Oulton Park 2003

Preview & News

Media release: 20 September 2003

Much of the news ahead of the final rounds of the 2003 Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Oulton Park in September was of the exciting and promising prospects then coming to light for the future. Not only had several new teams announced their intentions of joining the series in 2004, but several were also starting their campaigns early, even before the current season was complete.

* New Kids on the Blocks *

Phil Hindley’s Tech 9 Motorsport outfit, regulars in the British GT Championship but with strong history of association with the former Michelin Porsche Cup, announced that they would be committing to the championship. Early in September they took delivery of a brand new Porsche 911 Cup car, which Hindley would race for the first time at Oulton. "We already have a British GT programme in place for 2004, but we can't ignore the strength of the Carrera Cup," he said. "This is an ideal chance to put Tech 9 into the Cup and it’s a also chance to evaluate the championship for 2004. It is a strong series and we want to be part of it next year." The intention is that Tech 9 will field at least two cars in the series next season, but the chance to join the final races of 2003 at his local Oulton Park circuit was too good an opportunity to miss.

It had been hoped that the addition of Hindley’s entry would take the Oulton Park grid to 18, but in the end just 16 cars took to the track. However, this was by far the best field of the year, which had typically hovered around the twelve mark, and suggested that things were looking markedly more promising for the future. Interest in 2004 is certainly running at a much higher level, with teams reporting an excellent level of serious enquiries from potential competitors.

* Championship Decider *

The destiny of the championship title would be decided at Oulton. The contest had come down to just two strong runners: Barry Horne and Richard Westbrook, with Horne enjoying the upper hand as they headed for Cheshire. Having led the points-race from the very first outing the Scot was determined not to let the title slip from his grasp, and the cards were certainly stacked in his favour. Westbrook would need to score maximum points at Oulton, with pole position, two wins and two fastest laps to deny Horne the honours. It was a tall order – although nothing that Westbrook hadn’t looked like managing before! On the other hand, Horne needed just a solitary second place to secure the crown. "I wanted to maintain the points gap heading to Oulton," he said. "To come away from the last rounds at Donington with a first and a second was exactly what we’d wanted."

Westbrook knew that he had a mountain to climb, but something as simple as a non-finish for Horne in the first race would have turned the title situation on its head. However, Westbrook had an added challenge for the weekend, with Oulton Park a completely new challenge for him. "I've never even been there," he admitted beforehand, "but I've got nothing to lose, so I'm really going to go for it." Although Jason Templeman still had a mathematical chance of clinching the title, it would demand major and unlikely dramas from both Horne and Westbrook.

As well Phil Hindley, further spice would be added to the championship showdown in the form of cars for Mark Cole, Jeremy Smith and Colin Broster. Headlining the Oulton line-up, however, would undoubtedly be the two VIP drivers running under the Parr Motorsport / Porsche Cars GB banner: Gavin Pyper and Jonny Kane.

* Pyper and Kane have Star Ability *

Former British F3 champion and Le Mans ace Jonny Kane would be making his Carrera Cup debut at Oulton, stepping aboard the red-striped car, number 40. "It should be good fun,” he declared ahead of the event, “but I've never driven anything remotely like this before." Following a highly successful career in junior single-seater racing, Kane won the BRDC / McLaren / Autosport young driver of the year award in 1995 and the British F3 title in 1997. He then raced for two seasons in the Indy Lights series in the USA, winning races in 1999 and 2000. In recent seasons, Kane has raced for Audi, Bentley and MG at the very pinnacle of international sportscar racing.

"In recent seasons it has all been long-distance sportscar racing, but I've shown that I'm quick in the races that I have done," said Kane. "I've always been interested in the Carrera Cup and Porsche Supercup and it should be quite an experience for me. The last time I raced at Oulton Park was in F3 in 1997. I'm not expecting too much this weekend. I raced against Richard Westbrook a couple of times in single-seaters in 1995 and I know how quick he is."

Kane would have just two hours of official testing on Friday afternoon to get used to the Porsche 911GT3 Cup and re-learn the challenging Oulton Park circuit ahead of qualifying on Saturday morning.

More familiar with Oulton Park, and certainly the idea of driving a car with all four wheels enclosed and a roof over his head, would be Gavin Pyper. As a regular in the British Touring Car Championship, where he has been thrashing Alfas round the tracks for the last couple of seasons, Pyper might feel more at home in a Porsche. His reward for being just a mite more experienced with such things was the honour of giving the Number One blue-striped car its final outing of the year.

