Snettereton 2003

Preview & News

Media release: 8 August 2003

The East Anglian circuit of Snetterton would play host to Round Seven of the 2003 Porsche Carrera Cup. With the entire country experiencing one of the hottest periods of summer weather in decades a grid of twelve Porsche drivers prepared to do battle in searing conditions.

American Patrick Long (www.patricklong.com) would be making his return to the British Touring Car support programme by taking control of one of the two VIP cars entered by Porsche Cars GB and run by Parr Motorsport. As one of the most experienced Porsche drivers to step aboard the white and blue “Number One” much, perhaps, was expected of the man from California. As a member of the UPS Porsche Junior team (the first non-German driver ever selected) his form at the time certainly looked impressive, having won his previous race at the Norisring in Germany. Spending so much time at the wheel of Porsches just like the one he would race at Snetterton – he competes in the Porsche Supercup (Grand Prix support) as well as the German version of the Carrera Cup – Long should have been well attuned to the task he faced. He would also be eager to get one over on his regular team-mate Mike Rockenfeller, who claimed a second place in the same car at Croft in July.

Long is no stranger to racing in Britain, having competed in Formula Ford and then Formula Renault in the last two seasons. "Obviously I’m quite excited to be coming back to the UK and it will be nice to back on the TOCA programme," he said.

"I’m quite confident for the races," he continued. "Snetterton has been one of my most successful tracks and it was the first track I went to when I arrived in England. I had a win in the 2000 Formula Ford Winter Series and I also won there in Formula Renault last year. I’ve done a lot of laps at Snetterton."

Long would tackle the Snetterton races fresh from racing in the Supercup race at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on August 3rd. "I’m really busy with Carrera Cup in Germany and Porsche Supercup, so it’s a great honour to be invited," he said. "Seeing how well Mike Rockenfeller went makes me quite confident, but I’m going to be in their element and it certainly won’t be easy."

Racing the other VIP car at Snetterton would be evo Magazine’s deputy editor Richard Meaden, who has raced in sports cars and saloons on a fairly regular basis. “I’ve been lucky enough to experience lots of different race cars, mainly through guest drives like this one,” admitted Meaden. “My first ever race was in a Caterham at Cadwell Park, some ten years ago, and I followed that with a season in the VW Vento VR6 series.”

Both drivers had the capacity to get in among the regulars, and possibly cause a few upsets in the conventional race order. With half the season completed the contest for the title looked to have settled down to a competition between three, or perhaps four highly competent drivers. Barry Horne remained at the head of the points, as he had since the opening race of the season at Mondello Park over the Easter weekend. However, a disastrous outing at Croft, where he collected a mere two points, saw his once-comfortable advantage reduced to 27 points. "I just need to be consistent and finish races,” he said. “I can't afford any more non-finishes! My aim for Snetterton is to rebuild the championship lead once more and just forget about Croft."

The driver who took the biggest profit at Croft was Richard Westbrook, scoring almost maximum points to move into third place behind Jason Templeman. "Croft was really important to turn the championship back round. I'm feeling very confident. The pressure is back on Barry again," suggested Westbrook, who had never previously raced at Snetterton although has tested an F3000 car at the track. Such unfamiliarity hasn’t hampered him before, as his efforts at Rockingham proved.

Although not scoring as strongly at Croft as Westbrook, it was Templeman who now posed the greatest threat the Horne. Needing only to better Horne by 27 points Templeman’s chances looked promising. “Croft opened things up, but Barry has got a lot of pace at the moment and I need to go to Snetterton on terms with him," admitted Jason. Three points down on Westbrook, David Pinkney was also in contention for the title, but the likelihood of missing Snetterton due to prior commitments meant that his long-term chances now looked slim.

Uniquely for 2003, the BTCC race programme would be run through into the early evening of the Snetterton Saturday, allowing both Carrera Cup races to take place on the same day. 11.55am and 4.45pm were scheduled as start times.

