Brands Hatch (Indy) 2003

Preview and News

Media release: 5 May 2003

Round two of 2003 took the championship to the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent – home track for Parr Motorsport and a favourite venue for Porsche series down the ages. It would prove to be a very special occasion indeed, with the Cup, as well as the BTCC, supporting the first return for many years of the awesome American “Champ Cars” series.

* Young Talent *

Ahead of the weekend came news that one of motorsport’s most promising young stars would be making his debut in the Carrera Cup. 16-year old A-level student Jonathan Cocker may be too young to take his driving test, but he has already shown that he has the natural talent for racing. Red Line Racing announced that he would be joining their squad fresh from successful tests at Croft and Thruxton in his new 911 GT3. The Yorkshire lad, three months short of his 17th birthday, has raced in the T-Cars series for the last two years, but sees the Carrera Cup as a major step forward in his bid to carve a career as a professional racer. "I really want to do this as a career and the high profile of the Carrera Cup is ideal," he says. "GT racing or touring cars is my ultimate goal, and this is the perfect way into it." At the second of his two tests he posted seventh fastest time in tricky conditions at the Hampshire circuit. He subsequently ran at Donington Park in final preparation for his championship debut at Brands, where his exploits would fall under the scrutiny of the huge crowd expected for the Champ Car weekend. “Racing at that meeting will be a real thrill," he admitted.

* Mature Experience *

At about the same time former Porsche Supercup and F3 ace Richard Westbrook revealed that he too would be swelling the grid by becoming the latest driver to commit to the Carrera Cup. Westbrook would race with Team BCR from Brands Hatch onwards.

Westbrook has extensive single-seater experience in Europe, having won the Austrian F3 title in 1996, and has beaten a number of illustrious names in his time, including current F1 drivers like Nick Heidfeld and Jarno Trulli. Last season he raced in the Porsche Supercup, recording a best finish of fifth in Austria. Westbrook now intends to focus on the Carrera Cup for 2003 and believes that joining BCR gives him a firm foundation for success. BCR is the same team that took Mark Cole to the title in 2002. "I had a Supercup drive organised, but it fell through late in the day,” explained Westbrook. “I had always planned to do the Carrera Cup GB as well," he added. " I love driving Porsches and so this is absolutely ideal for me."

Westbrook first came to prominence when he won the Formula Vauxhall Junior Winter Series in 1993. He then switched to the Opel Euroseries, finishing fourth in 1994 and third in 1995. He also won races in the German F3 Championship, before taking a six-year break from racing. Despite all his European experience a number of the British tracks are new to the Londoner, including Thruxton. He tested there ahead of Brands and emerged third fastest behind first-round front-runners Horne and Templeman.

* Weekend Preview *

A record crowd was anticipated at Brands Hatch, with more than 50,000 fans expected to pack the famous Kent track over the Bank Holiday weekend to see the high-octane action of the Champ Cars, as well as the traditional panel-crunching antics of the BTCC. The Carrera Cup was scheduled for the opening race on the Monday morning, giving the Porsche teams and drivers massive public exposure. That 30-minute feature race on the Monday would follow a 20-minute sprint race on the previous day.

* Tim for the Drive *

Adding further spice to the mix was the news that former BTCC champion Tim Harvey would be the guest driver in one of Porsche Cars GB’s VIP 911s run by Parr Motorsport. Tim is an old friend of the squad, having come close to the British GT title with the Parr Motorsport/Hayles Racing GT2 Chrysler Viper in 2000. His presence in the Porsche Cars GB entry was a perfect tie-in for his work as a TV commentator for both the Carrera Cup GB and the BTCC, and he was clearly relishing the prospect. "I love driving these cars," he said, his face beaming with characteristic humour. "I've done some testing in the 2003 cars and they are absolutely fantastic to drive." In 1999, Harvey contested most of the Porsche Supercup races, scoring a best finish of fourth place at Hockenheim. Back in 1994 he raced a guest car to second place in the Supercup race supporting the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. "The cars require a lot of driving technique and I expect the opposition to be tough," he admitted. For Tim the weekend had added significance, as it marked exactly twenty years since he made his racing debut at Brands Hatch in a Formula Ford. "That will make this weekend a little bit special," he said.

At the wheel of the white and red car for the weekend would be Autocar journalist Steve Sutcliffe, himself no stranger to the Brands Hatch circuit. He was invited to drive the privateer Lexus IS200 in the final round of the BTCC at the Kent track in 2001, and was probably hoping that his time in the Porsche would end more happily!

