Sumpter Porsche Club Championship Double at Dramatic Rockingham

The Baylis & Harding Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli’s two Rockingham rounds proved exciting and drama-packed, Mark Sumpter taking both wins in his Paragon 964 C2, with Andy Toon and Mark Koeberle sharing Class Two honours at the Northants. circuit. Reigning champion John McCullagh had to switch cars after a qualifying incident and twice stormed through to fourth from the back of the grid.QualifyingTom Bradshaw headed the times for the whole of the morning’s qualifying session, the Hartech racer almost three seconds clear early on, and staying at the front despite losing his best time for exceeding the track limits. Team-mate John McCullagh was second quickest – but brought the session to an early end when he hit the wall between Gracelands and Tarzan. “The car felt a bit oversteery,” said Bradshaw ” but everyone else seems to be saying the same thing so I think that is more of a circuit issue. I found some time by outbraking myself at the hairpin, just managed to make it round, checked my timer and I was up for the lap, so I thought I’d just outbrake myself every lap! The times kept coming down, but there is no way we can go that quick in the race.”Mark McAleer was third quickest in his 996 C2, Sumpter fourth but another to fall foul of Rockingham’s walls, grazing the outside wall as he joined the oval and breaking a driveshaft. Kevin Harrison had his County Classics 964 C2 fifth with championship leader Pete Morris only sixth – on his first visit to Rockingham.Koeberle continued his run of form with eighth overall and quickest time of the Class Two runners, Richard Higgins second on his return to the series and his first run on the Pirelli slicks.“I’m pleased to be quickest,” said Koeberle, “we were testing yesterday and found a nice set-up.”Race OnePoleman Tom Bradshaw pulled off on the green flag lap, leaving Mark McAleer alone on the front row. At the start though it was the second row cars that got away well, Sumpter going inside McAleer and Harrison attempting to go round the outside into the first corner.Sumpter’s Paragon 964 C2 was clearly ahead as they reached the hairpin for the first time, and at the end of the opening lap was leading from Morris, Harrison and McAleer, McCullagh already up to seventh having had to start at the back of the grid as he was in a new car, his original Boxster being too damaged from his qualifying incident.The gaps in the top four varied as drivers took turns to back off a little in an attempt to cool their brakes and tyres on a hot Rockingham track, Morris, his car already running hot, losing out to Harrison at the hairpin and then McAleer into Tarzan on lap five to drop to fourth.Harrison looked to be closing in on Sumpter in the latter part of the race, but suddenly pulled off as he exited Chapman Curve with no gears. That elevated McAleer to second, with Morris now closing, but they stayed in that order for the remaining laps giving Sumpter his second win of the season, McAleer second and Morris continuing his perfect season of podium finishes in third. McCullagh finished fourth after a charging drive through the field, with Chris Dyer next up having fought his way past Jonathan Evans.“I got a good start,” said Sumpter, “and that proved to be really important as they were falling over each other behind and that left me clear at the front. I still don’t think this circuit really suits our car if I am honest, but the times were all pretty close on race pace, we lose a little bit on the straights but seem to be able to make it up again in the twisty bits.”“Mark made a really good start,” said McAleer, “and I was having to hold off Kevin Harrison on the outside. That was a hot and hard race, we were all having to back off at times to cool our cars, but I’m pleased with second.”“I was happy to finish on the podium,” said Morris, “I was having to push hard and when I saw Tom had pulled off I knew it was already a bonus for me. I could have pushed harder but this circuit is tough on the car and it was getting hot from the second lap – I had to have the heater on full blast again.”Toon was another to make a storming start to move into the Class Two lead at the start from fourth in class on the grid, benefitting from Mark Koeberle and Stuart Ings fighting over to second to stay clear for his second win of the season.