Long shot pays off

Media release: 9 August 2003

It all began well with Long setting fastest time in qualifying on Friday, proving that he not only knows how to handle a Porsche Cup car, but also understands the 1.95 mile Snetterton circuit. It has been the scene of several memorable wins for the American, who enjoyed victories at the Norfolk track during his British Formula Renault and Formula Ford seasons. Steering the white and red car, #40, to eighth was a disappointment for Richard Meaden. “Qualifying was tough, to be honest,” he said. “I simply didn’t feel familiar enough with the car; I was reacting to it rather than letting things flow.” His times had been improving steadily throughout the earlier free-practice session. “I was getting plenty of good advice and encouragement from the guys at Parr. That gave me a bit of confidence, but I was still struggling with the right technique.” In the end he was pleased to have come within two seconds of Patrick’s pole of 1:09.604. “I was relieved not be slowest! ” he grinned.

Pole should have given the experienced Long every advantage at the standing start, but it was Jason Templeman who roared off the second row to be second into Riches, behind Richard Westbrook, who had made the most of his front-row position. That dropped Long to third through the opening corners, but he was soon on the attack and nipped ahead of Templeman when the latter put a wheel wide on the exit of Russell.

Richard Meaden had enjoyed a better opening set of laps than he’d anticipated. “I was worried by the start,” he admitted, “but in the end I actually got a good one. I’d also had a top tip from Phil Bennett (Proton BTCC driver) who’d suggested taking the outside line into Riches to avoid the bottleneck, as everyone dives for the inside.” That’s sound advice, provided those on the inside don’t tangle, run wide, and take you away in the process. “In my case, it certainly seemed to do the trick!” he said, smiling at the knowledge that he’d gained a place in the process.

That wedged the journalist into a sandwich between Jeremy Smith and Jonathan Cocker. Both have been running well this season, but it is Cocker, the teenager, who has been the most impressive. When David Cuff spun on lap three the trio all benefited, but it also brought Cocker right onto Meaden’s tail. For the next few laps it was a close-run thing between the two, allowing Smith to ease out a slight advantage. On lap seven the pressure on Meaden told when a slight error at Sears gave Cocker an opening. “I never did get that corner right,” he admitted ruefully. The sixteen-year-old dived through. Meaden, showing the kind of wily experience rarely seen from on-track journalists, recovered promptly and was perfectly placed to capitalise on a rare mistake from Cocker. “He went straight on at the end of Revett,” explained Meaden, “and I nipped through before the Bombhole.” A brake problem was later offered as an explanation, but Cocker also lost the car’s spoiler in the process (those plastic rivets again!) and suffered from chronic understeer from that moment on.

Meanwhile Long had been able to dive into the lead at the start of the third lap as Westbrook, struggling once again with his car’s handling, floundered for control. "I clouted a kerb at the end of the first lap," he explained later. Unable to defend with any great vigour, Long edged ahead of him at Riches. That not only slowed Westbrook but also Templeman, who was tight on his tailpipes, and everything played neatly into Horne’s hands. "Richard went wide at Sear and I managed to get a run on Jason and Richard and just squeezed through," reported Horne, who jumped from fourth to second in one move.

Now it was Long, Horne and Westbrook in close formation as Templeman started to drop away. Inevitably, with Long not scoring championship points, Horne concentrated on holding off Westbrook.

And that was pretty much how it stayed. Long continued to pull away over the second half of the race to score an easy victory, relaxing as he crossed the line to win by almost two seconds. With the memories of Croft happily banished, Horne was equally pleased to collect maximum points, comfortably keeping Westbrook at bay over the closing minutes. "My main aim was to try and beat the British guys, so that’s a perfect result," said Horne. Westbrook battled his ill-handling car home third as Templeman took fourth. "I just seemed to go backwards as the race progressed," reckoned Jason who later discovered a slow puncture at the rear of his car. "It must have started on the fourth lap," he surmised.

Jeremy Smith drove an excellent race to take fifth as second Porsche VIP driver Richard Meaden took sixth, ten seconds clear of the labouring Cocker. “It was all pretty straightforward in the end,” admitted Meaden. “The only real problem was the heat. You didn’t notice it so much when you were really concentrating, but those last few quiet laps were very nasty!”

Hot work as Long takes double

Media release: 9 August 2003

At the end of a long day and in front of a bumper crowd Patrick Long led the pack away from the rolling start, followed hard by Westbrook and Horne. The UPS regular was clearly in a class of his own, steadily extending his lead and leaving the scrap for second place as little more than a hazy mirage in his rear-view mirror.

