the others close in.”
In the absence of Eacock, Koeberle was the leading Class Two car on the grid, but he lost ground on the opening lap leaving Follett well clear in the class, an advantage he was not to squander over the rest of the race. Richard Higgins and Speed fought over second in class, the latter finally taking the position.
“This time I was fortunate to win,” said Follett, “everyone else was squabbling amongst themselves and two-thirds of the way through the race I was looking in the mirror and wondering where everyone was. The car went well and I am starting to use it!”
Race two again saw Ellis and McAleer brave it out side-by-side through the first corner, a quick-starting Purdie right with them. Purdie was into second before the end of the lap, while Proctor, who had started fifth, lost places going through Old Hall.
Ellis was slow through the chicane for the first time which put Purdie right with him, the Paragon car going past later in the lap leaving Ellis under pressure from Morris, McAleer and Demetriou. He responded with a fastest lap that bought him breathing space from Morris, who led McAleer and Proctor’s recovering 993 C2, which had got past Demetriou.
Purdie held sway at the front, Ellis back on terms by lap 12, the pair going through Redgate together, Purdie holding Ellis wide to get the better exit and stay ahead. A lap later Ellis made a move through Redgate that saw him get the better exit and move ahead, Purdie’s 964 C2 immediately under pressure from Morris, the leaders working their way through backmarkers as their battle raged.
In second Purdie again had to defend as Morris went to the outside into Redgate, their dice and backmarkers seeing Ellis ease away in the final laps to take his debut Porsche Club Championship victory. Purdie led Morris across the line by a nose, with Proctor fourth leading home Demetriou and Dyer, McAleer retiring.
“I kept people behind once I was back in front, but that was a battle with Andy Purdie,” said Ellis “I sneaked past at Redgate and then just had to concentrate and pick my moments to pass. It has been a great weekend, two poles and a win – I got mugged in the first race but I’ll know to watch out for that next time!”
“Richard had some real pace,“ said Purdie, “ I thought I could try to back him into Pete Morris but even pushing hard he could come back at me. Once he got past I was back fighting with Pete, our in-car footage should be pretty exciting. Today has been two of the hardest races I have ever done, even when leading I wasn’t banking on the win, even though you want, it but I’m happy with second and it has been a good run lately.”
“I wanted to lead,” said Morris, “but the guys in front were quick so I thought I’d sit there and we could leave the Boxsters behind. All you had to do was make one mistake and you had to work so hard to get back there, my brakes were going but I could see Andy’s tyres were going too and we had some good moments, all good close racing with no contact. It’s nice to finish on the podium.”
The Class Two battle was equally close, Follett and Koeberle, the nose of his car remodelled after a race one incident, trading places before Speed closed in and made it a three car squabble. Speed ultimately got the better of the scrap, heading home Follett and Koeberle.
“Very pleased to take the win and to get past Paul, even though I didn’t expect to catch him” said Speed. “He got held up at the chicane and I was able to out-drag him into the first corner. We still have a few things to work on with the car, but delighted with the day.”
Porsche Club Championship Round Five: 1 Mark McAleer (996 C2) 19 Laps; 2 Mark Proctor (993 C2) +0.429s; 3 Andrew Purdie (964 C2); 4 Richard Ellis (993 C2); 5 Ben Demetriou (Boxster S); 6 Chris Dyer (968 CS); 7 Marcus Carniel (Boxster S); 8 Kevin Harrison (964 C2); 9 John McCullagh (968 CS); 10 Paul Follett (968 CS). Class Winners: McAleer; Follett. Fastest Lap: Pete Morris (996 C2) 1m19.646s (89.45mph).
Porsche Club Championship Round Six: 1 Ellis 19 Laps; 2 Purdie +6.413s; 3 Morris; 4 Proctor; 5 Demetriou; 6 Dyer; 7 McCullagh; 8 Harrison; 9Tim Speed (968 CS); 10 Follett. Class Winners: Ellis; Speed. Fastest Lap: Ellis 1m19.287s (89.85mph).
Next Rounds: Croft, North Yorkshire, July 21st.