Brands Hatch (GP) 2004

Preview & News

Media release: 24 April 2004

The second series of races in the 2004 Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain would take place over the weekend of April 24th and 25th, supporting the British Touring cars around the short Indy circuit at the Kent track. Hopes that the tin-tops and their support would be able to use the full Grand Prix circuit were dashed by new owner Jonathan Palmer. He announced just before the weekend that the longer loop would only ever be used when profitable meetings attended the venue, and the BTCC did not, in his opinion meet the criteria.

The opening two races of the season at Thruxton demonstrated just how competitive the season was going to be, with six different drivers climbing the podium after the pair of races. When the circus arrived in Kent just one championship point covered the top three drivers, with Richard Westbrook narrowly leading after a win and a fifth place in races one and two. A major gearbox problem had hampered his second race, but Westbrook remained one of the clear title favourites. Westbrook arrived at Brands still trying to catch his breath from the previous weekend’s exertions, when he successfully completed his first London Marathon. “The longest I’d ever run before was a half-marathon, but this was the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said later. Westbrook was raising money for the Sense charity for deaf and blind children, and aimed for around three thousand pounds. “Crossing the finish line was fantastic,” he said after completing the race in 3hr 49m. Westbrook also plans to contest the New York Marathon in November.

Victory in the second Thruxton race, following a fifth place with a broken damper in the first, was a positive beginning for Tim Harvey. The former BTCC ace is splitting his BTCC race weekends between racing the 911 GT3 in the Cup and offering his commentating wisdom on the BTCC races. He hails from Kent, so a large crowd of supporters was expected for the Brands Hatch weekend.

The revelation of Thruxton had been Chris Cooper, who lies joint second on points with Harvey after those opening two races. His racecraft has been well proven in previous seasons, but the way in which he so rapidly adapted to the Porsche has already marked him out as a title contender. The same applies to Jonathan Fildes, who ran strongly at Thruxton and will use the experience of that weekend to continue a superb start to his Carrera Cup campaign.

A podium finish in the second race at Thruxton was a welcome result for Nigel Rice, especially with the guys here at Parr. Nigel was a popular member of the Parr Motorsport team in 2002 before having to take an 18-month break from racing due to injury. His gritty drive at Thruxton, one of his least favourite circuits, showed that Nigel has lost none of his fire and determination.

Championship runner-up in 2003, Jason Templeman, was denied the chance of victory at Thruxton with a clutch problem in the second race, so will be keen to make amends this weekend. He is joined in the Vic Lee squad by Marcus Thomas, while other leading contenders include David Pinkney, the Britnell Borthers; Andy and Gary, Jason Young, Des Winks, Mark Hazell (another ex-Parr racer) and Martin Rich. Racing newcomer Michael Corridan was expected to make his Carrera Cup debut, but eventually didn’t, although it cannot have been for lack of incentive. A brand new £55,000 road-going Porsche is waiting to be presented to the champion at season's end!

Perry McCarthy as Guest Driver *

Enthusiasm for the weekend was raised by confirmation that Perry McCarthy would be pedaling the Porsche GB guest car. Perry is a hugely popular figure and, with a F ormula 1 pedigree, would be expected to perform well. Of late, however, he’s become best known as the enigmatic “Stig”, the black-clad and supposedly anonymous track tester for the BBC Top Gear programme.

Brands Hatch would be McCarthy’s first race since competing at Le Mans in 2003, and would be a challenging experience for a man who had only ever driven a rear-engined Porsche once before. Brands Hatch would also demand a shake of the McCarthy grey cells, since he’d not raced the track in nearly eight years. "I think the Carrera Cup looks like great fun and I was delighted to be offered the chance to race with Porsche,” he said.

At forty-two Perry has over twenty years experience under his belt, and it’s an impressive CV. He worked his way up through junior single-seater categories, becoming FF1600 Champion and 1983’s “Star of Tomorrow” in only his second season. Two years later he had progressed into F3, and from there began a first of a two year excursion in F3000 with Lola. In 1990 he made his first appearance in a sportscar, competing a Buick-engined Spice in the IMSA series, winning at Mid Ohio with Richard Lloyd Racing. The following year he was on the IMSA podium several times, and came to the attention of the Andrea Moda F1 team, who gave him his Grand Prix debut in 1992. A series of mechanical disasters prevent him from ever actually completing a race, and he filled in with other sportscar duties before landing the role of test driver to Williams and the Footwork Arrows teams in 1995. Hopes of a full-time Formula 1 drive, so often hailed as “just around the corner” by the motorsport press, never materialised, although Perry continued to generate a lot of interest within the industry.

