Porsche Carrera Cup GB – the fastest single-marque GT racing championship in the UK – got its 21st season underway at Donington Park, the shorter 1.98-mile National circuit hosting two races on Sunday 23 April. In the year’s first race, 16-year-old newcomer Robert de Haan (Richardson Racing) became the youngest overall race winner in championship history. Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2022 / 2023 Junior Adam Smalley (Duckhams Yuasa Racing with Team Parker) drove to the second win of his Porsche racing career in round two.
The Donington Park season-opener was the first time that Carrera Cup GB has appeared on the same TOCA bill as Porsche Sprint Challenge GB. Spectators were treated to five Porsche races over two days as both championships ran in support of the British Touring Car Championship. In what looks set to be one of the closest Porsche Carrera Cup GB seasons on record, Smalley leaves Leicestershire with an early advantage in the Pro category driver’s standings.
Smalley was the driver to beat in qualifying. The Junior fended off the advances of de Haan and Theo Edgerton (Redline Racing) to take the first pole position of his Porsche racing career. Following a close battle, Max Bird (Team Redline Racing) clinched the first bragging rights in the Pro-Am category, and he would start the opening round in eighth overall. Ross Wylie (Team Parker Racing) and Will Aspin (Team Parker Racing) were close behind, Meanwhile in Am, Justin Sherwood (Parker Classic Works) posted a time faster than rivals David Stirling (Redline Racing) and David Fairbrother (Toro Verde GT).
The weekend’s first race was conducted in tricky damp conditions. Smalley retained his lead into the first corner but de Haan soon attacked, momentarily taking the lead before Smalley performed a switchback move to stay ahead. Later into the race, de Haan overtook again and this time he stayed ahead, the 16-year old’s result making him the youngest race winner in championship history. Newcomer Bird took a maiden Pro-Am category win, while Sherwood’s victory in Am saw him equal the highest number of Am category race wins, a record previously held by Peter Kyle-Henney.
A heavy downpour before the start of the weekend’s second race ensured difficult wet weather conditions. Smalley made a good start to take the lead on the opening lap, but controlled the pace of the race to secure the second win of his Porsche racing career. Gus Burton (Rosland Gold by Century Motorsport) and Matthew Graham (Redline Racing) joined Smalley on the overall podium. Bird underlined his speed with a second Pro-Am win of the weekend. Sherwood’s second category victory makes him the most successful Am driver in championship history.
The weekend’s first practice session took place on Thursday morning in dry weather conditions. The early Pro category pacesetter was de Haan, Bird topped the Pro-Am runners, and Stirling was ahead in Am. Edgerton was the first driver to lap the 1.98-mile National circuit in under 1:05 with a time of 1:04.674. It didn’t take long for de Haan to respond with a 1:04.653, but Edgerton immediately went quicker still. Edgerton’s new time of 1:04.469 was soon matched to the thousandth of a second by Smalley, Edgerton staying at the top of the timesheet on account of setting his lap first.
In the second half of the session, Aspin set the Pro-Am category pace with Giddings and Bird giving chase. Sherwood established himself as the leading Am from Stirling and returnee Fairbrother. In the closing stages of the session, de Haan jumped to third, 0.046 adrift of Edgerton and Smalley, and their identical 1:04.469 stood to the flag. Less than one second covered the top 17 drivers in the weekend’s first competitive session.
The day’s second session took place in similar dry and sunny conditions. De Haan was immediately on the pace setting a time of 1:04.609, with Graham, Aspin and Smalley left trailing. With Aspin the highest placed Pro-Am category driver, Jake Giddings (Parker Classic Works) and Frazer McFadden (Toro Verde GT) came next in the category order, and in Am, Fairbrother led Sherwood and Stirling. However, when Stirling found the gravel trap at Redgate, a 10-minute red flag period interrupted the session while his car was recovered.
The session restarted with 20 minutes remaining on the clock, and de Haan improved twice, first with a 1:04.286, then a 1:03.927 – the first driver to lap the circuit in under 1:04. Burton, Edgerton and Smalley all attempted to usurp the newcomer, but he remained at the top of the day’s timing sheet to the flag. Bird emerged ahead in Pro-Am, while Sherwood found the pace to come out on top in Am. Angus Whiteside (Century Motorsport) was the driver who completed the highest number of laps: 34.