Westbrook bags 2003's final pole

Media release: 20 September 2003

Despite having never driven on the circuit in the dry before, Westbrook put in a mighty performance to head the qualifying times from Jason Templeman, Mark Cole and Barry Horne. Prior to the start of qualifying, Westbrook had only driven at the Cheshire track in the wet test session the previous afternoon. "Yesterday was the worst case scenario for me," said Westbrook before qualifying. ‘I think the front row is out of the question." Despite his predictions, Westbrook was immediately into the groove and set a stunning pace as soon as the session started. "That’s possibly my best ever qualifying performance," he reckoned.

Templeman, who had shown strongly during the test, maintained his form to take second slot on the grid – his best effort all season. He was just four tenths slower than Westbrook, while Cole and Horne completed the top four. Gavin Pyper took sixth just behind Andy Britnell, while Kane was a disappointed ninth. The fact that both Parr drivers set their fastest times towards the end of the session confirmed that any apparent lack of pace was attributable in the main to unfamiliarity with their cars, and given more opportunity for testing both Kane and Pyper would certainly have been there with the best. Westbrook, by comparison, set his quickest time on his fourth flyer, tried one more, and then sat out the rest of the session.

 

Templeman snatches win from Westbrook

Media release: 21 September 2003

Right at the end of the year it all came together for Jason Templeman. His best qualifying effort of the year was rewarded with his first win, although it wasn’t a straightforward run.

The skies were overcast and the track still damp when the cars lined up on the grid for the standing start. It was late in the day, and the circuit would pose a challenge for the powerful Cup cars. Pole-setting Westbrook led away from the line, emphasizing his claim on the lead as they jostled through Old Hall. Templeman, sharing the front row, tucked in behind, with Horne a close third.

The two leaders eked out a modest advantage over Horne, the Scotsman probably content to watch their sparring in the knowledge that a good finish would satisfy his needs. By the end of the second lap they were nearly two seconds clear, but the turning point in this race was not long in coming. Under braking for the tight Island Corner on the sixth lap Templeman dived through into the lead, but it wasn’t a clean move, and Westbrook was sent spinning wide as the two cars touched. Westbrook recovered quickly, but with the rest of the pack still in hot pursuit the delay cost him valuable places. By the time he recovered the black stuff he was down to fifth, his prospects for the title knocked sideways by the slightest tap. "I knew it was going to happen; I turned in and whack!" He was understandably disappointed.

There are always two sides to a story, of course, and Templeman was quick with his riposte. "I knew he was going to block me and that I’d have to make a hard move to get by him, and I did," he said. The outcome was that Horne doffed a metaphorical hat as he swept through to inherit second, no doubt delighted by the thought that he only had to hold that position to the flag to become series champion. "I couldn’t sit back and relax too much,” he insisted. “Pinkney is always quick in the wet and Westbrook was behind him," explained Horne.

Westbrook did battle his way back up to third, snatching the final podium place from David Pinkney at the last corner of the thirteen-lap race. "He went round the outside at Lodge," admitted a bemused Pinkney, demoted to fourth where he least expected it.

Of the two Parr drivers, Kane showed the greatest fire and determination, right from the start. He picked off places steadily during the opening laps, moving through from ninth through to sixth over the course of the opening three laps. This brought him onto Gavin Pyper’s tail, and the two works cars were closely matched until Westbrook slotted in between them following his incident at Island. He made short work of Pyper before heading off after the leaders, leaving Pyper and Kane to resume their tussle. It looked likely that they’d hold fifth and sixth to the end until Mark Cole came on the scene. He’d endured a first lap spin at Cascades that had tumbled him to tenth, so he’d done well to recover so much ground. Despite losing the front splitter and the clutch, Cole stormed back into contention and finally got the upper hand in a great battle with Jonny Kane for sixth on the last lap.

Westbrook wins but title goes to Horne

Media release: 21 September 2003

In time-honoured tradition, the grid for the Feature’s rolling start was determined by the finishing order of the Sprint. Well, that’s the theory anyway. In practice it doesn’t always work out exactly according to convention, and the final Carrera Cup race of 2003 very nearly began in farce. It’s probably a natural assumption that the pole setter determines the pace, and often taken further to conclude that he must cross the line first. Having never been in that position before, Templeman was probably unjustifiably confident in his authority. He lead the field over the brow from Deer Leap and positively crawled towards the line. While the lights held red, he was master of all he surveyed. When, just yards short of the line, they turned green, his nebulous grasp of the situation clearly frayed to breaking point. While all around him heads were being kept, Templeman lost his, and like a rock within a torrent he stood trailing in their wake. From left and right they streamed past him, and by the time the horde swarmed through Old Hall he was already down to fourth.

