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05 Oct 2020

Photos by Gary Hawkins

Clark leaves stormy Oulton Park ahead in title fight

Porsche Club Championship rounds seven & eight – Oulton Park

A rain-lashed Oulton Park circuit put the Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli and Porsche Classic Boxster Cup runners though a severe test on Saturday October 3rd, and fortunes of the championship contenders varied through the day, Simon Clark ending up in a strong position with just two races left. It was Mark McAleer and Pete Morris who took the outright race wins, but a mechanical issue for McAleer in race two has dented his challenge to Clark in the title chase.
Charles Clark won class two in the first race, his first class win in just his seventh race, while he chased home James Coleman in race two to take a second place finish. In the Boxster Cup, Paul Simpson revelled in the conditions with two wins.
It was rain tyres and headlights on for qualifying early on Saturday morning, with the tricky conditions seeing the field assessing the grip levels in the first few minutes. While Pete Morris headed the times early on, it was championship leader Simon Clark who came through to take pole, Morris second. Behind, Jake McAleer was third quickest with father Mark fourth.
“It was pretty slippery out there with a lot of standing water” said Clark. “Conditions were a bit better earlier on, but by the time you got dialled in they were worse again. I was trying to work out where on the track there was some grip, but couldn’t really find any anywhere!”
James Coleman was quickest of the class two runners, half a second ahead of Charles Clark who has led for the first half of the session, with class points leader Matt Kyle-Henney third up.
Sam Beckett headed up the Porsche Classic Boxster Cup runners from class pace setter Paul Simpson, while Steven Shore unfortunately went off at Druids and would take no further part in the meeting.
Race One
With even more rain having come down since qualifying the field were granted two laps before the race behind the safety car to check out the track conditions, and at the start it was Mark McAleer who seemed to have learnt most as a storming start from the second row saw him almost take the lead at the first corner. As it was, Pete Morris held on to the lead, pole-sitter Simon Clark third as they headed down the hill into Cascades, the field half obscured by the spray.
Morris was still ahead at the end of lap one, Mark McAleer and Simon Clark behind with Jake McAleer, Chris Dyer and James Caley next up. Coleman was seventh and first of the class two runners, with Charles Clark close behind and Bill Caley third.
Mark McAleer was already keen to get past Pete Morris and had a long look inside the leader into the Hislops chicane on lap two, Morris once again emerging ahead. The next try for the lead came on lap four as Mark McAleer got alongside Pete Morris heading down the hill towards Cascades but the latter had the inside line for the left hander that was fast approaching, and the attempt let Simon Clark close in.
Into lap five and it was virtually a six-car lead group, James Caley still in sixth, with class two leader Coleman next car over the line and fellow Boxster racer Charles Clark now right with him. The outright lead battle was still close, Pete Morris holding on, while Charles Clark was pressuring Coleman and after making a good exit from Old Hall at the start of lap six went past to the lead the class.
Conditions were worsening as the rain came down even harder, with some drivers struggling for visibility in the spray and with misted-up windscreens. A mistake from Pete Morris at Druids on lap six had seen Mark McAleer go past, and the early leader was one of those suffering from impaired visibility and slipped down the order, Clark past the lap after Mark McAleer with Jake McAleer soon also moving up a place into third.
That put the two outright championship points leaders one and two in the race, and just as it looked like the final few minutes could offer up a showdown between the rivals, James Caley and Chris Dyer touched on the pit straight, sending the latter heavily into the pit wall. With Dyer’s Cayman stranded at the edge of the track the safety car came out, and the chequered flag waved with the field still behind it, McAleer taking his third win of the season and reducing race runner-up Simon Clark’s points lead, including taking the possibly vital point for fastest lap.
Jake McAleer took third from Pete Morris, while the pit-straight drama moved Charles Clark up to fifth overall and his maiden class two win in just his seventh race. A brief off-track moment for Coleman didn’t stop him coming second, Bill Caley third for his second podium finish of the season.
“I almost got round Pete Morris at the start," said Mark McAleer, ”I was surprised as we have only done one wet race start before in this car. I was so happy to have a car that works in the wet as we have never tested in the rain, the car gave me so much confidence. It was so much easier once I was out in front without the spray, and great to score some valuable points.”
“It was so hard to see out there, you were taking a leap of faith,” said Simon Clark. “You were limited in what you could do, but the gaggle of guys I was with have lots or respect for each other which is good. I got past Pete Morris cleanly, and I was thinking of trying to get to Mark but then it got even worse.”
“The main limitation that race was visibility, I could catch Simon Clark but then not see much once I was behind him!” said Jake McAleer. “It was getting really tricky towards the end but the car felt great after the troubles we have had, a terrific job from the guys at Hartech!”
