GT Cup Donington Park 2012

The Circuit - April 28/29 2012

Donington Park Circuit - Castle Donington, Derby DE74 2RP

Location: off the A453, nr East Midlands Airport, from j23a or 24, M1 (M42 interchange)

Tel: 01332 810048

Website: www.donington-park.co.uk

Smallwood qualifies third in class

Media release: 28th April 2012

Source: Parr

With weather forecasters predicting heavy rain all week it was with relief that we were greeted with an overcast sky. Having spent a day testing the previous week, Pete was well prepared with the test happening in both wet and dry conditions. He had the additional benefit of tuition from Carrera Cup driver and recent podium visitor Ben Barker.

By the time qualifying began the track was still dry and Pete wasted no time.  He set his fastest time on the first set of tyres despite not quite feeling at one with his machinery. He also caught a gaggle of cars which held him up. A rain shower played a part in the session but only as a distraction as the track remained dry. Unfortunately Pete couldn’t extract the most from the second set of tyres so it was a case of what might have been. “The problem is in two corners getting on the gas and then off it,” explained Pete “I couldn’t get it right in the corners. If I’d done the time I’d wanted I would have been a tenth off second but third in class was a surprise for me.”

Berridge takes opening victory in GT Cup

Media release: 28th April 2012

Source: GT Cup

Bob Berridge took the opening race of the 2012 GT Cup season after a dominant display in the Wessex Vehicles Aquila CR1, on a cold and blustery (but dry) Saturday afternoon at Donington; but the race had much more to offer than the results would suggest.

Even with the absence of Jim Geddie’s McLaren – unable to take part this weekend due to a parts supply issue – the 16-­‐strong grid presented a mouth-­‐watering spectacle, but it was a truly spectacular start from Derek Johnston that lit up the opening lap; the #41 Ferrari 458 Challenge going from fourth on the grid to take the lead round the outside of Redgate and building up a lead of three tenths by the end of the lap.

By Lap 3, Berridge had closed enough in the Aquila to mount a challenge and took the lead in an impressive move down the Craner Curves. Soon poleman Martin Short was on the Ferrari’s tail in his Rollcentre Racing Mosler and took second on Lap 5, while Freddie Hetherington also passed Johnston in the JMH Nissan GT-­‐R on Lap 8. With a clear track ahead of him, Berridge took firm control of his destiny and pulled out an ever-­increasing gap on the Mosler, even denying Short the fastest lap (and the Sunoco Challenge points it offered) in the process; the Danish car only backing off on the 20th and final lap to take the flag by a comfortable 7.622 seconds.

The battle for third wasn’t, however, resolved in the opening stages of the race, with Johnston fighting back against the Nissan to retake the final podium spot on Lap 12 and then defending it to
the line.

Group 2 saw a debut win for Peter Smallwood in the #95 Parr Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3. Having taken advantage of a first corner melee, which led to Harry Whale’s Porsche retiring and Don Grice’s BMW losing several places, Smallwood drove a flawless race thereafter and finish seventh overall.

Grice came back at him strongly mid-­‐race, but having closed the gap to about a second fell back from the Porsche after encountering problems. Third in Group 2 went to the Chevron GR8 of David Witt. Lee Mowle took Group 3 on his debut in the GT Cup (although added to his two GT Trophy wins last year, this now makes it three out of three for him) in the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50.

Colin Broster was another to suffer in the first-­‐corner incident and spent his race trying to get the ABG Porsche 996 back onto terms with the CTR Alfatune version of Chris Bentley in second. Midway through the race the three cars closed to within just a few seconds and a grandstand finish looked likely, but this never materialised and the positions stayed as they were to the flag.

Sunday will see two more 25-­‐minute races, but the complexion of these should be very different to those of the opener. As well as the success ballast for the top three in each group to contend with, three cars will have a different driver for at least one race and – perhaps the biggest variable – the weather is likely to be dire, with driving rain and strong winds forecast.

