The Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli season finally roared into life at Snetterton in Norfolk on Saturday 11 July.
Two action-packed races saw new race winners, a series regular recover from an early morning incident, and high-quality racing throughout the field. James Caley took his maiden overall win in the opening race of the day, with Matt Kyle-Henney claiming his first class two win later in the day, while former champion Mark McAleer won race two having gone off in qualifying bringing the session to an early close.
In class three, series newcomer Paul Simpson claimed both wins in the first Porsche Classic Boxster Cup event.
Simon Clark was immediately on the pace in the early morning qualifying session, half a second quicker than Caley, who recorded his first front row start. There were a few dramas, with Caley losing a belt on his engine which saw his car only just ready for race one, Jake McAleer suffering a brake issue at the end of the straight but with no damage to his Cayman, while his father Mark McAleer brought the session to a halt after losing a wheel with just two minutes left.
“That was a nice start to the season,” said Clark. “The car was good, we were not quite as quick as we expected, but neither was anyone else! Need to convert that into two good results now.”
Kyle-Henney headed up class two from James Coleman and Ross Morris, while Paul Simpson was quickest of the Porsche Classic Boxster Cup runners in class three.
The front row got away evenly but a fast-starting Mark McAleer was right with them and it was three abreast into the first corner. Poleman Clark was on the inside but it was Caley, with cars either side of him, who nosed ahead and led into the second corner. Behind, Coleman was left on the grid in his class two Boxster, finally getting away dead last as Kyle-Henney led the class from Andy Muggeridge.
Caley was under pressure from the off, now leading a race for the first time ever with the experienced Clark and McAleer right with him, and former double-champion Pete Morris closing in on the lead trio. The leader gained a little respite when McAleer looked for a way past Clark for a couple of laps, but it was a four-car train at the front, Caley smartly using the grunt of his 997 onto the pit straight to deny his rivals a passing opportunity into the first corner.
The final laps were tense, Caley now leading four other cars as Chris Dyer had closed in, the group slicing through back-markers to add another element to the race. Caley was half a second ahead crossing the line to head onto the last lap, and stayed clear to take a superb maiden win, Clark second and McAleer third, Morris and Dyer a second further back as they tussled in the final stages.
“I’m so pleased!” said Caley, who also had his son Bill making his race debut in class two. “We were three abreast into the first corner, I managed to get ahead, and I was thinking it was going to be a long time until the end of the race and I had never led before! I managed to hang on but the others were always right there, it was touch and go all the way to the end and that last lap seemed the longest one ever.”
In class two Coleman was charging back up the order, into third in class by the end of lap three and setting out after the leaders. A lap later he was past Kyle-Henney and into second and challenging new leader Muggeridge down the pit straight, diving down the inside into the first corner to take the lead.
While no one else could live with the pace of Coleman, Muggeridge and Kyle-Henney diced for second before Muggeridge took the first of two brief off-track excursions. That saw him slip into the clutches of Ross Morris, the reigning champion having his first race in a newly built-up Boxster, who took the final class podium place on the final lap.
“The clutch pedal went to the floor at the start, and by the time I got away I was dead last,” explained Coleman. “It was a really determined comeback drive and I was really pleased to get back through.”
Paul Simpson led class three home ahead of Barry Strong in class three, both making their Porsche Club Championship debuts, while third in class went to Mike Thompson after battling with Steven Shore.
“I really enjoyed that, this is such a friendly series and great to start with a win.,” said Simpson. “There was some good clean racing, I didn’t make the best of starts but it worked out well in the end.”
As the cars set off on the green flag lap prior to race two Coleman was again left on the grid, but finally got his Boxster goingand moved back through the field to take up his original grid slot. At the start, front row men Clark and Caley got away well, but on the row behind Pete Morris and Mark McAleer both made storming starts, Morris looking to go around the outside of the lead pair into the first corner which left McAleer boxed up behind them.
They exited the first corner with Caley ahead from Morris and then Clark, although Pete Morris then lost ground later in the lap to come round fourth with team-mate Dyer right with him. Mark McAleer went past Clark on lap two and immediately started putting Caley under pressure, going ahead a lap later, with Clark taking the opportunity to dive inside Caley at the first corner as they started lap four.
A series of fastest race laps saw Clark close in on the leader, but couldn’t see a way past, while Dyer was on the move and up to third, only to have a strong finish denied as he retired with engine issues. McAleer stayed clear to take the win from Clark, while Pete Morris finally got past Caley with two laps to go to take the final podium position.
“I got blocked in the first corner after a good start,” said McAleer, “then it looked like it was going to be the same sort of race as earlier in the day. I was alongside Simon Clark on the back straight, then got into the lead. I tried to pull away but had to back off a bit to save the tyres. This morning I thought our season was over when the wheel came off and the car was damaged, so to finish the day like this is unbelievable.”
Coleman got away well for the actual race start and headed class two all-race, opening up a gap of almost five seconds by mid-race, although Kyle-Henney started chipping away and reduced the gap in the final laps. A second win was denied Coleman as he was given a ten second penalty for starting out of position, allowing Kyle-Henney to become the second driver of the day to take his first Porsche Club Championship victory.
“I didn’t know James had a penalty, so it was a nice surprise to win, I thought the team were joking when they told me,” said Kyle-Henney. “I was pushing all the way to the line which really paid off!”
Ross Morris once more got the better of Andy Muggeridge to take third, with series newcomer Charles Clarke taking a fine tenth overall.
Simpson headed class three for the full 25-minutes to take his second win of the day, with Thompson second and Shore third, Strong retiring from third after four laps.
“Delighted to take two wins, we’ve really enjoyed the day,” said Simpson. “Everyone has been so good to us and the racing was great so looking forward to doing more!”
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli Race One:
1 James Caley (Porsche 997 C2S) 12 Laps
2 Simon Clark (Cayman S)
3 Mark McAleer (997 C2S)
4 Pete Morris (997 C2S)
5 Chris Dyer (Cayman S)
6 Jake McAleer (Cayman S)
7 James Coleman (Boxster S)
8 Matt Kyle-Henney (Boxster S)
9 Ross Morris (Boxster S)
10 Andy Muggeridge (Boxster S).
Class Winners: Caley; Coleman, Paul Simpson (Boxster S).
Fastest Lap: Pete Morris 2m06.247s (84.66mph).
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli Race Two:
1 Mark McAleer 12 Laps
2 Clark +0.928s
3 Pete Morris
5 Jake McAleer
8 Ross Morris
10 Charles Clark
Class Winners: Mark McAleer, Kyle-Henney, Simpson.
Fastest Lap: Clark, 2m06.168s (84.70mph).
Next Rounds: Oulton Park, Cheshire, July 25th.