Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the UK, begins the second half of the season next weekend with a return to Thruxton for the first time since 2014. The grid of mechanically identical 485 hp 'Type 991' Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars will reach speeds approaching 170 mph around the UK’s fastest circuit, placing unique demands on the drivers.
18-year-old Porsche GB 2018 / 2019 Junior Dan Harper (JTR) arrives in Hampshire leading the championship standings with an unbroken run of victories in each of the weekend's opening races during 2019. Fresh from making his debut in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in support of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and appearing at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the on-form Porsche GB Junior will want to maintain his points advantage over his hard-charging rivals.
At Oulton Park, Porsche GB Junior Harper enjoyed a thrilling battle with one of his closest championship rivals – 26-year-old Lewis Plato (Motorbase Performance). Plato has raced to six podium finishes from eight races during 2019 – the kind of consistency that netted the 2018 Porsche Carrera Cup GB championship for Tio Ellinas. In round eight, Plato resisted massive pressure from Harper as the pair entertained 40,000 trackside spectators, dicing for the final podium position. Plato's mature and calm drive to third highlighted why the Essex-based racer – who took a Pro category victory at Croft – currently occupies second in the overall championship standings.
George Gamble (Amigos Redline Racing) arrived at Oulton Park with a completely rebuilt car following the Croft weekend. The 22-year-old reigning Rookie champion quickly set about making amends for his non-scoring weekend in North Yorkshire. With a podium result in round seven, Gamble made two crucial overtaking moves in round eight, gaining one place off the line at the start and another when passing Jamie Orton (JTR) for the race lead a few laps later – the passes secured Gamble his second outright victory of the season. The large haul of points took him into third position in the championship standings – leapfrogging 2014 Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion Josh Webster (Team Parker Racing) – as he enters the second half of his second season.
Former Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup driver and 2014 Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion Webster made a spectacular return to the championship at Donington Park – immediately establishing himself as one of 2019's championship challengers. One of a handful of drivers caught out by the wet conditions at Croft, Webster recovered to ensure he had recorded four podium results from as many races. In Cheshire, Webster scored points in both races but will desperately want to return to the podium at Thruxton, the scene of two second place finishes for him during his championship year of 2014 – the last time the Porsche Carrera Cup GB travelled to the fast Hampshire track.
Dan Vaughan (Motorbase Performance) has stepped up from a Pro-Am category campaign to the Pro category for 2019, where he has been involved in some close battles. Vaughan's best result so far this season has been second overall in the rain affected race at Croft – his maiden Pro category podium. Vaughan enters the second half of his session with a 10 point championship advantage over key rival Perez, who made the same step into the Pro category for 2019.
2018 Pro-Am category champion Perez is currently locked into a Pro category championship battle with Vaughan and Rookie Tom Roche (Rob Boston Racing). Perez secured two podium finishes in the first half of the 2019 season and took a points scoring finish in round seven at Oulton Park. The Derbyshire teenager joined his teammate Gamble in making a Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup debut at Silverstone in July, and Perez will look to use the experience of racing in the halo Porsche one-make series to good effect.
Welshman Tom Roche (Rob Boston Racing) enjoyed his strongest weekend to date last time out. Qualifying an impressive fourth for round seven, Roche fended off his attackers to maintain his position – recording his highest placed finish of the 2019 season. In round eight, the 32-year-old Rookie finished ahead of experienced guesting teammate Wrigley – equaling his performances at Brands Hatch and Croft – moving himself to within just four points of Jack McCarthy (Redline Racing) in the Rookie championship standings.
Jamie Orton (JTR) switched from the Pro-Am to the Pro category for Oulton Park, the 39-year-old having made the reverse switch in 2017 – completing a partial season in the Pro category before moving to Pro-Am. Two impressive races at Oulton Park vindicated the move, Orton finishing race one in fifth ahead of some tough competition. From a reverse grid race pole position in round eight, the Londoner was passed only by a hard charging Gamble to finish an impressive second overall, successfully fending off the advances of championship front runner Plato.
Having competed in more than 50 races since making his series debut in 2008, Karl Leonard (Team Parker Racing) is one of the most experienced Porsche Carrera Cup GB drivers on the 2019 grid. Leonard used that experience to his advantage in taking overall race victory in challenging conditions at Croft – the first time a Pro-Am competitor had won a race outright. The 43-year-old Dubliner added to his tally of category victories in Cheshire and has now stood on the Pro-Am podium's top step on four occasions. However, Leonard will need to keep an eye on rising star Esmee Hawkey (GT Marques) as she attempts to challenge his position.
Hawkey, who is conducting a tandem campaign with W Series in 2019, achieved her first category victory at Oulton Park. The milestone performance came as part of a string of seven podium finishes from eight races in 2019, the result propelling the 21-year-old to second place in the Pro-Am category championship standings – Hawkey now sits just nine points behind Leonard. Like many of her fellow competitors, Hawkey has never visited Thruxton before, but through her W Series and Porsche Carrera Cup GB commitments she has already proven her ability to adapt to new circuits across the world with ease.
Rookie Jack McCarthy (Redline Racing) has proven to be an exciting addition to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB grid in 2019, the newcomer recording a total of six Pro-Am category podium finishes from eight races – amongst them two category victories both achieved at Donington Park. The Oulton Park weekend was a tale of two halves for McCarthy with a DNF in race one, and a recovery drive to second in category in race two. Despite the podium result in Cheshire, McCarthy faces tough rivals in his Pro-Am category fight.
Newcomer Adam Hatfield (Valluga Racing) had a strong Porsche Carrera Cup GB debut weekend at Oulton Park, the former GT racer qualifying just 0.229 secs behind fellow Rookie and category rival McCarthy for round seven. He went on to finish second in category in his first Porsche Carrera Cup GB race. Arguably, Hatfield arrives at Thruxton with more of a level playing than he experienced at Oulton Park, due to the majority of the grid having similarly never raced a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup at the circuit.
Am category rivals Justin Sherwood (Team Parker Racing) and Peter Kyle-Henney (Team Parker Racing) both raced in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB during its previous visits to Thruxton. Sherwood has stood on the podium in every race so far this season, his unbroken record of appearances includes three category victories and leaves him leading the Am category championship at the session midpoint. Rival Kyle-Henney, the championship's most successful Am category driver with 25 wins, has enjoyed five podium appearances from five races – including three category victories from the previous four races. Rookie John Ferguson (Redline Racing) has also taken a victory this year at Donington Park, Ferguson continuing to make his presence felt despite being a category newcomer.
Returning to the Am category for the first time in 2019 is 2018 competitor Fraser Robertson (Redline Racing). Robertson was a spectacular entry to the grid over his debut season, amassing twenty points but never making it onto the podium – something he will have his sights set on for Thruxton.
Thruxton's unique lap with a high top speed, constant radius corners and big braking zones, will push the cars and drivers harder than anywhere else on the UK calendar. Coupled with only limited testing, and despite having the Carrera Cup GB technical team in full support, the majority of the grid will be stepping into new territory over the race weekend.