After his comforting start in the Sprint race, Richard Meaden had not fared so well with the roller. “I cocked it up!” he admitted. Jonathan Rowland, starting from the row behind, made a forceful thrust to be through and into sixth, while youngster Cocker had also edged out Meaden on the run through Riches. “He squeezed up the inside and I ended up progressing rapidly down the order,” said Meaden later.

Westbrook and Horne were evenly matched in the battle for second, never more than a heartbeat between them, but a five-second window rapidly opened up in their wake. Then, half way through the ninth lap, disaster struck for Horne. "The tyre just went and sent me into the wall," said a distraught Horne, whose car speared off the road and into the tyres at the Bombhole.

Belying his journalistic roots, Richard Meaden was giving the Cup regulars a tight run for their money. His closest rival once again proved to be Jonathan Cocker, and they were nose to tail as they fought through the midfield. “We had a big door-banging session on one lap, me trying it on round the outside,” recalls Meaden. Although battling between themselves, they were also picking up places along the way. Jonathan Rowland was an early scalp, except he then tagged along for the ride. “Jonathan Cocker started to pull away a bit, and I in turn was pulling away from the guy behind me. I would have been quite happy to maintain that to the flag,” said Meaden. Thankfully, it was not to be.

Two laps after Horne’s demise Templeman spun out of third place at Coram. "It just went away from me," said Jason after clipping the tyre wall. With two cars off, the safety car was sent out and the pack reformed with Long leading Westbrook, Smith, Cocker, Meaden and Cuff. “I wasn’t best pleased when the safety car came out,” admitted Meaden. “I didn’t fancy losing another place, but when I saw it was Barry Horne in the Bombhole barriers I realised I’d shuffled up another place.” What happened next made things even more appealing for Meaden. Racing had not even resumed when more drama hit the script. Somewhere out on track Westbrook had collected a rear puncture and he lost a lot of time limping back to the pits for a new replacement. "It was really looking good," bemoaned Westbrook, who had been anticipating not only to a chance at Long, but also a healthy boost to his points total. He would eventually salvage eighth, three laps down.

Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Cocker, who had finished on the podium three times already during the season, now emerged in third, with Jeremy Smith as the next target in his sights. As the pair rounded Coram there was contact, but it was Smith who came off worst, scuttling off onto the grass and into the barriers. Although he got the car back to the pits, the damage was too great and he wisely retired. Third place (and maximum championship points, nearing in mind that leader Long and soon-to-be-second Meaden wouldn’t score) had been in reach for the Yorkshireman, which would have been his best result of the season. Instead he had to watch as Long stretched clear.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw that another car had fallen off!” said Meaden, who was now relishing his situation to the full. Finding himself in fourth place came as a huge confidence booster. “I seemed to have a second wind!” he exclaimed, justifying a remarkable improvement in his pace. He was now putting down his best laps of the weekend, second only to Patrick Long. The American was still comfortably out in front having led every lap of the race and already broken his own new lap record. Meaden, meanwhile, had found his best turn of speed yet, gunning down the Revett straight and out-braking Cocker into the Esses. The move so shocked the teenager that he lost concentration for a moment, and David Cuff pounced from behind.

It was now a surprised and delighted Meaden who held second from Cuff, Cocker and Jonathan Rowland. “As you can imagine, I was a bit shell-shocked at running second,” admitted Meaden modestly. “I found it a struggle to keep focused for the last handful of laps ‘til the flag.” The record suggests it wasn’t too much of a struggle, since he crossed the line almost two seconds clear of David Cuff. “I guess Race One was a more genuine reflection of my pace,” he admitted later, “without Lady Luck playing her part, that is, but I was very pleased with my driving, especially after the safety car period. I always seem to race better than I qualify, so it was good to make a few passes and generally get stuck in.”

Meaden’s second place gave Parr and Porsche Cars GB another excellent result – their best of the season so far. “Thanks should go to Paul and the team for letting yet another free-loading journo loose on their car!” joked Meaden, who was obviously genuine in his appreciation. “It was a pleasure to meet and work with them all, and makes the 1-2 finish all the more satisfying.”

With all three of the main championship contenders in the doldrums at Snetterton the title remained wide open as the series headed back towards Brands for Round 8.