The Circuit - June 17 2012

Thruxton Circuit, Thruxton, Andover, Hampshire SP11 8PN

Location: off the A303 between Andover and Amesbury

Tel: 01264 882200


Thruxton Next for GT3 Cup Challenge

Media release: 9 June 2012

Source: Porsche Cars GB

Thruxton in Hampshire, the fastest track on the calendar, is the setting for the third event in the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge GB with a pair of races on Sunday (17 June). With the cars topping 150mph, Thruxton is one of the most challenging tracks in Britain and Sunday marks the completion of the first half of the championship schedule.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge is managed by Porsche Cars GB alongside the Carrera Cup GB and is growing as the season develops, with steadily building competitor interest. The championship received championship status this year for the six-event, 12-race season and is for the cars from 2009 or before, including the 996-model cars from up to 2006.
Heading the GT3 Cup Challenge GB entry will be the drivers who shared the race wins at Snetterton when the season opened at Easter. In two exciting races, James Birch (IN2 Racing) and Steven Liquorish (Team Parker Racing) took a win each and Birch then underlined his pace by scoring an excellent double win at Rockingham to make it three wins from four races and take top slot in the championship standings.
With his first Porsche win under his belt after a polished performance at Snetterton, Liquorish will be a big threat, while other leading contenders include John Ferguson (ASK Racing) and Northampton-based racer Neil Houston (Team Parker Racing). Drivers set to have their first experience of the unique challenge of Thruxton include former British Rallycross champion Mark Flaherty (Redline Racing) and racing newcomer Guy Riall (Almara Racing), while another Thruxton debutee Mark Cowne (Kruger Cowne) heads the entry for the earlier cars in Class 2.
With a 20-minute qualifying session and two 25-minute races in the space of just six hours during Sunday, the pressure will be on the teams and drivers in a day that could prove pivotal in the contest for the season-long championship.
After qualifying at 11.10 on Sunday, round five will start at 14.10, with round six at 16.50. Both races will be filmed for transmission on the Porsche Origin website and Porsche’s YouTube channel.
Current provisional championship points:
Overall: 1 James Birch, 66; 2 Steven Liquorish, 61; 3 Neil Houston, 60; 4 Peter Smallwood, 57; 5 Justin Sherwood, 42; 6 Mark Cowne, 38; etc.
Class 2: 1 Mark Cowne, 28; 2 Tom Hallissey, 11.

Birch lays down early maker with pole position

Media release: 17 June 2012

Source: Porsche Cars GB

Only Birch (IN2 Racing) and John Ferguson (ASK Racing) went into qualifying with any previous race experience of the sweeping Hampshire track and Ferguson’s only prior race at Thruxton had been in Formula Ford 20 years ago.

Sure enough, it was Birch who set the pace with an assured performance to take pole for round five with a best of 1m17.777s. “I’ve not been here for two years, but it is a circuit I like,” said Birch. “I love the fast, flowing tracks.” Birch also secured pole for round six with the fastest second-best qualifying time.

Running second to Birch was Steven Liquorish (Team Parker Racing), the best of those with no prior experience of Thruxton. “It certainly wakes you up a bit,” he said after 10 laps of qualifying. Ferguson was third fastest for both races and admitted that there was room for improvement. “My lines around the fast bits are ridiculous: I’ll try and chase them in the race and learn from that,” he said. Racing newcomer Guy Riall (Almara Racing) was fourth, with Mark Flaherty (Redline Racing) fifth despite not getting a really good lap in. Wrapping up the top six was Mark Cowne (Team Parker Racing) after learning the track on a very wet track day earlier in the week.

Birch wins but Liquorish does well to salvage third

Media release: 17 June 2012

Source: Porsche Cars GB

Birch didn’t get the start he wanted and was immediately bundled back to third place by Ferguson and Liquorish. The leading trio ran nose-to-tail over the opening laps but Birch was soon looking to re-assert his authority and he dived ahead of Ferguson on the exit of Noble on the second lap. “I haven’t quite got the hang of the starts yet,” admitted Birch. However, once ahead he drove an assured race to steadily build his lead and was later able to moderate his pace to preserve his tyres on a track where tyres are always under intense strain. “Thankfully I wasn’t under too much pressure,” said Birch after taking his fourth win from five races.

While Birch controlled the race, things were far from settled in the contest for second. Liquorish had his hands full of the charging Ferguson and a trip over the kerb at the chicane took the front splitter off Liquorish’s car. “I then had absolutely zero turn-in on the fast left-hander,” reported Liquorish as he battled on. Ferguson’s dogged attack was rewarded when he edged into second on lap eight and the Irishman duly moved clear as Liquorish struggled with his ill-handling car. “I had a great start but I was still learning the circuit over the first few laps,” said Ferguson after a strong drive. For Liquorish, third was a case of damage limitation. “That was really hard work and very frustrating,” he said.

Fourth place was in doubt until late in the race as Flaherty had to push on to defend from Cowne mid-race once Riall had dropped to the tail of the pack with a high-speed spin at Church. “I was hanging on to their coat tails,” said Riall after an impressive opening stint. Flaherty ran a solid fourth until his tyres started to fade and that helped Cowne close in. For several laps, Cowne defied his lack of racing experience to challenge for fourth, but then lost his splitter over the kerb at the chicane.

Despite that handicap, Cowne did hold fourth for a couple of corners. Flaherty spun at the complex, but two corners later Cowne had the first of two spins that dropped him back to sixth behind the recovering Riall. All three had raced hard on their Thruxton debuts.

“I went out on second hand tyres: they were shot early on,” said Flaherty. “I was playing catch up at the end,” said Riall. “I can’t believe the difference the splitter makes,” said Cowne. “That’s the best race I’ve had so far.”

Birch takes Double

Media release: 17 June 2012

Source: Porsche Cars GB

Birch got a peach of a start for the second race of the afternoon and made the pace right from the start. He pulled clear of Liquorish on the opening lap and was then able to control the race from the front with another classy performance to extend his winning sequence to five races and extend his championship lead. “I just went for it with three or four quick laps and then tried to maintain the tyres after that,” said Birch after winning by over six seconds. “Brilliant: I couldn’t be happier,” he said after scoring 44 points in a perfect day’s work.

Behind Birch, a fierce battle raged for second as Ferguson recovered from a tardy start to chase after Liquorish. For lap after lap it was neck and neck as both drivers pushed to the limit. Finally, it all came down to the last lap as Ferguson made his move with a bold attack at Church Corner. The cars touched and Ferguson was through. “I knew it was the last lap and he was struggling coming out of the Complex,” said Ferguson, who had a lucky escape mid-race when he hit a pheasant that was walking across the track. Liquorish was a disappointed third after fending off his rival until two corners from the flag.

Flaherty slotted into fourth place, but had Riall and Crowne close behind and Riall challenged for several laps before a spin at the Complex dropped him to sixth. Instead, Cowne moved in to take up the challenge on Flaherty and the racing novice mounted a relentless attack on Flaherty. The places never changed, but there was still little more than a second between them after 25 minutes of racing.

“The easier option is to follow someone,” said Flaherty, who had battled all day by using second hand tyres. “It was absolutely riveting,” said Cowne. “I was on his tail the whole time.”