Warhurst and Warren title winners in Porsche Sprint Challenge GB finale

Warhurst and Warren title winners in Porsche Sprint Challenge GB finale

A sun-blessed Brands Hatch circuit greeted competitors in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB for the final races in a closely-fought season on October 7/8. It was the perfect setting for the Championship to be decided, and honours were divided equally over the weekend with Marc Warren (Raceway Motorsport) winning the Am drivers’ Championship on Saturday and Joe Warhurst (Team Parker Racing) clinching the overall drivers’ Championship on Sunday.


The 425 PS mid-engine, flat-six 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport race cars were visiting the Kent track for the second time this year, alongside Porsche Carrera Cup GB in support of the British Touring Car Championship.


Broadcast over the weekend live on ITV.com and ITV4, fans both at home and trackside were treated to a spectacle of premier Porsche motorsport, with one Sprint Challenge GB race taking place on Saturday afternoon and the concluding two races on Sunday.


Toby Trice (Redline Racing) was sitting out the finale, following his accident in the last round at Silverstone – but the Porsche Motorsport family was pleased to see the popular Kent driver return to the paddock looking well, and he joined the track-side commentators for the first race of the weekend to share his insider perspective.


Round 16 saw Warren crowned 2023 Porsche Sprint Challenge GB Am category champion with his 11th category win of the season, clinched with a mature drive to third overall. Starting from pole position, overall series leader Warhurst led from the green light, followed home by his teammate Matthew Armstrong (Team Parker Racing). Teenager Warhurst went into the second race on Sunday with a bolstered Championship lead over his closest rival Steve Roberts (Redline Racing), who battled past Max Coates (Team Omologato by Graves Motorsport) to clinch fourth place.


The second fastest times from Saturday’s Qualifying established the grid for round 17 on Sunday morning, and while Warhurst once again lined up on pole, he had the company of different drivers to the earlier round. Alongside was Roberts, with Am hot shot Callum Davis (CCK Motorsport) and Coates lining up behind. Armstrong and newly-crowned Am Champion Warren started from the third row.


A tidy start by Warhurst saw him lead the field away, with Roberts, Davis and Coates battling behind. A Safety Car intervention following Armstrong finding the gravel trap at Stirlings bend allowed Roberts to close up to Warhurst again, but the leader was able to defend his position to the chequered flag and lift the Drivers’ Championship.
With the starting line-up determined by the previous round’s finishing positions, it was Warhurst who occupied pole position once more for the final Sprint Challenge GB race of the year. Alongside him was Roberts, and as the lights went out, the Cambridgeshire driver hooked it up off the line effectively enough to enter the first corner with his nose ahead.


Warhurst defended in the early stages, but ultimately Roberts made his move on the Grand Prix loop and was never headed on his way to the flag. Behind, the final positions in the Am category were the focus with Davis rocketing from the back of the grid to score his 13th class podium and secure second in the Am championship classification. Similarly, Kyle-Henney successfully clinched third place after a race long battle with Edward Stanton (Toro Verde GT).


An untimely red flag when Danny Dwyer (Xentek Motorsport) found the gravel on the exit of Paddock Hill bend saw the race shortened with a few minutes still remaining.


Qualifying

Using the longer 2.4-mile Grand Prix loop configuration rather than the familiar ‘Indy’ layout, the early laps to determine the starting positions for the first and second races of the weekend began deceptively uneventful, with the drivers slowly chipping away at their testing times from Friday. Am category driver Warren was in the groove quickly and occupied the top of the leader board for much of the first part of the session, with Roberts, Armstrong and Warhurst each taking turns to challenge.
Coming into the weekend defending a five-point championship lead, Warhurst took his time to join the fray but he popped in a lap just 0.019 secs shy of title challenger Roberts to lie second overall mid-way through the session.


With such margins more typical of the oval-like nature of the Indy circuit, the scene was set for a thriller as each of the top drivers set successive personal bests through the sectors of the Grand Prix track as the clock ticked down.