 

Team Reaction

“It was carnage at the first corner” said Pete Smallwood of the start of the first race of the 2012 GT Cup series. The Parr Motorsport driver starting from eleventh on the grid and third in class.  The race got underway with a rolling start on the 1.9 mile track in dry but cloudy conditions. As the pack in front took the racing line into the first corner Pete clung to the inside to stay out of trouble. The tactic worked and on the exit of Redgate and through the Craner Curves Pete found himself up with the leading class one Moslers.

The other class two 997 of Harry Whale spun on the opening lap on cold tyres which meant that the Silverstone based driver found himself leading the class. “After that it was a case of getting the head down and focusing on consistent laps,” said Pete. “The team did a good job on the pit board so I was able to manage the gap to second place.”

Pete was only really troubled later in the race when he had a minor concern with the headlights in his rear view mirror.  It soon subsided however when he realised it was the faster class one cars coming up to lap him.  Pete had clearly found his rhythm though a he set his fastest lap of the weekend on the last lap of the race, marginally eclipsing his qualifying time.

After nineteen laps of a very intelligently run race Pete crossed the line for the class two win and the first of his GT Cup career. “Epic. I’m really, really over the moon,” said a clearly delighted Pete on the win.

Carrera Cup refugee Hetherington wins for Nissan

Media release: 29th April 2012

Source: GT Cup

Benji Hetherington claimed the first ever win for the Nissan GT-­‐R GT3 when he conquered the appalling conditions at Donington Park on Sunday morning to take the win in the #9 JMH Automotive machine.

Derek Johnston again made a great start in his Ferrari 458 Challenge to get to second at the first corner and then took the lead from Martin Short at the end of the Dunlop Straight on Lap 1. Unfortunately for the locally based driver, his lead lasted only until Hollywood on the next lap as a spin took him across the grass and ultimately into a gravel trap. The Ferrari was dragged out and completed the race three laps down.

With Short struggling for grip in the driving rain, Hetherington quickly closed on to the Mosler Super GT’s tail and took the lead on Lap 6 at the Old Hairpin after a spirited defence from the Rollcentre boss. The Mosler was unable to respond and the Nissan went on to take the chequered flag at the end of Lap 17.

Dan Stringfellow completed the Group 1 podium in the #21 BMW E46 M3 with fourth place overall, with an entertaining duel with Harry Whale being one of the highlights of the race. Whale made up for his early exit from Race 1 in impressive style by taking the #8 In2Racing Porsche 997 GT3 from the back of the grid to third overall by the flag, to capture the Group 2 win. He also recorded the second fastest lap of the race in the process – not bad for his first wet race in the Porsche. Peter Smallwood overcame a late off to hang on to second in Group 2 in the #95 Porsche 997 with David Witt again taking third.

Lee Mowle took his second win of the weekend in Group 3 when he took the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50 to fifth overall, after having earlier traded places with the Group 1 Mosler of Kevin Riley. An off at Redgate wasn’t enough to keep him off the top step of the Group podium. Chris Bentley again claimed second in the #35 Porsche 996, but Colin Broster was baffled by the handling of his #15 996 – barely being able to keep it pointed in a straight line – and retired the car after eight laps.

The third and final GT Cup race of the weekend was due to start at 4.15, but there was no prospect of the foul weather conditions easing up in the interim.

 

Team Reaction

Race two started at 11:40 on Sunday morning in near Monsoon conditions. The track was already very wet and the constant rain saw to it that the race got underway in some very tricky conditions.

Starting seventh on the grid after his success on Saturday Pete got off to a cautious start to the race. He quickly set into a grove and stayed there, conscious of not making any errors. “There was so much standing water,” said Pete. “You couldn’t see the lights of the car in front”. Despite this, he had a good battle with the 996 of Colin Borster and held on to second comfortably.

A late spin at the Old Hairpin didn’t lose Pete much time as he crossed the line to finish eighth overall and second in class to the 997 of Nick Whale. “It was really difficult. I finished second in class but was wheel spinning in third and fourth gear. It was constantly trying to swap ends,” said Pete on the final result. “I’m just glad to bring the car around in one piece!”

