McCullagh and McAleer Take Contrasting Porsche Club Rockingham Wins

In just his third ever race Porsche Club Championship driver John McCullagh won the first of two races at Rockingham, Northants, July 16th, his rally experience paying off as he drove away from the field on a soaking track to take an impressive maiden win. In a dry race later in the day, former champion Mark McAleer gave his new 968 CS its first win, championship leader Mark Sumpter taking runner-up honours in each race to continue his unbroken run of podium finishes in 2011.QualifyingSumpter once more showed the worth of his 911 3.2 in the wet with quickest time late in qualifying, but it was Paul Ward who set the pace early, heading the field after eight minutes of the session, then going back ahead once McCullagh set a quicker time in the rain-lashed track.“It was really wet out there,” said Sumpter, “as bad as Silverstone at the end of last season. I was just trying to feel my way round and get some heat in the tyres, you had to edge away at things – lots of cars seemed to be going off. I hope it isn’t that wet in the races, it becomes an issue of survival.”“It was very slippery,” said McCullagh, “visibility was a problem but we got to grips with it and I am looking forward to the race. Towards the end to the session I was taking it easy, I only have the one set of tyres for today so need to look after them.”“The car was understeering like crazy,” said Ward, “I just tried to keep things smooth. I didn’t know I was quickest early in the session, our timing equipment wasn’t working.”Trouble hit some regular frontrunners, with Ben Demetriou pitting after two laps with a gearbox issue, and Pete Morris suffering handling problems.Race OneIt pouring rain Sumpter made a good start, but went wide as they reached the Deene hairpin for the first time, losing ground and letting McCullagh past. At the end of lap one it was McCullagh leading, Sumpter having already recovered to second ahead of Paul Follett and McAleer, with Demetriou up to sixth from the back of the grid.A brace of fastest laps from McCullagh saw him extend his lead, Sumpter spinning on the teeming track at Pif Paf and dropping to fifth as Follett moved into second with Demetriou up to third. Conditions were slowly improving, the lead seven cars al setting new individual best race laps on lap six, but it was still McCullagh setting the pace as he continued to widen the gap at the front.Demetriou went past Follett on lap seven to take second, McAleer looking to go by himself, only to lose momentum and be passed in turn by Sumpter. A lap later Sumpter was up to third, diving underneath Follett through the banked Turn One to take the position.Sumpter was back into second on lap 11 when he went inside Demetriou at Chapman, but McCullagh was long gone and out of reach of the rest and took his maiden Porsche Club Championship win. Sumpter took second, ahead of Demetriou – third from 14th on the grid – with McAleer fourth.“I got a good start and really after that it was a case of being careful and not making any mistakes,” said McCullagh. “I had a good run and the car was working well, I’m new to the sport but the car is easy to drive and it’s a lot of fun. You have to be more careful and precise than when I was rallying, you don’t enter corners quite so quickly as I used to, but it is paying dividends, it’s only my third race – I’m praying for rain I the second race but I am sure everyone else wants sunshine!”“I just couldn’t find any grip,” said Sumpter, “and it was so easy to lock the fronts into the hairpins. We had softened the car and stiffened it back up as the rain eased a bit before the race, and maybe that was the issue. I’m cross with myself that I spun, but I was happy to get back up to second. We tested in the dry yesterday, so it would be good to have a dry one later today.”“At the beginning I was just thinking that I was at the back anyway, so I might as well just see what happens,” said Demetriou. “Two cars stalled on the grid, and I made up places there, and I decided to have a bit of fun. I was right at the limit of the car, I couldn’t do anything more – but I didn’t turn my video camera on as I thought it would be a rubbish race in the rain, and it was one of my best drives!”Dyer headed home the Class Two runners, finishing tenth overall and having run higher early in the race as he got amongst the Class One runners.“I was trying to get ahead of some of the Class One guys,” said Dyer. “It was a good race and fun to get amongst them.Race TwoIn sharp contrast to race one, the final round of the day was held on a dry track with the sun shining, Sumpter again leading the field away, McAleer diving inside Mark Koeberle at the first hairpin for second and almost getting past the leader as well. Sumpter opened an early gap, but once into his stride McAleer began to close in as behind, Follett took third from Koeberle with Demetriou and Morris working their way up the field from lowly grid positions.It took McAleer until lap 12 to find a way past Sumpter’s 911, the Yorkshireman going down the inside into the Deene hairpin, but Sumpter immediately fought back, claiming the line into the next corner to regain his lead. A lap later McAleer made his move stick, pressuring Sumpter into just overshooting the hairpin, allowing McAleer’s black 968 CS to open a gap at the front the former overall champion was never going to squander.Behind the lead battle it was a close battle for the remaining places. Morris went past Demetriou at the hairpin on lap 12 to take fourth and set off after Follett, Koeberle having slipped to sixth in the heat of the action. Follett and Morris went round the Tarzan hairpin side by side on lap 15, Morris on the outside at the exit, which gave him the inside line into the Brook chicane to take third.“I knew the car was quick, we finally got the conditions to show it,” said McAleer. “I got inside Mark Sumpter at the first corner and he got back ahead, but I knew I just had to keep pressuring him and he would make a mistake. I’m pleased to start winning again!”“It was all going well until the brakes started to go,” said Sumpter, “it’s the strength and differences of the cars. He was good on the brakes at the hairpin, and he got me once, but I was able to go back ahead at the next corner. I pushed hard to try to pull away and then slightly outbraked myself and that was it really. Our times were close, it was whoever was going to be in front at the end. Two seconds is great for the points.”“I was in the wrong gear at the start – and pulled away in third!” said Morris. “Everyone went past me so I decided to charge and see what happened. It was a cracking race and I had a gaggle of cars I had to fight my way through, but the lead two were long gone by the time I got here. I really enjoyed that.”Dyer took a Class Two double, in the thick of a multi-car battle for sixth place which entertained for much of the race. Ellis fought his way through the squabbling pack to take sixth, ahead of Koeberle and Dyer, Richard Higgins retiring from the battle.“That was a brilliant race, I really like Rockingham,” said Dyer. “It seems to favour the brave and you can carry the speed in these cars in the quick corners. It has been a good day for us.”Porsche Club Championship Race One: 1 John McCullagh (968 CS) 13 Laps; 2 Mark Sumpter (911 Carrera 3.2) +11.308s; 3 Ben Demetriou (968 Cs); 4 Mark McAleer (968 CS); 5 Richard Higgins (968 CS); 6 Paul Follett (968 CS); 7 David Botterill (964 C2); 8 Karim Moudi (993 C2); 9 Richard Ellis (993 C2); 10 Chris Dyer (944 S2). Class Winners: McCullagh; Dyer. Fastest Lap: Higgins 1m53.612s (61.47mph).Race Two: 1 McAleer 16 Laps; 2 Sumpter +2.850s; 3 Peter Morris (968 CS); 4 Follett; 5 Demetriou; 6 Ellis; 7 Mark Koeberle (968 CS); 8 Dyer; 9 McCullagh; 10 Botterill. Class Winners: McAleer; Dyer. Fastest Lap: McAleer 1m34.512s (73.89mph).Next Rounds: Oulton Park, Cheshire, August 13th 2011.