Perry must have accepted that his fate no longer lay with open-wheeled racecars, and in 1996 embarked upon his present career as a sports and GT racer. Outings in the BPR Global Endurance Series and the Renault Spider Cup in 1996 culminated in his Le Mans debut, co-driving an Oreca Viper GTS-R alongside Justin Bell and Dominique Dupuy. That was followed by a very successful season with Panoz and David Price Racing in 1997, regularly front-running in the FIA GT Championship but ending their Le Mans run (with Brabham and Bundy) with a fire at half-distance.

1998 was a SportsCar year in the States for Perry, but he returned to these shores in 1999 at the wheel of the new Audi R8C. Entered by Audi Sport UK in Le Mans, the original Audi coupé was a prettier car than the current R8, but didn’t quite have the same reliability. With co-drivers James Weaver and Andy Wallace (what a line up!!) McCarthy retired in the 17th hour with engine woes. He was, perhaps, luckier than the Mercedes drivers of that year, with Webber and Dumbreck famously flipping.

In 2001 Perry was earmarked to drive one of the Bentley EXP Speed 8s at Le Mans when the famous flying “B” made its first return to the track it once dominated – and would again in 2003. Unfortunately, although he completed the official test in April, he was cruelly dropped from the squad before June. He returned with a vengeance in 2002, co-driving a Panoz roadster with Jerome Policand and Marc Duez for the Michel Vaillant comic strip adventure film. Despite the ultimate objective, and frequent pitstops, the drivers had to race for real. As the evil “Leader”, McCarthy was required to wear a striking red and black race suit and dice with the blue Vaillant Lola. On track the Panoz ran well, handsomely bettering the Lola, but retired after eleven hours when the transmission gave way. On the silver screen the Lola wins, of course, and McCarthy’s exploits are currently on general release in cinemas across France.

Back to reality, and Le Mans 2003, when Perry shared the #10 Audi R8 with Mika Salo and Frank Biela – but the less said about that, perhaps, the better, since it was one of the those rare occasions when an Audi scored a DNF. Brands Hatch 2004, then, and the fact that McCarthy's only previous race in a Porsche was in 1990 when he handled a Group C 962 in the World Sportscar Championship race at Mexico City. "That's the only time I've ever driven a Porsche, and I've only ever really raced cars with a lot of downforce," he admitted. The Porsche GT3 Cup is a very different beast indeed, and Perry also recognises that the Carrera Cup GB field is highly competitive. Happily, Tim Harvey is an old Formula Ford rival from nearly 20 years ago. "I'll be asking Tim for some advice on how to drive these things,” said McCarthy with mischievous grin. “I don't under-estimate the talent of the people on the grid and I'm being dropped in at the deep end, but I rarely race in England these days. This is a good chance to race in front of the British fans. Hopefully, people will realise what I'm up against!"

McCarthy’s only chance to test the 911GT3 would be at Brands on the Friday before qualifying. In the meantime, check out a copy of his entertaining autobiography, entitled Flat out, Flat broke.

Templeman takes Brands pole

Media release: 24 April 2004

It was Jason Templeman who emerged at the top of the tree after qualifying on Saturday. With the fastest lap ever achieved by a 911 GT3 Cup car on the Brands Indy circuit of 47.948 seconds, Templeman grabbed pole by three one-hundredths of a second from Westbrook. “I’m pleased with that,” said Templeman. “I didn’t think I’d get into the 47s, especially after I had to abandon a couple of qualifying laps due to traffic.” It was a fine performance for Jason’s first pole of the season.

Richard Westbrook was “just happy to be on the front row round here.” He’d set the pace at the start of the qualifying period, but been pipped to pole right at the end. “I’m not actually sure if pole position is an advantage,” he added, eying Paddock Hill Bend, scene of many a first-lap clash. Third place, after being quickest in Friday’s pre-race testing, was Tim Harvey. “I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with third, but we’ll have an analysis and come back fighting tomorrow,” promised Harvey after a couple of strong laps were affected by traffic.

Perry McCarthy, racing the VIP car for Porsche Cars GB, was disappointed to qualify only tenth. “We’ll have to sort that out in the race,” he said. “We’ll have some fun and hopefully the crowd will enjoy it. It’s going to be overtaking practice tomorrow!”