“I started too far back in the class,” said Toon, “but by turn three I was leading. From then on I just tried to stay on the back of some Class One cars, I felt if I could hold their pace they would drag me along. A nice, easy clean race – but probably boring to watch as all the work was done on the first few corners.”Race TwoThe race two grid lined up without Bradshaw and Harrison, but gained Richard Ellis who had missed race one with a rocker problem on the engine of his 993 C2, the Strasse team sourcing one from their Leeds base and getting him up and running with minutes to spare. Sumpter again made a strong start to ease past McAleer into the lead, while McCullagh aced everyone from the back of the grid, passing three cars into Turn One then braking way later than the rest into the hairpin to emerge fifth.Sumpter led from McAleer, Morris and Ellis, while McCullagh became wrapped up in a fight for fifth with Dyer. Into the Deene hairpin for the fourth time McAleer looked to go inside Sumpter, as Morris tried to go even further inside the pair of them, the trio somehow emerging in the original order, Behind, Dyer looked inside McCullagh at the banked first corner, then the pair were side-by-side through Yentwood, McCullagh holding on to fifth.In the middle part of the race Morris dropped off McAleer, trying to cool the bakes and tyres on his 996 C2, before closing back in again. Into the high-speed first corner with a lap to go Morris lanced inside McAleer for second, and set off after Sumpter. A strong final lap saw Morris right with the leader, Sumpter taking the win by a nose as the cars overlapped over the finishing line.“We had another good start and I tried to do what I did in the first race,” said Sumpter, “but it was harder this time as they weren’t tripping over each other so much this time. I knew where my car was strong so when they got really close I’d brake at the apex and get a good exit to keep them behind.”“That was another hot race,” said Morris. “I was behind Mark McAleer and felt I had the pace to go by but I couldn’t take the risk. I sat back and got the tyres back a bit, but I was pleased with the move to go past him and just missed out at the end. It’s been a good day – everyone at the front seemed able to run on the same pace and its been a good weekend.”“Mark just keeps getting me off the line,” lamented McAleer. “He then drove a really good race and kept it tight where he needed to and blocked me in the places where I was a little bit quicker. I tried everything I could, I think I was quicker earlier in the race but he had the quicker car towards the end. A great race and really good fun – I made a slight mistake and Pete got his nose inside me.”Ellis sadly had to retire his 993 from fourth, which elevated the McCullagh – Dyer battle to be for that position. Contact at the chicane saw Dyer lose a headlight and McCullagh trail his rear bumper for a lap or two, McCullagh finally claiming fourth – his second charge through to that position from the back of the grid of the day.The battle for Class Two was just as frenetic, Koeberle leading from the start, but with Ings and Toon in close attendance. The class leader went wide at the hairpin on lap 11, Ings sliding past, but Ings went wide exiting Tarzan which let Koeberle get a run on him and go past, holding on to take his fourth class in the previous five races. Toon went past Ings to take second.“It all got a bit messy at one point but turned out good in the end,” said Koeberle. “It was very hot and out there and the brakes and tyres were hot but it was the same for all of us. I made a poor start in race one, but I got it right this time and it was an exciting race.”Baylis & Harding Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli, Race One: 1 Mark Sumpter (964 C2); 2 Mark McAleer (996 C2); 3 Pete Morris (996 C2); 4 John McCullagh (Boxster S); 5 Chris Dyer (Cayman S); 6 Jonathan Evans (Boxster S); 7 Andy Toon (968 CS); 8 Mark Koeberle (968 CS); 9 Stuart Ings (Boxster); 10 Jake McAleer (968 CS). Class Winners: Sumpter; Toon. Fastest Lap: McCullagh 1m38.360s (75.03mph).Race Two: 1 Sumpter; 2 Morris; 3 McAleer; 4 McCullagh; 5 Dyer; 6 Koeberle; 7 Evans; 8 Toon; 9 Ings; 10 Richard Higgins (968 CS). Class Winners: Sumpter; Koeberle. Fastest Lap: McAleer 1m38.068s (75.25mph).Next Races: Donington Park, East Midlands, Saturday August 23rd.