Thus it was that Warren once again moved ahead, leading Warhurst by three tenths of a second, with Coates, Roberts, William Jenkins (Century Motorsport) and Davis all covered by similar margins. Such was the pace at the front that no sooner had Coates crossed the finish line to set a new personal best lap time, he ran wide at Paddock Bend and journeyed across the gravel, before rejoining the track without drama.


With less than two minutes remaining, a flier by Warhurst to set a 1.31.091 lap saw the title leader clinch pole, with his Team Parker Racing teammate Armstrong joining him to lock out the front row, just 0.003 secs behind.


As the chequered flag brought the session to a close, Warren placed third overall as the top Am runner, and asserting his position as leader of the category championship. Coates lined up fourth, just ahead of Robert Cronin (Parker Classic Works) who stealthily ascended the time sheets throughout the session. Roberts slipped to sixth, but that was a poor reward for his true pace, his time only 0.152 secs off Warhurst’s pole – hinting at a close first race on Saturday afternoon.
Jenkins was seventh, followed Davis, the second-quickest Am driver, with Ethan Hammerton (Team Omologato by Graves Motorsport) and Matthew Kyle-Henney (SW Engineering) rounding out the top ten.


A driver’s first and second fastest laps are used to form the grid for races one and two, with the starting positions for race three determined by the finishing positions of race two. Warhurst secured pole for rounds 16 and 17.


Race one

Making a neat launch from pole, Warhurst led a battling Armstrong and Warren around the first part of lap one before the order quickly settled down between the top three that would run to the chequered flag.


While at first the chasing pack was running nose to tail, a thrilling dice between Coates, Roberts, Cronin and Davis provided plenty of entertainment.
Lap after lap Coates proved very committed through the corners, in turn resisting the persistent pressure from Roberts, with the pair kicking up dust as they pushed to the limit.


Roberts was proving consistently stronger through the Surtees left-hander that links the Indy circuit to the Grand Prix loop, and on the tenth lap was able to make a pass on Coates stick as the pair battled onto Pilgrims Drop.


At the head of the field, Warhurst controlled the pace en route to his fourth victory of the season, building up around a 1.4 second lead over teammate Armstrong, who in turn had edged away from Warren who was nevertheless having a great day. Starting the race from the second row on the grid, and five places ahead of Davis, his Am title rival, Warren was looking strong from the outset. Once he broke clear of the four-way fight for fourth place, the Surrey driver reeled off the laps to clinch a well-deserved Am drivers’ Championship.


With Warhurst and Armstrong further tightening the grip of Team Parker Racing on the overall Teams’ Championship, the fight for second place remained intense between Team Omologato by Graves Motorsport and Redline Racing.


The victory by Warhurst consolidated his slim advantage in the Drivers’ Championship over Roberts, but set the scene for a showdown on Sunday.


Race two

Warhurst’s remarkable run of form continued with another lights to flag victory in round 17 that saw the Yorkshire youngster clinch the Porsche Sprint Challenge Great Britain drivers’ title with a race in hand. But the race kept the Team Parker Racing ace busy with his mirrors often full of the rival 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport of Roberts, and a three lap Safety Car caution period to recover the beached car of teammate Armstrong.


Warhurst speared ahead as the lights went out, with a fast-starting Davis inching beside Roberts to take a look at second place into Paddock bend. The two ran through Druids hairpin side by side but Roberts moved ahead by Graham Hill bend, with Coates in turn pursuing Davis.


The challenge was short-lived as Davis lost the rear of his car at Westfield corner and span out from third place, with Armstrong then adding to the drama when he beached his car in the gravel at Stirlings bend. Though the Team Parker Racing driver was able to return his car to the pits, the recovery of the Cayman meant the Safety Car was deployed to control the pace of the race.


With effectively half of the 20-minute race run, the Safety Car peeled into the pits. As per the regulations, as cars crossed the start/finish line Warhurst accelerated away in defence of his lead, with Roberts, Coates, Jenkins, Warren and Cronin in pursuit.