In championship terms all eyes would be on Barry Horne and Jason Templeman. After the opening pair of races Horne had a four-point lead over his rival but, as well as battling with Templeman, Horne was also eager to lock horns with Harvey. "I know Tim Harvey will be quick," he said. "He'll be trying and he won't want to be beaten by a young gun like me, but if we qualify well enough we’ll still be going for the win!"

In addition to Jonathan Cocker and Julian Westbrook, several other drivers would also be making their seasonal debuts at Brands. David Cuff, a regular front-runner in 2002, would represent another leading contender from the BCR squad, while Richard Marsh would make it three cars for Red Line Racing. Jonathan Rowland, like Cuff a member of the 2002 grid, would also make his reappearance at Brands.

Westbrook wins Sprint race

Media release: 5 May 2003

Championship leader Horne claimed pole position in qualifying, although the session had only run for six laps before being red-flagged. He and Westbrook had been trading fastest laps from the green light, but when Richard Marsh suffered a hefty accident exiting Paddock Hill Bend the session had to be called off. Although Marsh was unhurt, the barriers needed lengthy repair and his car was beyond repair. With the organisers under tremendous pressure to meet the Champ Car timetable there was no re-start, although Westbrook was probably happy with a front-row slot. It was certainly enough to assure him an early lead, and one he never relinquished, despite constant pressure from Jason Templeman.

Westbrook defended his lead throughout 25 tough laps, while Horne and Tim Harvey gave entertaining support from fourth and fifth. Horne may have started from pole but was swamped off the line and dropped to fourth at the first corner. Westbrook dived into the lead from Templeman and, on the first lap, pulled out a one-second lead. He soon recognised the signs, however, and knew his car had problems. "The rear wheel was moving about all the time," reckoned Westbrook, who seriously considered retiring to the pits.

Having decided to press on, the one-time F3 ace endured a constant challenge from Templeman. "I was having a nightmare time braking into Paddock," he said, as Templeman attacked unremittingly. Behind these two Horne quickly established himself into third place, settling down as the lead pair battled it out. However, as the race progressed, Horne and the chasing pack dropped steadily away.

A mighty battle raged for fifth, with Tim Harvey, David Pinkney and Jonathan Rowland in the thick of the action. When Rowland hit clutch trouble, Harvey moved ahead to begin reeling in the gap to Horne. Over the final laps it looked as though he might even catch the Scotsman, but time simply ran out. "I lost too many places at the start but I thoroughly enjoyed it," said a typically enthusiastic Harvey.

David Cuff, in his first race of the year, had also run with the pack until being tagged into a spin at Clearways by Rowland. With Pinkney taking an encouraging fifth, 16-year old Jonathan Cocker drove a superb race to work through to sixth in his first Porsche race. "I’m really pleased with that," said the youngster. "Every time I get in the car I’m learning something new!"

Westbrook makes it two

Media release: 5 May 2003

In what proved to be a virtual rerun of the Sprint, Westbrook again dealt with the constant attentions of Templeman and Horne on his way to an impressive double victory. However, there was drama in the closing stages as Horne challenged Templeman for second under braking into Clearways on lap 33. Horne went for the inside line and, as Templeman turned into the apex, the cars touched. Templeman spun wildly, leaving Horne to take second at the flag. A frustrated Templeman recovered to rejoin fourth behind Tim Harvey in the Porsche Cars GB entry, but the veteran retired soon afterwards with clutch problems. This gave Jason third at the flag, but he was later moved back to second when Horne was given a 10-second penalty over the incident. With Harvey out, Cuff moved through to fourth place after a strong drive up the order. Another mature performance from Cocker netted a fine fifth after he passed Pinkney, while Steve Sutcliffe raced the second Porsche Cars VIP entry to a very creditable seventh place.

Westbrook was unable to hide his delight at winning two in a row. “That was what I was hoping for and that’s what I got," he announced triumphantly. “I had a little bit more if I needed it,” he insisted, which was possibly true, since he did not have to contend with the suspension problem that had struck him in the Sprint. Templeman spent lap after lap almost glued to the tail of the leader, but was never given even a hint of an opportunity to pass. "There aren’t many overtaking places here, and I didn’t find any," conceded Jason. However, as matters subsequently proved, his greater concern had been Horne, who had been able to run on his tail as he had been trying to depose Westbrook. Horne, despite the penalty, had the consolation of a new lap record with a best of 48.845s.