Saturday afternoon’s 30-minute qualifying session took place in dry conditions. Graham and Edgerton were the early pacesetters trading the quickest times, but the former driver went ahead with a lap of 1:05.449. As the drivers increased their pace, Seb Melrose (Richardson Racing) locked up and went off at the final corner before continuing his session, and soon afterwards de Haan posted the fastest time to lead Smalley and James Kellet (Rosland Gold by Century Motorsport) by a small margin. In Pro-Am Wylie was ahead of Bird and Giddings, Sherwood was the fastest Am.
Smalley soon posted a 1:04.886, but de Haan responded with a 1:04.814. Smalley was equal to his challenge – replying with a time 0.085 seconds faster than de Hann’s effort to return to provisional pole position. At the midpoint of the session, the order at the top of the timing screen was Smalley from de Haan and Edgerton. Rookie Bird was the pacesetting Pro-Am runner with Wylie and Aspin behind. The Am order remained Sherwood from Stirling and Fairbrother.
Having stopped to fit fresh Michelin slick racing tyres, the drivers took to the track for their final runs in the closing minutes of qualifying. Burton and Edgerton were the first to improve, followed by Smalley who went faster on two more occasions – his lap second time of 1:04.659 was enough to put pole position out of the reach of his rivals. Smalley would be joined on the front row of the grid for the weekend’s first race by Edgerton, de Haan grabbing third. Bird was the quickest Pro-Am category driver with Sherwood ahead in Am.
The 2023 Porsche Carrera Cup GB weekend format meant that Smalley earned two championship points with his maiden pole position, as did the top qualifiers in their respective categories: Bird (Pro-Am) and Sherwood (Am).
The first race of the 2023 season took place on Sunday afternoon in damp conditions, all 25 cars fitted with grooved wet-weather Michelin tyres. From the front row of the grid, Edgerton was slow away as Smalley defended his lead into the first corner. As the cars approached the end of the opening lap, de Haan attacked Smalley, snatching the overall lead before Roberts corner. Smalley immediately retaliated, retaking first place before Redgate, with Burton running third with Kellett fourth.
In the Pro-Am category battle, Bird was ahead of Giddings and Wylie, while in Am Sherwood was leading Stirling and Fairbrother. Smalley quickly built a lead of 0.629 seconds, meanwhile Kellett came under attack from Rainford for fifth – the pair running side by side before Rainford slotted back in behind his rival. McFadden ran off the circuit in his Pro-Am category scrap with Stanton, but attentions soon turned back to the Charles Rainford (CCK Motorsport) and Kellett battle. When Kellett was slow out of McLeans, it allowed Rainford to move to the outside for Coppice where there was contact between the pair – they both entered the gravel trap, but only Rainford remerged.
Shortly after Rainford pitted for new wet-weather tyres, Aspin followed him in opting for slick Michelin racing rubber, and both drivers reentered the race as lapped runners. Despite a dry line appearing on the racetrack, Aspin found himself struggling for traction, at one point sliding off the circuit before rejoining. At the front of the race de Haan began closing on Smalley, flashing his headlights in an attempt to distract the leader. Meanwhile, the Am fight saw Sherwood, Stirling and Fairbrother running line astern in that order – the trio fighting for P20 overall.
Continuing his charge, de Haan drew alongside Smalley in the approach to the final corner, taking the lead of the race with a clean pass. Another driver on the move was Foster – soon after overtaking Whiteside, the newcomer passed Wylie for eighth place at Redgate. On lap 18, Stirling found the gravel trap at McLeans, bringing out the Safety Car to allow for the recovery of his car. However, the Am driver returned to the race without the assistance of the marshals. At the restart, several battles emerged as drivers jostled for position – Hugo Ellis (JTR) passed Graham for fourth while Wylie was forced to defend his position.
