Rookies shine at Brands Hatch Porsche Carrera Cup GB

 Rookies shine at Brands Hatch Porsche Carrera Cup GB

Brands Hatch Indy, rounds 3 and 4 – report

Porsche Carrera Cup GB – the fastest single-marque GT racing championship in the UK – arrived in Kent with exciting newcomers and established names fighting for an early championship advantage. Dutchman Robert de Haan (Richardson Racing) mastered the 1.208-mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit taking two wins on the road. However, he was denied his round four victory after it was deemed he had gained an advantage under Safety Car conditions. The amended result handed a maiden victory to James Kellett (Rosland Gold by Century Motorsport).

Kellett drove to the first pole position of his Porsche racing career in qualifying, the Rookie overcoming difficult wet weather conditions to set a lap time just 0.001 seconds quicker than de Haan's best effort. Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2022 / 2023 Junior Adam Smalley (Duckhams Yuasa Racing with Team Parker) would start the weekend's first race from third on the grid. Max Bird (Team Redline Racing) was the pacesetting Pro-Am category driver, fending off challenges from Ross Wylie (Team Redline Racing) and Ryan Ratcliffe (Team Parker Racing). Justin Sherwood (Parker Classic Works) had the advantage over Am category rivals David Stirling (Redline Racing) and David Fairbrother (Toro Verde GT).

The weekend's first race took place in dry and sunny conditions. Kellett was slow away at the start which allowed de Haan to take the lead, but Gus Burton (Rosland Gold by Century Motorsport) made contact with the barriers at Paddock Hill scrambling the Safety Car. When the race restarted, de Haan quickly built a healthy margin in the lead ahead of chasers Smalley and Charles Rainford (CCK Motorsport), which was how the order would stay to the flag. Wylie was the top Pro-Am driver, finishing ahead of Bird and Ollie Jackson (JTR), while Sherwood took Am category glory.

Kellett made a better start in the weekend's second race to assume an early lead, but following a Safety Car period he was overtaken by a flying de Haan. The 16-year old then built an impressive 7.3 second gap to cross the finish line first. However, following the race de Haan received a two-place penalty, the decision promoting Kellett to a maiden victory. Rainford moved up to second with de Haan relegated to third. Wylie took another Pro-Am category win while Sherwood added to his growing tally of Am category victories.

The weekend's first 45-minute practice session took place on Friday morning in dry weather conditions following an earlier rain shower. Smalley was the early pacesetter, however, soon bettering his initial benchmark time of 46.076 with a 45.912. Burton and Kellett came next in the Pro category order. The Pro-Am battle was initially led by Angus Whiteside (Century Motorsport) with Ratcliffe and Bird giving chase, Fairbrother topping Am rivals Sherwood and Stirling.

The second half of the session was interrupted by two red flag periods, the first to enable the recovery of Ratcliffe's stricken car after he found the gravel trap at Paddock Hill. The circuit returned to green flag conditions with 10 minutes remaining on the clock, but with four minutes to go an off for Fairbrother drew proceedings to an early close. Smalley's time would stand as the morning's fastest lap with Giddings the quickest in Pro-Am and Sherwood ahead in Am.

The day's second practice session took place in dry and sunny conditions. Early into the session Fairbrother suffered a spin on the Brabham Straight before continuing. Hugo Ellis (JTR) was the quickest driver overall, leading Rainford and de Haan before the latter moved ahead with a time of 46.382. In Pro-Am, Jason Lockwood (EXCELR8 Motorsport) led category rivals Ratcliffe and Wylie, while in Am Sherwood had the pace over Fairbrother and Stirling.

The second half of the session saw de Haan improve, his time of 45.987 would stand as the fastest of the afternoon. Jake Giddings (Parker Classic Works) became the Pro-Am category pacesetter while Lockwood suffered an off bringing out the red flags. The session restarted with less than 10 minutes on the clock, but with three minutes to go a second red flag period brought the session to an early finish. Youngster de Haan topped the timesheet with Giddings the fastest Pro-Am and Sherwood ahead in Am.

