Porsche Sprint Challenge GB battles escalate at action-packed Croft

Porsche Sprint Challenge GB battles escalate at action-packed Croft

The Porsche Sprint Challenge GB returned to action following its summer break, with three races taking place at Croft circuit in North Yorkshire. Thousands of spectators at the track, and those watching at home via live TV coverage, witnessed two wins for Matthew Armstrong (Team Parker Racing) followed by a maiden victory for local hero Max Coates (Team Omologato by Graves Motorsport) in the weekend’s thrilling final encounter.

Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session was one of the closest in championship history. Several drivers were in contention for pole position with Steve Roberts (Redline Racing), Armstrong, Coates and Joe Warhurst (Team Parker Racing) all taking a turn at the top of the timing screen. Locals Warhurst and Coates would start on the front row of the grid for the weekend’s first race with Matthew Kyle-Henney (SW Engineering) the fastest Am. Armstrong’s qualifying session resulted in him securing pole position for Round 8 with overall Snetterton winner, Marc Warren (Raceway Motorsport), topping the Am category drivers.

Warhurst led from the start of the weekend’s first race, followed by Armstrong, with William Jenkins (Century Motorsport) just behind. In Am, Warren overtook Kyle-Henney while Callum Davis (CCK Motorsport) engaged in a fight with Reece Somerfield (Breakell Racing). Warhurst extended his lead throughout the 20-minute race, crossing the finish line first, with Armstrong second and Coates third, while Warren remained ahead to clinch Am glory. After the race, Warhurst was deemed to have been out of position at the start – with a 10 second penalty applied he was demoted to fourth and Armstrong handed victory.

Keen to improve his weekend, Warhurst snatched the lead at the start of the second race before tricky damp weather conditions caused him to slide off the circuit. The Yorkshireman recovered, but not before Armstrong had leapt into first place. Armstrong stayed ahead to the flag despite the difficult weather conditions, followed home by Coates and Jenkins. Meanwhile, Davis finished ahead in Am, securing his fourth category victory of the season.

Armstrong led at the start of the weekend’s final race but Trice soon snatched the lead, successfully defending the advances of Coates as an action-packed race unfolded behind. Several drivers were in contention for podium results in both categories, however, the race came to an early conclusion when Davis made contact with the barriers calling for the race to be stopped. Trice won on the road but a post-race penalty ultimately awarded a win to Coates – the maiden win of his Porsche racing career.

Saturday's 30-minute qualifying session took place in dry and warm conditions. Roberts was the early pacesetter, his time of 1:23.568 0.059 seconds faster than that of the chasing Jenkins, with Coates slightly adrift in third. Warren was initially the quickest Am in fourth overall, followed by the re-categorised Somerfield and Davis. With 17 minutes remaining on the clock, Armstrong launched a challenge for pole position, setting a time of 1:23.283 to top the timing screen.

At the midpoint of the session, the drivers pitted for fresh Michelin slick racing tyres. During the second half of qualifying, Coates and Roberts both improved, the former moving up to second, 0.098 seconds off Armstrong’s benchmark time. Just 0.114 seconds now separated the top three of Armstrong, Coates and Roberts. With four minutes to go, Coates went quickest with a time of 1:23.233, while Kyle-Henney became the fastest Am. In the final minute, Warhurst leapt into provisional pole position with a 1:23.165.

A driver's fastest- and second-fastest laps are used to form the grid for races one and two, with the grid for race three determined by the finishing positions of race two. Warhurst secured pole position for Round 7, with Kyle-Henney topping Am. Armstrong would start from pole for the weekend’s second race, with Warren lining up ahead of his Am category rivals.

Race one
The weekend's first race took place late on Saturday afternoon in dry conditions. Warhurst led into the first corner followed by Armstrong, while Coates slipped back but regained lost ground in the run to Tower Bend – he ended the opening lap in third. Meanwhile, Jenkins and Roberts lost out in the early stages as Trice moved up the order to finish the first lap in fourth position. In the Am category battle Warren got ahead of Kyle-Henney with Davis third, however he soon came under attack from Somerfield, the pair dicing for position at the Hairpin.

As Warhurst extended his lead, Coates closed on Armstrong for second. Just behind, Jenkins began to pressure Trice for fourth, and on lap four he found a way through, Trice taking to the grass during the scuffle allowing Roberts to overtake. Now ahead, Roberts quickly found a way by Jenkins for fourth. Leader Warhurst enjoyed a growing cushion back to Armstrong as Coates continued to look for an opportunity to snatch second – Coates was quicker out of Tower Bend and through the Jim Clark Esses but Armstrong was able to successfully defend his spot. Armstrong and Coates were soon joined by a charging Roberts who made it a three-way fight for second.

In Am, Somerfield and Davis engaged in a scrap for tenth overall, second in category. Lasett, Danny Dwyer (Xentek Motorsport) and Edward Stanton (Toro Verde GT) battled for P13, fifth in category. At the start of lap nine, Somerfield passed Davis on the approach to Clervaux, but Davis would soon receive a five-second penalty for track limits offences. On lap 10, Laslett dropped back behind Dwyer and Stanton.

In the dying moments of the race Robert Cronin (Parker Classic Works) received a five-second penalty for track limits, however, attentions soon turned to Warhurst as he took the checkered flag first to record the maiden win of his Porsche racing career. The Yorkshireman was joined on the overall podium by Armstrong and Coates. Warren, Kyle-Henney and Somerfield formed the Am category podium.