In the closing stages of the race, Bird fell back down the order, initially losing his category lead before successfully re-passing Giddings at Coppice when the latter made an error. That left the Pro-Am category order as Bird, Whiteside and Wylie as the field navigated their final lap. At the flag, de Haan become the youngest ever winner in Carrera Cup GB history. He was joined on the Pro category podium by Smalley and Burton. Rookie Bird, Whiteside and Wylie formed the Pro-Am podium with Sherwood, Fairbrother and Stirling creating the Am category podium. With his result, Sherwood equalled the highest number of Am category race wins in championship history: 27.
For recording the fastest lap in each of their respective categories, Smalley (Pro), Aspin (Pro-Am), and Stirling (Am) each received one additional championship point. As part of the 2023 podium procedure, winner de Haan selected at random the number five ball, which reversed the grid positions of the top five overall finishers from the opening race.
That made the grid order for the weekend’s second race Ellis and Graham on the front row, Burton and Smalley on row two, with de Haan starting fifth.
The weekend’s second race took place in very wet conditions on Sunday afternoon. Ellis and de Haan were slow away when the red lights went out, and Burton defended to lead into Redgate, while Smalley got by Graham for second. Smalley immediately attacked Burton – he moved to the inside line for Coppice to snatch the lead of the race, leaving Burton, Graham and Ellis in his wake. In difficult driving conditions Stirling and Henry Dawes (Century Motorsport) were involved in an incident at the end of the opening lap. Jason Lockwood (EXCELR8 Motorsport) was caught up too, and Stirling made his retirement.
A flying de Haan passed Stanley for fifth position on the second lap, and soon overtook Ellis for fourth on the inside at Coppice. Graham was next in de Haan’s sights – he drew alongside through the Craner Curves but spun, narrowly missing his rivals as he rotated into the gravel trap at Old Hairpin, continuing his race after a short delay. Returnee Ellis – now promoted back to fourth – was closing on Graham, however, he had Stanley tucked under his rear wing. On lap six, Harry Foster (Duckhams Yuasa Racing with Team Parker) attacked Bird for seventh place, ultimately finding a route by, however, Bird remained the Pro-Am category leader, category rivals Ryan Ratcliffe (Team Parker Racing) and Whiteside giving chase.
On lap nine, Edgerton found the gravel trap at Redgate, but rejoined in front of Wylie in P11. However, attentions soon turned to the intensifying battle for third between Ellis and Graham and an equally close fight between Josh Stanton (JTR) and Ollie Jackson (JTR) for seventh in Pro-Am. Stanton and Jackson got by Edgerton before continuing their scrap, however, the fight would come to its conclusion when Jackson skipped through the gravel at Redgate. Ellis suffered a similar fate, slipping back down the order and giving Graham breathing space. A driver moving in the other direction was Kellett – when he passed Bird, he completed a storming drive from P22 on the grid to seventh. In the closing stages, Aspin was given a five-second penalty for abusing track limits.
Smalley took the flag to secure the second victory of his Porsche racing career, while Burton and Graham completed the Pro category podium. Newcomer Bird took a second Pro-Am win with Ratcliffe and Whiteside joining him on the category podium. Sherwood crossed the line to take his 28th Am category win, making him the most successful Am category driver in championship history. For recording the fastest lap in each of their respective categories, Ellis (Pro), Wylie (Pro-Am) and Sherwood (Am) each received one additional championship point.
With his results from the opening weekend, Smalley takes an early Pro category championship lead over Burton, with newcomer de Haan, the top Rookie, in third overall. Two category wins for Bird leave him at the top of the Pro-Am standings, while Justin Sherwood’s points haul gives him the advantage in Am. The championship travels to Kent in just two weeks – the popular Brands Hatch Indy circuit will host rounds three and four over the weekend of 6-7 May 2023.
Adam Smalley – Duckhams Yuasa Racing with Team Parker – 23
Gus Burton – Rosland Gold by Century Motorsport – 16
Robert de Haan – Richardson Racing – 12
Max Bird – Team Redline Racing – 22
Angus Whiteside – Century Motorsport – 14
Ryan Ratcliffe – Team Parker Racing – 13
Justin Sherwood – Parker Classic Works – 23
David Fairbrother – Toro Verde GT – 16
David Stirling – Redline Racing – 7
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