The Stig takes third as Harvey wins

 Media release: 25 April 2004 

Even though he started from the front row and made the best getaway, everything went sour for Westbrook at Druids on the first lap. He was leading the field into the corner when he was hit from behind and spun sideways across the track. Other cars in the midfield were unable to avoid Westbrook’s stricken car and Mark Hazell, Martin Rich and Des Winks were all eliminated in the carnage that followed.

Jonathan Fildes also spun in the drama, all of which allowed Templeman and Harvey to break clear at the front. “Going into Druids Jason missed his braking point and took me off,” said an aggrieved Westbrook later. “It was simply bad driving,” he insisted. Just deserts were around the corner for Templeman, however, who had sustained damage to his Porsche’s steering during the incident. He was not able to fend off Harvey for long, and pulling out of Graham Hill Bend for the eighth time, Harvey nipped ahead.

Once in front, Harvey had the legs on Templeman and was able to extend his lead over the rest of the race. Templeman chased, but in vain. “I got caught out on the coolant that had been dropped and ran wide,” explained Templeman, explaining how Harvey had been given the necessary opening. Harvey admitted that the race “didn’t go the way I thought it would,” although he was evidently pleased by the result.

A little further back David Pinkney had enjoyed a storming first lap to grab third beyond the chaos, and ran close to Harvey and Templeman until his car started to lose fluid. He slowed before retiring with an over-heating engine. “I was just sitting happily behind them,” he said, clearly disappointed. With Pinkney gone, a tremendous four-car battle raged for third as McCarthy battled to fend off Fildes, Cooper and Rice, who was charging back into contention after being delayed on the opening lap.

Into Paddock Hill Bend on lap sixteen Cooper slid sideways and spun. Rice just tagged Cooper’s car as he tried to steer through, but pressed on, even though damaged bodywork was rubbing on a tyre and gave him some anxious times over the remaining laps. With Cooper gone, Fildes was running in a safe fourth behind McCarthy and that was how they finished after a race-long contest. “To be up against someone like Perry is great,” admitted Fildes.

Perry’s car suffered a mild overheating problem in the latter stages, but survived to reward him with third. He was elated to have finished on the podium after starting tenth. “I missed a gear off the line, but that gave them all time to settle down! I was fairly keen to be on the podium, but Jonathan was keeping me honest,” reckoned McCarthy. “I really enjoyed it.”

Harvey wins as Westbrook storms to third

Media release: 25 April 2004 

Seven cars hadn’t made it to the end of race one, but most were back and ready for action in the weekend’s second round, although several, including Des Winks’ Porsche, were displaying some of the scars of battle. The starting order would be based upon the result of the earlier race, so Tim Harvey would begin on the front row alongside Jason Templeman, with Perry McCarthy behind them in third. The air temperature had cooled after a sunny afternoon, but the track retained much of the day’s warmth. Perry set himself up almost in the middle of the grid, and was clearly eyeing up the gap through to the front.

With his overheating problem cured he was hoping for another strong run, but it didn’t get off to the best of beginnings. When the lights changed Perry’s wheels went into a spin, sending up a cloud of white smoke, and he all but went backwards. Standing starts are clearly no longer a strong suit in his deck! Several cars had swept around either side before “The Stig” was up to speed.

Everyone went clean through Paddock Hill Bend, although Harvey and Templeman probably exchanged a few paint samples on the way. There was an excellent start from Nigel Rice, who picked off Perry McCarthy to end the lap fourth. Fildes held third through Druids, but ran out wide at the foot of Graham Hill bend, skipping across the rough and kicking dust and grass clippings into the air. Rice closed in.

So the first lap ended with Harvey leading Templeman by a length, and these two some way clear of Fildes and Rice. Andy Britnell had made the most of McCarthy’s stumble, and snatched fifth, although the sportscar ace was back into his stride by the end of the lap and running smoothly in sixth.

Tim Harvey was looking equally smooth and very competent, but Templeman’s progress, while fast, was scrappy and appeared likely to be doing his tyres no favours. Westbrook, having started plum last, had made up five places on the first lap, and was scything through the midfield like the proverbial hot knife. With almost every lap that clocked its way onto the charts, Westbrook picked off another Unfortunate. In his first full lap at race pace he was threatening the lap record, and it wouldn’t be long before he broke it.