For recording the fastest lap in each of their respective categories, Roberts (Pro) and Warren (Am) each received one additional championship point. After the race Warhurst was deemed to have been out of position at the start and was given a 10-second penalty which handed victory to Armstrong, with Coates now second and Roberts third. Jenkins was also out of position for the race start and was handed a 10-second penalty. Davis had his 10-second penalty rescinded following a review.

Race two
The second race of the weekend got underway on Sunday afternoon with rain falling on certain parts of the track, however all 17 cars took the start on slick Michelin racing tyres. When the lights went out, Warhurst accelerated into the lead with Armstrong second and Coates third. Warren was the leading Am, followed by Davis and Kyle-Henney. On the second lap, Laslett spun off the circuit at the chicane before continuing his race.

One the closest battles on track was for third, between Jenkins, Coates and Roberts. As the trio challenged for the podium, Trice slipped down to ninth and soon became embroiled in a dice with Am rivals Davis and Kyle-Henney for eighth. On lap four, Warhurst slid off the circuit, losing the race lead to Armstrong. Coates, Jenkins and Roberts all overtook Warhurst too, who would continue in fifth. At the same time, Dwyer retired to the pit lane while Neil Tofts (Redline Racing) stopped for grooved wet weather tyres.

A recovering Trice soon came under increasing pressure from Cronin, and the Irishman passed Trice at the hairpin at the end of lap five. In increasingly slippery condition,s Laslett drove onto the grass at the Complex before rejoining the track. On lap nine, Warren and Davis made contact at the Hairpin, Warren immediately making a pit stop before rejoining the race. Roberts and Warhurst then began to close on Jenkins for third, the trio coming close to switching positions on more than one occasion. The deadlock was broken when Warhurst mounted a challenge at the Hairpin, causing contact with Roberts, but the youngster got ahead leaving Roberts in fifth.

In the closing stages of the race, the slippery track surface proved challenging for several drivers. Despite the tricky conditions, Armstrong took the chequered flag to secure his second win of the weekend. Coates and Jenkins joined him on the overall podium, Davis, while Kyle-Henney and Somerfield formed the Am category podium. For recording the fastest lap in each of their respective categories, Warhurst (Pro) and Davis (Am) each received one additional championship point. The finishing positions from the weekend's second race formed the grid for the final race held later in the day. Following the race, Warhurst was demoted one place for his incident with Roberts, promoting Roberts to fourth.

Race three
The final race of the weekend took place on Sunday afternoon following a delay to the day’s scheduled running. Dwyer pitted after the green flag lap and would start the race from the pit lane. Armstrong led into the first corner with Coates attacking hard from second. Jenkins and Roberts made contact before running wide between Clervaux and Hawthorn, the pair slipping down the order allowing Warhurst to move up to third. In Am, the early order was Davis from Somerfield and Kyle-Henney.

On lap two, Coates looked up the inside of Armstrong at the first corner but slotted back in behind the leader. It allowed Warhurst and Trice to close, making it a four-way battle for the lead. From fourth, Trice was able to gain a run on those ahead out of Hawthorn, and in an opportunistic move he dived down the inside of Armstrong at Tower Bend to snatch the lead of the race. That made the new order at the front Trice from Warhurst and Coates, however, Coates would soon pass Warhurst for second. Shortly afterwards, Armstrong pitted before rejoining the race towards the back of the running order.

On lap four, Warren overtook Somerfield at the Hairpin for second in Am. Shortly afterwards, category leader Davis left the circuit at Hawthorn as he suffered a spin, allowing Warren to assume the category lead chased by Somerfield and Kyle-Henney. Back at the front of the race, Cronin joined the scrap between Trice, Coates and Warhurst – the quartet were now nose to tail in their bid for the overall race lead. On lap seven, Warren made contact with Hammerton at the Complex, the latter striking the barrier before retiring to the pit lane. The Am battle began to intensify when Somerfield retired from the race, leaving a recovering Davis on the tail of category leader Warren, while Kyle-Henney kept a watching brief.

On lap 11, Trice was forced to defend heavily from an attacking Coates who was tucked up under his rear wing, however, the race would be red flagged when Davis made contact with the barriers at Tower Bend. It wouldn‘t be restarted, so the final result was decided based on the lap before the red flag was shown. That left Trice, Coates and Warhurst to take to the overall podium, while Warren, Kyle-Henney and Stanton formed the Am category podium.

For recording the fastest lap in each of their respective categories, Armstrong (Pro) and Davis (Am) each received one additional championship point. After the race, Davis was disqualified from the results with the loss of four championship points, Trice was demoted two places leaving him third, and was docked three championship points. This promoted Coates to the overall race victory – the first of his Porsche racing career. For his incident with Hammerton, Warren was handed a three-place grid penalty at his next race.

The championship travels to Donington Park over the weekend of 26-27 August, where it will appear alongside Porsche Carrera Cup GB, racing in support of the British Touring Car Championship. Following the Croft weekend, Roberts, Trice, Armstrong, Warhurst and Coates are all in strong Pro category championship contention, meanwhile the gap between Am category leader Warren and those behind has increased.

Championship positions*

Steve Roberts - Redline Racing - 65
Matthew Armstrong - Team Parker Racing - 54
Joe Warhurst - Team Parker Racing - 54

Marc Warren - Raceway Motorsport - 80
Callum Davis - CCK Motorsport - 63
Matthew Kyle-Henney - SW Engineering - 55

*results remain provisional

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