Behind him Westbrook and Pinkney were balked, but Horne was perfectly placed to grab the lead. Best of all, and opportunist of the moment, was Gavin Pyper, who swept through from the third row to snatch second at the turn, followed closely by Mark Cole.

While Horne pulled out an early lead Cole was closing down on Pyper. It was nip and tuck for a couple of laps, but then, as they came down to Island for the third time, Pyper ran wide. Cole promptly ducked through on the inside, but overbraked himself a little and had the frustration of then seeing Pyper struggle back ahead as they took the rise beyond. It was a brief recovery, despite this. Commanding the inside line Cole was able to make the chicane his own, and swept out the other side in second place. Templeman was not far behind, denying Pyper third a few corners later.

Westbrook, meanwhile, had started to battle back up the order from eighth. "The start was unbelievable," he proclaimed. Although Horne was by far the quickest on the track, Westbrook looked to be relishing the set-up on his car. His progress was impressive, and in three short laps he was right on Pyper’s tail. The Touring Car driver offered little resistance as Westbrook surged by on the run up to Lodge. Lap three had not been the best for Pyper.

Jonny Kane had been one of several caught in the bottleneck behind Templeman at the start and soon found himself in a close grapple with Jonathan Cocker for seventh. Experience won out in the end, and a neat move through Cascades saw him pass the youngster on lap five. His next target was Andy Britnell, who he caught at Island on the following lap. A gentle tap on the rear three-quarters as they exited the corner announced to Britnell that Kane had arrived, and as they ran down from Hill Top towards Knickerbrook for the sixth time, Kane snuck through to take sixth. That brought the two Parr teammates within sight of one another and the scene was set for an excellent duel.

On lap eight Templeman’s luck ran out completely. A blown clutch saw him retire, while an incident at the hairpin between Britnell and Cocker put paid to Britnell’s hopes of a highly-placed conclusion to an otherwise rewarding season.

By lap nine Westbrook was right on Cole’s bumper. For four laps the cars ran nose to tail, but on the exit of Old Hall for the thirteenth time Cole missed a gear as the car bounced off the kerbs. Westbrook saw his chance and slipped by to move ahead into Cascades. With a clear track ahead of him, he now set about reducing Horne’s lead. At one point this had stood at more than four seconds, but while Westbrook’s Porsche was proving to be a joy to drive, Horne’s handling was going increasingly awry. "I couldn’t get the car turned in," he explained later. Relentlessly Westbrook hunted the leader down, and by lap 17 there was nothing left between them.

Horne was not about to surrender his lead without a fight. He held on tenaciously until the final lap. They were side by side over Hill Top with Westbrook on the outside line for Knickerbrook. Horne tried to match him under braking, but ran wide over the grass as Westbrook nipped through between the tyres to take the lead. It was a final and decisive move. Horne battled to recover, but the final victory was Westbrook’s. "I just had to concentrate on catching Barry," said Westbrook. "I can’t believe I did it!" Horne had given his all in a cracking contest. "He just hounded me. I tried to brake at the same point he braked, but the car just wouldn’t turn in." Mind you, seventeen podiums in 20 races is still a good record.

A little further down the field a battle-royal had ensued between Pyper and Kane, with Kane finally coming to terms with his Porsche tin-top and demonstrating why he’s such a star in sportscars. On lap twelve he finally got in front of Pyper, but it wasn’t over by a long chalk. The two were throwing their cars around with near-reckless abandon, pushing weary tyres to their limit. Something had to give, although not before Kane could threaten Cole for third. It looked a foregone conclusion that the red and white car would eventually get by, and as they came over the brow to begin the approach to Cascades on the penultimate lap Kane went for the move. The driver may have been willing, but the car wasn’t able. On the exit, just nosing in front, the Porsche’s tail end broke away, sending Kane spinning out across the grass. “I just got a little bit carried away,” he admitted sheepishly. “A bit exuberant, perhaps, and I lost it.” Pyper, just yards behind, seized his opportunity and nipped back in front. “Jonny just went off rallycrossing. It was mega fun!” he announced with delight, taking a comfortable fourth from the recovering Kane. Jeremy Smith denied Phil Hindley of sixth in the closing stages.