Perry McCarthy was back in action mode once again, and had Britnell in his sights. Templeman was equally determined to find an opening around Harvey, but that’s never easy at the best of times. He gave it a go at Paddock Hill, but Harvey calmly closed the door across his nose. He gave it another stab round Druids, but wisely backed off, the memory of his lunge in the previous race probably still fresh in his mind. If these guys at the front were finding it hard to pick up places, not so Westbrook. By the end of the fourth lap he’d arrived beneath McCarthy’s rear wing, and carried his pace through the dip into Druids with enough momentum to dive through on the inside. He’d set his first new lap record along the way.

Westbrook’s failure to do more than half a lap in race one was now paying dividends. With the freshest tyres in the race he was able to push much harder than the rest, and once in front of McCarthy, was able to make solid inroads on Britnell. It took him less than a lap, and in a carbon copy of his pass on McCarthy, he swept through at Druids. Once in front, he began to pull away rapidly and raise his target to Rice in third. The Yorkshireman had been running well, but after a hard charge in race one his rubber was not as responsive as Westbrook’s. Scrabbling to hold the kerb, Rice must have watched in disbelief as Westbrook took the high road through Paddock Hill bend, bounced over the kerbs at the foot, and then neatly fended off the best reposte that Rice could offer as they braked for Druids. Even Westbrook’s Michelins must have been on the edge as he held tight to the apex through the hairpin, but he’d just bettered his own, and very recent lap record.

Unbalanced by Westbrook’s easy pass, Britnell had fallen back into McCarthy’s clutches once more too, and after his less than flattering start, McCarthy had a reputation to uphold. Into his ninth lap of the 22-lap race McCarthy finally made good the promise, and was back up to 6th once again.

Westbrook, meanwhile, had closed on his next victim; Jonathan Fildes. The closer he came to the sharp end, the harder it would always be to make up additional places, and Fildes was working well. This time it took a full two laps before Westbrook would be close enough – and have the opening he needed – to make the pass, but as before, it eventually came at Druids. From last, Westbrook had arrived on the podium.

Harvey and Templeman were leading comfortably by nearly five seconds, but Westbrook’s lap times were still a few tenths quicker. With more than half the race still to run he must have fancied his chances.

In the meantime Perry McCarthy had narrowed the gap appreciably to Nigel Rice and, right at the start of lap twelve, he made a last moment snick towards the inside at the top of Paddock Hill Bend. Defending the higher line Rice was unsighted for just long enough for McCarthy to grab the tighter route as they descend into the dip. Side by side, they swept up the rise towards Druids, where McCarthy’s pace carried him through into fifth. If he was going to close on Fildes for another promotion, he wasn’t going to do it alone. Rice, ever tenacious, never lost his determination, even if McCarthy represented no threat to his championship tally. The Parr Porsche effectively became the meat in a Rice-Fildes sandwich.

Out at the very front Tim Harvey finally appeared to have shaken off the attentions of Templeman, and a gap of some three seconds had opened up between them. The gap back to Westbrook was about the same, but appreciably narrowing with every lap. It was soon evident that Templeman had not been kind to his tyres, and unforced errors and increasingly ragged cornering was allowing Westbrook to draw ever closer. Time, or lack of it, was the likely victor in this struggle.

Perry McCarthy may not have driven a rear engined Porsche for fourteen years, and a 911 never, but he was starting to relax into his driving, and the results were showing in the effortless way he seemed to be pressurizing Fildes. Their battle for fourth soon became the most riveting contest in the latter stages of the race, although Andy Britnell was keen to join the fun. He was weaving around frantically trying to find a way past Nigel Rice, but Rice was having none of it. The two Porsches were side-by-side for almost the entire length of the penultimate lap, and the last, with Britnell appearing to get ahead of Rice as they rounded Clearways for the final time. Somehow, and from previously undiscovered depths, Rice found an extra ounce of horsepower and crossed the line a mere five-tenths in front.

“I had to work a bit harder that time!” exclaimed a slightly out-of-breath Harvey after clambering from his car. “I’m an old boy now, and I get a bit tired. Jason put me under a tremendous amount of pressure.” This was win number three from just four races, and an impressive start to the season from the veteran campaigner. Westbrook tried hard to catch the leaders, but in the final stage even his tyres were starting to suffer. “They got away too much at the start and I’d really worked my tyres getting to third,” he said, “but, all in all, I’ve got to be pleased.”

McCarthy, after battling back to fifth, admitted that his poor start had cost him another podium. “I made such a duff start,” he declared, “but it was great fun and I really enjoyed it.”

However, the star of the race was Westbrook who had stormed through from the back of the grid to finish third, thereby keeping his title hopes well and truly alive.