Porsche Centres Bournemouth and Wolverhampton win at Snetterton
Norfolk’s Snetterton 300 circuit hosted the penultimate meeting of the Porsche Classic Restoracing Championship 2019 on Saturday 27 July. Rounds seven and eight were run in a grid combined with the Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli for the second time this season. Creating a combined grid of 32 grassroots Porsche racers, 14 mechanically identical ‘Type 986’ Boxster S race cars finished in a range of iconic Porsche racing liveries competed as part of a weekend of GT racing – headlined by the GT Cup Championship, which features challengers from the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid such as the 'Type 981' Cayman GT4 and 911.
Porsche Classic Restoracing Championship leader Ben McLoughlin (Porsche Centre Bournemouth) started both rounds from the front row of the grid, securing a dominant lights-to-flag victory in the morning's wet race. However, in a nail-biting race two, McLoughlin was overtaken on the very last lap by rising star William Heslop (Porsche Centre Wolverhampton). Snetterton generated equally exciting Porsche Boxster racing action throughout the field with distinguished performances by Paul Blakesley (Porsche Centres Cambridge, Colchester South London and East London) and Ollie Coles (Porsche Centre Swindon) – each recording podium finishes.
With two races of the 2019 season remaining, established pacesetter McLoughlin has now been beaten to the top step of the podium twice – by promising newcomer Matt Bird (Premier Panel Skills), and now by rising star Heslop. As the car not the driver scores points in the Porsche Classic Restoracing Championship, Heslop and co-driver Christian Short, plus the pairing of James Cannon and Paul Blakesley remain McLoughlin's closest championship rivals.
Round seven was conducted in wet conditions and scheduled to last for a duration of 25 minutes. Driving the car resplendent in the iconic "Pink Pig" livery – paying homage to the famous Porsche 917/20 raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1971 – William Heslop (Porsche Centre Wolverhampton) started the day's first race from a Restoracing pole position alongside championship leader Ben McLoughlin (Porsche Centre Bournemouth). Directly behind came Simon Ruffell-Ward (Porsche Centre Leeds) in third and Paul Blakesley (Porsche Centres Cambridge, Colchester South London and East London) in fourth.
At the start McLoughlin jumped ahead of Heslop for the lead of the race while just behind Ruffell-Ward lost out to Blakesley – McLoughlin, Heslop and Blakesley running in close formation early on. With the rain abating as soon as lap two, McLoughlin pulled away at the front while a charging Blakesley overtook pole-sitter Heslop for second. Wayne Minogue (Porsche Centre Nottingham) and Ruffell-Ward also traded places, Minogue snatching fifth. Mike Thompson (Porsche Centre Bolton) in the Wally's Jeans liveried entry and Scot Adams (Porsche Centre Cardiff) became engaged in a close scrap for eighth – Adams maintaining the advantage.
On lap six a thrilling four-way fight for eleventh ignited between Steven Shore (Shorade), Carl Hazelton (Porsche Centre Chester), Mark Duncan (Porsche Centre Glasgow) and Mark McCullough (Porsche Centre Hatfield) – McCullough eventually dropping off the back of the trio ahead as they fought for position. Just ahead Thompson led a battle for eighth from Ollie Coles (Porsche Centre Swindon) and Julian Morris (Elite Motors) – Morris leaping ahead of Coles before setting after Thompson.
With five minutes of racing remaining, McLoughlin led Blakesley by 17 seconds. Adams finally found a route around Ruffell-Ward for sixth and immediately pulled away from his rival, meanwhile Thompson now had Coles and Morris in very close proximity as they fought for eigth. On the penultimate lap of the race the dice for position between the three drivers saw Morris pass Coles before almost immediately losing track position as Coles and Thompson passed him. McLoughlin took the chequered flag to claim his sixth victory of the season, and was joined on the Porsche Classic Restoracing Championship podium by Blakesley and Heslop.
Round eight of the championship welcomed McLoughlin to pole position ahead of a 25 minute race in dry conditions. The championship leader – running the maximum 60kgs of success ballast – was joined on the front row of the Porsche Classic Restoracing Championship grid by Heslop, Ruffell-Ward occupied third with Blakesley alongside him in fourth. At the start of the race Ruffell-Ward, Beckett and Adams all lost places as Heslop kept leader McLoughlin in his sights at the front. Minogue, Morris and Thompson quickly became embroiled in a fight for fifth, Morris and Thompson keeping in close formation throughout the race.
On lap seven, Beckett, Hazelton and McCullough developed a battle in the middle of the pack that would ebb and flow for a number of laps – Beckett ultimately maintaining his advantage over his rivals. The battle for the lead of the race soon intensified, Heslop closing to within one second of leader McLoughlin before the latter pulled away once more – extending the gap to over three seconds. Not letting the leader get away, Heslop rapidly closed back down onto McLoughlin's rear bumper. On lap eight Coles generated a successful move on Blakesley for the final podium position – demoting the race one podium finisher to fourth.
On the penultimate lap of the race, Heslop was right with McLoughlin. McLoughlin was faster in the first part of the lap, Heslop in the last sector. As the pair started their final tour Heslop looked to mount a pass at Riches – his unsuccessful challenge losing him ground. Down the Bentley Straight a recovering Heslop slipstreamed McLoughlin to move alongside his rival around the outside of Brundle, giving him the inside line into the next corner – Nelson. Emerging from Bomb Hole ahead, Heslop just needed to maintain his lead through Coram, Murrays and down the Senna Straight, which he duly did so to take his first victory of the season by just over three tenths of a second from McLoughlin.
Joining a clearly elated Heslop on the podium were McLoughlin and Coles, while Blakesley continued his impressive weekend bringing his car home in a strong fourth. Despite their close race-long duel, Morris maintained fifth from Thompson, Beckett took seventh at the flag ahead of Minogue, Hazelton, McCullough, Adams, and Ruffell-Ward. The final Porsche Classic Restoracing Championship finishers were Shore and Duncan.
Rounds nine and ten – the final races of the Porsche Classic Restoracing Championship 2019 – will take place on Oulton Park's 2.7 mile International circuit on 31 August. McLoughlin will look to end his 2019 season on a high, but a growing list of challengers behind – including a returning Matt Bird – will make it an interesting fight.
Image: A grid combined with the Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli saw 32 grassroots Porsche racers take to the track