It was a dramatic visit of the Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli and Porsche Classic Boxster Cup fields to Brands Hatch on Saturday May 1st. Reigning champion Simon Clark took two overall wins – the second in a shortened race two by the closest margin in championship history, heading Pete Morris over the line by just a thousandth of a second.
Class two continued their run of entertaining races with wins for Rick Styrin and Paul Simpson, while Will Heslop continued his perfect Boxster Cup record with another two wins.
With Friday testing having been on the shorter Indy circuit, for many drivers the first part of qualifying was getting used to the full Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, but soon the quick laps were coming and it was Mark McAleer who finally headed the times. Clark, who had won the last two championship races on this layout, was second from Pete Morris and Jake McAleer – the top six cars all 997s or Caymans.
“I’m pleased to take pole as I don’t normally go well here,” said Mark McAleer. “I’m really happy, we haven’t been able to test so the last time I drove this layout was two years ago. I only got one clear lap, but was able to get the time in.”
Matt Kyle-Henney was flying in class two and was quickest by over a second and a half, Paul Simpson next up ahead of Rick Styrin and Andy Muggeridge.
The Boxster Cup runners were headed once again by Heslop, 17th overall in the session with Alistair Nelson and Mike Thompson second and third.
Mark McAleer got away well to hold Clark off into Paddock Hill Bend, while catching attention further back was Harrison who from the fourth row got a great start and was able to launch his 996 between the two cars on the row in front in the first hundred metres of the race. It wasn’t McAleer leading though, as the field came back into sight to complete lap one, Clark taking advantage of the slow corner exit to move in front out on the Grand Prix loop, Morris third from Jake McAleer.
Clark pushed hard to open a gap, the lead four easing clear of James Caley in fifth, Harrison now back in sixth and beginning a long battle with Chris Dyer’s Cayman. A series of fastest race laps saw Clark pull a gap, only to be greeted by the safety car at the end of lap seven, Bill Caley’s Boxster off at the exit to Surtees.
That saw the field close up on Clark, but crucially he had seen the Boxster, guessed what was going to happen and managed to get a backmarker between himself and the following pack before the end of the lap.
After four laps behind the safety car with the backmarker between Clark and his pursuers, racing resumed for a three-lap run to the flag, and while Clark was up to race pace heading onto the pit straight, McAleer and Morris knew they could not pass the backmarker until the start/finish line – and so the leader was gone with an advantage he would hold to the end.
Five seconds clear at the end of the first racing lap after the safety car, Clark eased home to take his third Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit win a row, Mark McAleer taking second ahead of Morris with Jake McAleer third.
“This seems to be a circuit the Cayman really goes well on,” said Clark. “I got past Mark at Westfield. The second right hander on the Grand Prix section, I think he just missed a gear and I was able to get past. I had guessed there was going to be a safety car so I really pushed to get the backmarker between me and Mark, and I made the most of it on the restart.”
“I was just in the wrong gear when he went past!” explained Mark McAleer. “I’m happy with the points for second, I got bottled up behind the safety car which pretty much took the race away from us, but these things happen in racing.”
Kyle-Henney was again slow away and dropped to third in class two off the start, Styrin heading Molyneux by the end of the opening lap. Kyle-Henney was soon back with Molyneux, and had a look inside the fellow Boxster racer as they braked for Paddock Hill Bend at the start of lap four.
By the end of lap six Kyle-Henney was into second, and Simpson was past Molyneux too, the four lined up behind the safety car. At the restart Styrin held the lead, but the others shuffled order, Simpson up to second and pushing hard, the lead four all close together. Styrin held on for his second win of the season, Simpson getting out of shape and falling to fourth on the final lap behind Kyle-Henney and Molyneux.
“I knew Matt Kyle-Henney and Paul Simpson were really quick if given space, so I knew I had to beat them into the first corner,” said Styrin. “I got mixed in with some of the class one cars and could see them in my mirror all coming at me, then the safety car came out. I was happy it used up some race time, but wasn’t so pleased it put them right with me, but I had to use my experience to keep them behind – an exciting race!”
Heslop led the Porsche Classic Boxster Cup field from the start, but a great first lap from rookie Forber saw him up to second from fourth on the grid, ahead of Thompson and Nelson. Once more Heslop had the pace to keep class two cars between himself and his rivals, Nelson getting past Thomson on lap three and that was the order when the safety car came out.