“It was a really good race,” said class two winner Charles Clark. “I couldn’t see much when behind James Coleman and I was waiting for him to make a mistake, and when he did just went for it. The car felt amazing but it was so slippery towards the end.”
The wet weather negated most of the performance difference between the Boxster Cup runners and the class two cars, and points leader Paul Simpson took the lead on the opening lap and pushed hard in the tricky conditions, coming home eighth overall. Sam Beckett was second in class with Mike Thompson third, all three mixed up with the cars from other classes.
“It was really good fun out there,” said Simpson. “It started really manic, you couldn’t see a thing and had to take your chances, and it seemed the rain eased a bit in the middle of the race, then came down again and you couldn’t even see the puddles!”
Race Two
Conditions were even worse for the second race of the day, and the circuit officials decided to start the race with a rolling start, the cars in single file in qualifying order. That saw pole sitter Pete Morris lead the field into the first corner, Simon Clark second ahead of Jake and then Mark McAleer, the headlights of the cars bright in the rain.
Pete Morris was the one driver able to see clearly and was almost a second clear at the end of lap one, but already drama was unfolding that would see the fortunes of the title chasers change once more. Having closed up on points to Simon Clark after race one, Mark McAleer was already in trouble, his gearbox noisy and he pitted at the end of the second lap, suddenly putting Clark in a position to once more extend his lead.
With Pete Morris still just clear, Simon Clark was under pressure from Jake McAleer, and the pair began to inch closer to the leader. The pace was quickening despite the rain lashing down just as hard, and over the next few laps the lead trio all at different times set a new fastest race lap. On lap nine Jake McAleer set a new quickest mark, only to aquaplane off on the very next lap and clatter the barriers with his Cayman S, bringing out the safety car. 
After a slow lap behind the safety car and with race time almost expired the race was halted, Pete Morris taking his first win of 2020, and Simon Clark notching up his second runner-up slot of the day, and a healthy points haul. The demise of Jake McAleer saw James Caley take third.
“I needed a win this season and was so glad to get it,” said Pete Morris. “I knew where Simon was quicker than me, and I knew where my car was better – I could pull away out of the chicane. The puddles were getting bigger and we were having to go off line to avoid them, and we all had a few moments.”
“I I had been asked before the race if I had been happy with second I would have said no, but I am now ahead in the points,” said Simon Clark. “Conditions were so bad there were only certain places you could even think of trying anything, but Pete Morris was in control and I wasn’t willing to take an unnecessary risk on such a wet track.”
“I inherited third when Jake McAleer went off,” said James Caley. “It was a bit hairy out there at times but I stayed on the track which is what it all about, so more than happy.”
Class two saw a resumption of the battle from earlier in the day between Coleman and Charles Clark for the lead, the two circulating in close formation for much of the race and providing a highlight for the soaked crowd. This time Coleman made no mistakes and led the whole way, the pair crossing the line just a tenth of a second apart. Behind, Kyle-Henney was running third and holding off the 944 S2 of Richard Bayston, but a second trip across the Hislops chicane for Kyle-Henney let Bayston past to claim third in class.
“He was right with me but I had to keep looking forwards,” said Coleman. “I knew here his car was better and where he could close, and I take my hat off to him we had a good clean race.”
“It was really difficult out there it was just so wet,” said Charles Clark, “I was driving off his tail lights but really enjoyed the race.”
Simpson was once more flying in the conditions at the head of the Boxster Cup runners, climbing up through the order but with class rival Sam Beckett shadowing him all the way.  Simpson was able to ease away once he had put a class two car between himself and Beckett, who took second in class with Mike Thompson rounding out the podium finishers.
“I was so tempted to try to get amongst the class two cars, but I also knew I was leading the Boxster Cup so had to be careful,” said Simpson. “I played it sensible, I could see Sam Beckett close up then he made a mistake, we need to work out the points but we are in a very strong position now.”
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli and Porsche Classic Boxster Cup, Round Seven: 1 Mark McAleer (997 C2S) 10 Laps
2 Simon Clark (Cayman S) +1.518s
3 Jake McAleer (Cayman S)
4 Pete Morris (997 C2S) 
5 Charles Clark (Boxster S)
6 James Coleman (Boxster S)
7 Bill Caley (Boxster S)
8 Paul Simpson (Boxster S)
9 Ross Morris (Boxster S)
10 Sam Beckett (Boxster S) 

Class Winners: Mark McAleer, Charles Clark; Simpson.
Fastest Lap: Mark McAleer 2m06547s (76.58mph).
Round Eight: 1 Pete Morris 11 Laps
2 Simon Clark +0.699s
3 James Caley
4 James Coleman
5 Charles Clark
6 Richard Bayston (966 S2)
7 Matt Kyle-Henney (Boxster S) 
8 Simpson
9 Ross Morris
10 Beckett.

Class Winners: Pete Morris, Coleman, Simpson.
Fastest Lap: Jake McAleer 2m08.819s (75.23mph)

Final Rounds: Donington Park, East Midlands, November 7th