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03 May 2016

McAleer double at dramatic Brands race day

Race report from the first rounds of the Sylatech Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli.

Mark McAleer took two wins to start his 2016 Sylatech Porsche Club Championship with Pirelli season in style at Brands Hatch on Saturday, 30th April in a dramatic race day that saw the drivers facing a variety of challenges.

An early incident saw qualifying reduced to just half the original time as title defender Pete Morris lost his 996 at Paddock Hill Bend just as he was starting his first flying lap. The incident saw Morris’ car slam into the barriers on the inside of the circuit, before spinning across the track, bringing out the red flags.

With Morris out for qualifying, Mark McAleer set the fasted time and started race one in pole position. McAleer led the field into the first corner, Harrison reinforcing his reputation for quick starts by taking second ahead of Karim  Moudi. The lead three were pushing hard, with both McAleer and Moudi setting fastest laps early on before fourth-placed Paul Winter started closing in on Moudi.

Winter made his decisive move into Paddock Hill Bend on lap ten, but then the Safety Car came out as class two’s Talan Skeels-Piggins, making his race debut, went off at Surtees trying to keep clear of the battling pack as he was lapped. That closed the field up, but when racing resumed on lap 16, McAleer made a good start and pulled an advantage of half a second over Harrison.

The top three ran close together for the remaining laps, less than a second covering them, but Harrison was never able to mount a challenge and was forced to defend from Winter who ultimately had to settle for third,  as McAleer claimed the first win of 2016. Moudi fell into the grasp of Sylatech’s Johnson in the final laps but was able to hold on for fourth.

The sky was darkening as the cars were readied for race two late in the afternoon, and the rain came down as they arrived on the gird – the field on slick tyres so the ‘Start Delayed’ board was displayed. The cars were led back to the pits where wet weather Pirellis were fitted and the race reduced to 15-minutes due to the time lost. Lining up at the back of the grid was Morris, the Strasse team having worked hard to get him back on track.

Once the race started McAleer led the pack away on the wet track, Winter second and Harrison slotting into third - while behind a charging Morris was up to 11th half-way round the opening lap and in the top ten going into lap two.

Speed, who had won class two in the opening race, livened up lap two with an impressive slide and spin across the wet grass at Graham Hill Bend that saw him falling down the order. At the front, McAleer pushed hard in the opening laps and opened a gap of up to three seconds, while Harrison was under pressure from Johnson who slipped by on lap two.

Morris was picking off the cars ahead and was up to fifth by lap two with a gap to team-mate Dyer ahead, while at the front McAleer’s advantage began to fall as they reached backmarkers on the streaming track. Morris went past Dyer at Graham Hill Bend on lap 10, with Winter now under pressure from a lively Johnson.

With the clock ticking down red flags flew on lap 13 as Steve Cheetham was launched into the Paddock Hill Bend gravel, the results winding back a lap and being declared at the end of lap 12 with McAleer taking his second win ahead of Winter and Johnson, Morris fourth. A drive of note was that of Nathalie McGloin, sixth class one car home from 18th on the grid in the tricky conditions.

Toon dominated class two, running well inside the top ten and coming home sixth overall at the end, while Speed recovered from his early rotation to take second. A fine job in the conditions from Hugo Holmes saw him third in class.

“It was very wet out there, with a lot of water on the track in places,” said McAleer. “I got a bit of a gap by pushing for the first couple of laps, then I came back a bit on pace, you just had to be careful in the conditions, but it’s been a great day!”

“I was really enjoying that,” said Toon. “I just seemed to be able to pass people and the car was really well balanced. A second and a first is a good start to the season, and we have Silverstone next where we should go well.”

The full race report from Brands Hatch can be read here.

Photos courtesy of Dickon Siddall.

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