At the restart they stayed in the order to the finish, Heslop continuing his 2021 unbeaten streak, while Forber claimed second in just his third ever race, Nelson in third.
“A nice clean race,” said Heslop. “I actually lost out to Alistair Nelson to the first corner and he got some cars between us, but I was able to pick them off and quickly get back to him. Once past I had a good race, and pleased to bring the car back with no scrapes or bangs!”
The second race of the day was red-flagged after six laps with Morris leading from McAleer and Clark, two Boxsters having gone off at Pilgrim’s Drop, fortunately with no damage to the drivers but leaving a lot of debris on the track. Despite great work from the marshals, by the time the clean-up was over, the new race was reduced to a ten-minute sprint, and the cars lined up on the grid in the order they had finished the first attempt to run it.
Morris led them away, Clark immediately passed Mark McAleer as they reached the Druids hairpin for the first time, the lead three close as they ended lap one. Clark was determined to find a way past Morris and next time round they were side-by-side down the pit straight, Morris holding the position as they reached Paddock Hill Bend. McAleer also looked to get past Clark but was forced to tuck back and lost a place to son Jake as he got slightly out of shape.
Next time round the leaders were greeted once more by red flags, a class two Boxster off in the gravel at the bottom of Paddock Hill Bend and in close proximity to the track. As is the norm in these situations the race result was wound back a lap – which saw Clark declared the winner having been 0.001 seconds ahead as he and Morris crossed the start/finish line side-by-side, the smallest margin the circuit timing system can measure.
To his credit Morris, who as far as he was concerned had led all the way, took the result with good grace in the paddock afterwards, while McAleer was another beneficiary, regaining his third place in the final results.
“That was an unusual race, and I wasn’t really expecting the win,” said Clark. “I was intending to get past him at some point but when I saw the second red flag I was expecting it to just be a hard-fought second place, so I was delighted with the result but do feel for Pete Morris, that will be the closest win I will ever have!”
“I’d love to see a photo of that!” said Morris. “That was a really close race and we were pushing hard all the way, so it was gutting to lose by such a small gap.”
Simpson headed the class two field at the restart, race one winner Styrin having retired from the nullified original start after a spin. Kyle-Henney was initially second but lost out to Molyneux, Simpson heading them home to take his first class win after being Boxster Cup champion in 2020.
“That was good fun, really enjoyable,” said Simpson. “there seemed to be a lot going on in that race, and it’s never good to see cars get damaged, but I’m pleased with the win. Great we now seem to be on the pace, so I’m happy and looking forward to Snetterton.”
Heslop took the Boxster Cup win in the abbreviated race, this time Nelson getting the better of Forber to take second.
“I had to dodge a couple of cars that had gone off on the Grand Prix loop right at the end and everyone went past me as I pretty much came to a halt,” said Heslop, “so I was lucky that the result was wound back a lap. It was a strange race, we weren’t quite sure if we were going to have a third start or not!”
Petro-Canada Lubricants Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli, Race One:
1 Simon Clark (Cayman S) 13Laps;
2 Mark McAleer (997 C2S) +4.165s;
3 Pete Morris (997 C2S);
4 Jake McAleer (Cayman S);
5 James Caley (997 C2S);
6 Kevin Harrison (996 C2);
7 Chris Dyer (Cayman S);
8 Richard Bayston (996 C2);
9 Richard Ellis (996 C2);
10 Richard Styrin (Boxster S).
Class Winners: Clark; Styrin. Fastest Lap: Clark 1m38.480s (88.95mph).
Race Two: 1 Clark 2 Laps;
2 Morris +0.001s;
3 Mark McAleer;
5 Jake McAleer;
8 Paul Simpson (Boxster S);
9 Kevin Molyneux (Boxster S);
10 Matt Kyle-Henney (Boxster S).
Class Winners: Clark; Simpson. Fastest Lap: Jake McAleer 1m40.525s (870.14mph).
Porsche Classic Boxster Cup, Race One: 1 Will Heslop 13 Laps;
2 Richard Forber;
3 Alistair Nelson;
4 Mike Thomson.
Fastest Lap: Heslop 1m45.855s (82.75mph)
Race Two: 1 Heslop 2 Laps;
4 Peter Evans.
Fastest Lap: Heslop 1m45.174s (83.28mph).
Next Races: Snetterton, Norfolk, June 5th.