Ferrari win in final Donington race

Media release: 29th April 2012

Source: GT Cup

Having spun out of the lead in the day’s earlier encounter, Derek Johnston proved that he had learnt from his mistake and held on to take the win in his Ferrari 458 Challenge in the third and final race at Donington Park on Sunday afternoon while under concerted pressure from the Mosler of Martin Short.

The weather was as bad as it had been all day in the run up to the race, prompting JMH Automotive to withdraw the Race 2 winning Nissan rather than risk a crash at a time when spares for the new car are still in short supply. This had the effect of promoting the Group 2 Porsche 997 GT3 of Nick Whale to pole on account of son Harry’s fastest lap (second only to Benji Hetherington’s) in Race 2, and he lined up alongside Short’s Mosler Super GT. However, the rain actually eased up as the grid moved off for the two pace laps and was barely falling as the lights turned green.

Whale did a great job of defending his lead as the top three went round Redgate nose-­‐to-­‐tail, but Johnston took second from Short out of Hollywood and repeated his Race 2 feat of taking the lead at the approach to the chicane at the end of Lap 1. What he didn’t do was spin out of contention on the next lap and the Ferrari enjoyed an almost four second lead at the end of the second lap. But Short had by this point passed Whale’s Porsche and the veteran driver began the process of closing the gap to the Ferrari.

It soon became apparent that a drying line was beginning to emerge on the two-­‐mile National Circuit and the two leaders traded fastest times on virtually every lap. With five minutes to go, it looked like the Ferrari had done enough to secure the win, but the rain returned and Short sensed one last opportunity to go for the win. The gap came down in big chunks over the final three laps but Johnston was determined to hang on and crossed the line after 18 laps to take the win by less than a second.

Kevin Riley had another eventful race in his own Mosler and was also progressing well as the track got quicker. The final few laps involved the local driver hunting down Whale’s Porsche for third overall and the gap between the two was just half a second at the start of Lap 18. Unfortunately, Riley tried too hard and spun the Mosler, but eventually came home without damage and had done enough to be classified third in Group 1.

Nick Whale cemented the second Group 2 victory of the day for the In2Racing Porsche and was a long way clear of Peter Smallwood’s Porsche by the end. This had been a very encouraging debut weekend for the Parr Motorsport driver and he left the circuit clutching three trophies for his trouble. David Witt took his Chevron GR8 to third in the group for the third time after another trouble­‐free run in the small car.

Lee Mowle made it a clean sweep of the Group 3 prizes by taking his third win of the weekend in the #90 Ginetta, fourth overall. Further back, Colin Broster found his ABG Porsche to be much more compliant than he had earlier in the day and took the yellow and red car to second in the group, 15 seconds clear of Chris Bentley’s CTR Alfatune 996.

 

Team Reaction

“The race was wet throughout and got wetter after the start.” Was the opinion of Pete Smallwood. Having spent the early afternoon hoping that the incessant rain would ease, if only to make packing up less dismal, prayers went unanswered and the race got underway in conditions similar to the morning’s race.

Pete started on the fifth row of the grid with the positions based on the fastest lap in the second race. The grid was however heavily depleted with only twelve starters due to a combination of accident attrition and drivers deciding not to participate in the treacherous conditions. Following a good start Pete was able to overtake a car going up through the Schwantz Curve before the right-hander at McLeans. “Cars were flying off in every direction so there was no point in being a hero,” said Pete.

The class 2 pole starting 997 of Nick Whale established an early class lead and importantly, had put a number of cars between himself and Pete. After that “it was case of settling in and bagging the points for second,” said Pete. That doesn’t however mean he was relaxing. He had spent his time sheltering from the rain between races wisely by reviewing onboard video footage of race two and found a better wet line through a few corners. This resulted in setting quicker times than he set during the second race.

By the time the chequered flag had fallen on the eighteen lap race Pete was over a lap ahead of the third placed Chevron of David Witt. Pete described the race as “fairly uneventful” but his third podium of the weekend means he will be right in the championship hunt.