Cronin was the man on the move, passing Warren up the inside of Surtees on the ninth lap, while at the front Roberts appeared to have Warhurst in his sights with the gap narrowing to 0.294 secs between them. The leader seemed to have the advantage over the first part of the lap, with Roberts quicker around the Grand Prix loop – but Warhurst was able to consolidate this over the remainder of the race, and 0.830 secs separated them by the flag. In a remarkable run of success, Warhurst’s triumph was his fifth win on the trot and he would start the final round from pole position.

In their wake, Coates, Jenkins and Cronin were having a great battle for the final podium place, with the latter setting fastest lap in his pursuit. The tussle for third overall ended with Jenkins sneaking by Coates to cross the finish line barely 0.2 secs ahead of his rival.


And further back, Kyle-Henney and Dwyer also had little between them as the former looked to clinch third in the Am category standings. The outcome of this chase was decided when Danny spun off on the final lap, and Kyle-Henney went on to take his tenth podium of the year. Stanton had a good race to finish second in Am, but once again it was Warren taking the category win for the twelfth time, consolidating his Championship success on Saturday.


Further drama unfolded when Reece Somerfield (Breakell Racing) left the track at Clearways, just within sight of the chequered flag. The Midlands-based driver was unhurt, though his car would not be joining the grid for round 18.


With his winners’ trophy and bottle of Hattingley Valley sparkling wine tucked under his arm, Warhurst reflected on his Championship winning drive; ”I was very nervous at the start, Steve was right behind me. There was a point in the middle when he was very close, I had to just concentrate on hitting the apex in each corner and my braking points! It has been so competitive this year, with great drivers and great tracks. It feels good!”


Race three

With the starting line-up determined by the previous round’s finishing positions, it was Warhurst who occupied pole position once more for the final Sprint Challenge GB race of the year. Alongside him was Roberts, with the second row filled by Jenkins and Coates, and Cronin and the top Am driver Warren in turn behind.


Warhurst had a clean launch from pole, but with Roberts edging ahead by a nose through Paddock Hill bend the pair raced up towards the Druids hairpin side by side. As the pair exited the corner, Warhurst had clawed back some advantage and was clean ahead by the Cooper Straight.

Behind the lead pair, Jenkins and Coates resumed their battle from the previous race and Davis – who had started out of position from the back of the grid – was making up places.


Roberts was getting every one of the 425 PS of his flat-six engine pulling hard in his pursuit of Warhurst, and after his early rebuttal, got his nose ever closer to the rear bumper of the leader. By the third lap, the Redline Racing car was right with its Team Parker Racing rival and as they raced around the Grand Prix loop of the circuit, Roberts set up a pass through Sheene Curve to snatch the lead.


All the while, Davis continued his impressive progress through the field and would finish second overall in the Am category, and ninth overall.


With matters settled at the head of the pack, a highlight of the race was the midfield exchanges between Stanton and Kyle-Henney. The pair were side by side through Graham Hill bend and again later around the lap at Hawthorns, each time the advantage passing to the other driver as they found themselves on a less than ideal line for the next corner. Right towards the end of the race, Kyle-Henney got a good run onto the start/finish line and confidently placed his Cayman on the inside of his rival at Paddock Hill, and by the Druids hairpin had moved ahead.


Warhurst continued to chase Roberts to the flag, and was the fastest man on track on the eighth lap, but a red flag caused when Dwyer found the gravel at the exit of Paddock Hill, brought the race to a premature end. The result was formed following a count back to the last full racing lap completed by all participants, making the final overall podium Roberts from Warhurst and Jenkins. Warren, Davis and Stanton took to the Am category steps.


Porsche Sprint Challenge GB will enjoy its annual Porsche Night of Motorsport in November where champions will be crowned. Porsche will then look ahead to the 2024 season, which gets underway at Snetterton in May with a full calendar of 18 races across six weekends. Next year will also welcome the arrival of an all-new car to the championship – the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport, which will race alongside the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport in four driver categories.

Championship positions*

Overall:
Joe Warhurst - Team Parker Racing - 240
Steve Roberts - Redline Racing - 227
Max Coates - Team Omologato by Graves Motorsport - 211

Am:
Marc Warren - Raceway Motorsport - 287
Callum Davis - CCK Motorsport - 238
Matthew Kyle-Henney - SW Engineering - 210

*results remain provisional


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