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GT Cup Goes From Strength To Strength

After a couple of weeks of reporting more about politics and legals in UK national GT racing it a pleasure to bring dsc readers an update of a series that seems to go from strength to strength.

The GT Cup aimed from the start to provide cost effective racing in a sprint format providing a stage for amateur drivers with GT cars in a range of specifications.  It initially cleaned up with a packed paddock of cars which had become outdated for the current British GT Championship regulations but soon started to pick up business too from the GT3 runners, several ex British GT teams trying the GT Cup for size.

Marc Haynes' Bute Motorsport organised series travelled north to Oulton Park on 25 July with a full grid (remember them?) and seven newcomers to the Series.

Oulton Park Race One

In Group One this was always going to be a ‘head to head’ show down between the two big American muscle cars, Mike Gardiner’s Dodge Viper (#57) and Mitch Millet’s Corvette C5R (#51).  It didn’t take long for these two to get away from the pack and set about their own personal race.

It was an excellent battle that locally based Mitch Miller won in the Corvette making him only the second person to beat the Viper this season, the other being Mike Donovan at Brands.

This time Mike Donovan (#49) was involved in some of the best racing of the weekend when John Gaw (#81) in his rapid Group Two Porsche 997 GT3 Cup car got ahead of him and then spent the entire race fending off the Group One car of Donovan. The two of them were never more than a car’s length apart but Donovan simply couldn’t find a way past, it was a very close, very well driven race by both of them!

We also saw the immaculate BMW E46 GTR of Don Grice (#70) out in The GT Cup for the first time.

So John Gaw won Group Two ahead of the Porsches of George Brewster (#11)  and Bob Lyons (#79) and unlike the previous round the Ferraris, unusually, didn’t get onto the podium.

Group Three saw the debut of Benji Hetherington (#73), at 17 yrs old easily the youngest driver the GT Cup has yet seen. Even so he drove a superbly mature race in his Ginetta G50 coming home ahead of regulars Alex Martin (#87 Porsche 996 GT3 Cup) and Barclay Dougal (#37 BMW E46 M3). So we had three different marques in the first three places.

Group Four saw the return of Sarah Bennett-Baggs (#72), this time in an Aston Martin GT4.  However she had hardly driven the car before the weekend so this left Will Goff (#59) in his Aston Martin GT4 with yet another straightforward win ahead of the Porsche 944 Turbo of David Botterill.

Oulton Park Race Two:

Once again this was a clash between the two big Amercican muscle cars. However this time Mike Gardiner (#57) got ahead of Mitch Millett (#51) but the Viper never really got far enough ahead to allow Mike Gardiner to relax and things got tense as they made their way through the tail enders. At the finish Gardiner  had a slim 2.713 sec advantage.

With Phil Dryburgh (#81)  rather than John Gaw to contend with Mike Donovan (#49) had a rather quieter race and brought his Porsche home a lonely 3rd.

In Group two things were much busier .. George Brewster in his Porsche GT3 Cup car (#11) found himself up against the two Ferrari 430 Challenge GTs of Leon Price (#88) and Ian Hartley (#5) who were right back on the pace this time and this gave us another excellent race.

Group Three saw Benji Hetherington and his Ginetta G50 (#73) back at the front but this time regular Ferrari man Marco Pullen (#13) was in the frame and he wasn’t about to let Hetherington have everything his own way and we had another superb race long battle and despite Pullen putting in the fastest lap and trying everything he knew, he was rarely less than a few feet from Hetherington’s back bumper, until Steve Parish in his Group Two Porsche 997 GT3 Cup car squeezed between them on the closing laps. But despite his best efforts Pullen could not  find a way through and finished less than a second behind the Ginetta.

In Group Four Will Goff maintained his 100% winning record ahead of David Botterill and Sarah Bennett-Baggs.

Next up for the GT Cup was Donington Park last weekend

Donington Park Race One

In Group One, at the front of the field, Mitch Millett (#51 Corvette) and Mike Gardiner (#57 Viper) had their own private battles throughout the entire weekend and in both races they laid on a spectacular display of close , contact free racing and at the end of the weekend was a ‘one all’ draw.. Mike Gardiner won race one after Mitch Millett spun coming out of the Melbourne Hairpin and then Mitch Millett evened the score with a comprehensive win in race two.

 

During Race One, there was an excellent battle building up behind them between Paul Whight (#18 Aston Martin DBRS9) Mike Donovan (#49 Porsche 997 GT3) and Peter Seldon (#23 BMW M3 GTR). This resolved itself when the BMW’s ABS failed and Seldon went off leaving Donovan and Whight to have a great race.

In Group Two the (#34) Ferrari 360 GT Challenge car of Jeff Leadley successfully kept ahead of team mate Leon Price (#88) in his Ferrari with Andy Ruhan’s Porsche 997 GT3 Cup (#6) coming home 3rd. Ian Hartley (#5 Ferrari 360 GT Challenge) who as usual was part of all this action spun out of contention coming out of the Melborne Hairpin. 

In Group Three the remarkable Lotus Exige of Steve Taylor took on all-comers in some style and had such a comfortable win that the organisers, Bute Motorsport, took the decision to move him into Group Two for the second race! Behind him Gary Eastwood (#55 Porsche 996 GT3 Cup) made a welcome return to the GT Cup with his revitalised car and showed the ever improving Alex Martin (#87 Porsche GT3 Cup) they way it should be done.

Group Four saw Will Goff (#59 Aston Martin GT4) showing no signs of relinquishing his impressive 100% record winning streak. Chris Scragg (#47 Aston Martin GT4) went out of contention when his gear linkage failed, leaving Sarah Bennet-Baggs (#72 Aston Martin GT4) in a comfortable 2nd place ahead of David Botterill (#8 Porsche 944 Turbo).

Donington Park Race Two

Race Two gave us some of some of the best racing all season. The opening laps saw Gardiner and Millett swapping places on regular basis with some brilliant driving and very brave overtaking moves. However the brakes on the big heavy Viper began to suffer on the demanding Donington Circuit and eventually Mitch Millett took a surprisingly easy victory.

In Group Two Jeff Leadley the (#34) Ferrari 360 GT Challenge was in tremendous form and he took the first ‘double win’ in Group Two this year. Having been moved back into Group Two Steve Taylor still continued to baffle everybody in his little Exige and came 2nd in class. Andy Ruhan (#6 Porsche 997 GT3 Cup) came home 2nd breaking up the Ferraris of Hartley and Price..

In Group 3 Colin Broster (#26 Ferrari 360 GTC) was right back on the pace ahead of Alex Martin (#87 Porsche 996 GT3). Marco Pullen (#13 Ferrari 360 GTC) was third nursing a temperamental gear gearbox. Gary Eastwood after a great Race One spun himself out of contention in Race Two.

Group Four went to Will Goff but Sarah Bennett-Baggs( #72 Aston Martin GT4) and Chris Scragg (#47 Aston Martin GT4) had a very close race with Sarah Bennet-Baggs fending off the attentions of Chris Scragg until they both wanted the same bit of track on lap ten and this sidelined Scragg.

With Thanks To Jock Simpson for the race reviews and Mick Herring for the photography