Saturday afternoon's 30-minute qualifying session took place in wet conditions. Smalley set the first benchmark time of 51.608, while Wylie led the Pro-Am category drivers and Sherwood topped Am. As the rain began to increase, de Haan moved to the top of the timing screen with a 51.555, Smalley and Burton giving chase. Sherwood and Frazer McFadden (Toro Verde GT) were the first of several drivers to have lap times deleted for exceeding track limits. Bird was next but not before he moved ahead of his Pro-Am category rivals to sit fifth overall.

In the second half of the session Kellett was one of the only drivers to improve, as the conditions deteriorated further the newcomer moved to third overall – 0.163 adrift of provisional pole sitter de Haan. With 12 minutes of qualifying remaining, Henry Dawes (Century Motorsport) spun on to the grass at Surtees before continuing his session. Shortly afterwards Ratcliffe improved to third in Pro-Am behind Bird and Wylie, Ratcliffe's time just 0.002 seconds ahead of the best effort of Josh Stanton (JTR).

In the closing stages of the session Burton and Kellett were the drivers on the move, the latter improving with a 51.666 before posting a 51.593 – enough to move up into second spot and split de Haan and Smalley, 0.053 seconds now covering the trio. With just one minute left on the clock Kellett went faster still, conquering the tricky wet weather conditions to snatch pole position – his time of 51.544 just 0.001 seconds better than de Haan's earlier effort. Bird remained the quickest Pro-Am driver with Sherwood ahead in Am.

The 2023 Porsche Carrera Cup GB weekend format meant that Kellett earned two championship points with his maiden pole position, as did the top qualifiers in their respective categories: Bird (Pro-Am) and Sherwood (Am).

Race one
The weekend's first race took place in dry and sunny conditions following a 45-minute delay, the schedule running behind as a result of an incident in an earlier race. When the lights went out Kellett was slow away which allowed de Haan to snatch the lead. Just behind came Smalley, Burton and Kellett who drove three-wide through Paddock Hill. Squeezed to the outside, Burton went into the gravel trap and made contact with the barriers which brought out the Safety Car.

de Haan led Smalley and Rainford – up from fifth – behind the Safety Car. In Pro-Am Wylie was ahead of Bird and Jackson, the early Am order Sherwood from Fairbrother and Stirling. The race resumed with 22 minutes remaining on the clock. On lap nine Stanton and Giddings left the circuit at McLaren before rejoining, while de Haan began to build a healthy gap to the chasing Smalley. Another driver on the move was Theo Edgerton (Redline Racing), having gained seven places at the start he continued his charge, attacking Wylie for sixth.

On lap 13 Stirling suffered an off at Graham Hill before rejoining, soon afterwards driving in to the pit lane and taking no further part in the race. Micah Stanley (Richardson Racing) overtook Bird for ninth and the pair soon began to catch a developing battle for sixth between Wylie, Edgerton and Ellis. Stanley closed on Ellis and looked for an opportunity at Druids but he was denied, then diving to the inside at Clearways where there was contact. Ellis lost the position and was forced to defend from Bird, quickly closing the door.

On lap 27 Aspin began to put Jackson under increasing pressure for the final Pro-Am category podium position. He tried the outside line at Druids on two consecutive laps before eventually finding a way through in the closing stages of the race. In the final few laps, a recovering Stanton also passed Seb Melrose (Richardson Racing) for 18th, while McFadden suffered a spin on Hailwoods Hill before continuing his race.

At the flag de Haan took the second win of his Porsche racing career, Smalley second with Rainford third. Wylie remained ahead in Pro-Am, joined on the category podium by Bird and Aspin. Sherwood and Fairbrother formed the Am category podium.

For recording the fastest lap in each of their respective categories, de Haan (Pro), Wylie (Pro-Am), and Sherwood (Am) each received one additional championship point. As part of the 2023 podium procedure, winner de Haan selected at random the number four ball, which reversed the grid positions of the top four overall finishers from the opening race. That made the grid order for the weekend's second race Kellett and Rainford on the front row, Smalley and de Haan on row two.

Following the race, Aspin was given a one place grid penalty for the weekend's second race for an incident with Jackson.

Race two
The weekend's second race took place in warm and sunny conditions on Sunday afternoon. Kellett made a good start to lead into the first corner, Rainford slotted in behind while Smalley came under attack from de Haan. Lockwood left the circuit at Druids while Fairbrother suffered a spin at the next corner, Graham Hill. Fairbrother would rejoin the race but come to a halt on the circuit at Surtees. On the same lap, lap two, Rainford, de Haan and Smalley engaged in a battle for second. de Haan passed Rainford at Druids then Smalley on the approach to Graham Hill, but at the same time the Safety Car was deployed.

While the stranded car of Fairbrother was recovered from Surtees, Kellet led de Haan and Rainford behind the Safety Car. In Pro-Am, Wylie was ahead of Jackson and Aspin, while Sherwood led Stirling in Am. Under Safety Car conditions Lockwood returned to the pits to make his retirement. Following the restart on lap seven, de Haan mounted a challenge on leader Kellett, getting a run through Clark Curve and ahead before Paddock Hill. Attentions soon turned to a fight between Aspin, Jackson, Bird and Burton for tenth. Burton overtook Bird, but was soon re-passed at Paddock Hill, Burton then falling back into the clutches of Harry Foster (Duckhams Yuasa Racing with Team Parker).

On lap 15 Aspin received a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits, making the Pro-Am order on corrected time Wylie from Jackson and Bird. On lap 18 Bird overtook Aspin for 11th at Paddock Hill, Burton then following him through at Druids. Jackson now led a train of seven cars on the track including Bird, Burton, Aspin, Foster, Ratcliffe and Whiteside. However, Aspin's impending penalty meant that he was not racing for position. On lap 25 Bird moved to the inside of Jackson at Clearways which resulted in side-to-side contact between the pair, but Bird got ahead for 10th.

As de Haan built an increasing lead at the front of the race there was action further back. Edgerton passed Stanley for sixth at Graham Hill, while a few laps later Foster and Aspin engaged in their own close fight. In the closing stages of the race Smalley began to home in on Rainford in the scrap for the final podium spot. The Junior repeatedly gained under braking for Druids but lost ground at Graham Hill – the order remaining the same to the chequered flag.

When the leaders crossed the finish line de Haan enjoyed a 7.3-second advantage over Kellett with Rainford hanging on for third. Wylie took Pro-Am honours once more, joined on the category podium by Bird and Ratcliffe. Sherwood and Stirling created the Am category podium. For recording the fastest lap in each of their respective categories, de Haan (Pro), Bird (Pro-Am) and Sherwood (Am) each received one additional championship point.

Following the race de Haan was given a penalty for gaining an advantage under Safety Car conditions, demoted two places to third. This saw Kellett awarded a maiden victory and promoted Rainford to second.

Following the Brands Hatch weekend Smalley retains an early Pro category championship advantage over de Haan with Matthew Graham (Redline Racing) sitting third overall. Two category wins for Wylie means he closes to within 10 points of Bird in the Pro-Am standings. Sherwood's weekend in Kent puts him further ahead in the Am category table. The championship continues at Thuxton, the UK's fastest circuit hosting rounds five and six over the weekend of 3 and 4 June 2023.

Championship positions*

Adam Smalley - Duckhams Yuasa Racing with Team Parker - 38
Robert de Haan - Richardson Racing - 32
Matthew Graham - Redline Racing - 20

Max Bird - Team Redline Racing - 42
Ross Wylie - Team Redline Racing - 32
Ryan Ratcliffe - Team Parker Racing - 22

Justin Sherwood - Parker Classic Works - 47
David Fairbrother - Toro Verde GT - 24
David Stirling - Redline Racing - 15

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