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GT Cup

GT Cup, Snetterton – Race Reports
Two Clean Sweeps & Close Racing

All images © Mick Herring

Peter Smallwood took all three Group Two wins but didn’t have an easy time getting there. Close battles pushed the contenders over the three 25 minute races over the weekend. Derek Johnson had an easier weekend with his prime Group One rival Richard Chamberlain suffering from mechanical issues; but Group Three provided plenty of entertainment with John Saunders winning race two on his GT Cup debut and Colin Broster taking the other two victories.

Qualifying - Newcomer Takes Group Three Pole

Qualifying took place on a sunny but very windy track. The 25 minute session gave the teams time for up to 12 laps of the 2.99 mile circuit with the majority setting their fastest times in the late stages of the session.

Two newcomers joined the GT Cup Championship this weekend at Snetterton and one made an instant impression by taking group pole. John Saunders from Bolton made his GT Cup debut in his Alemdent Ltd Ginetta G50, taking Group Three pole with a time of 2:02.464, over four-tenths ahead of Colin Broster’s ABG Motorsport Porsche 996. Saunders has joined the GT Cup in his fifth season of competing having predominantly raced in the Caterham Series.

John Saunders: “We joined GT Cup to step up to a higher class. It’s value for money and everyone’s been really welcoming. We tested yesterday and it went well this morning. I gradually got faster and pushed too hard and went off at Riches. There was no damage but I came in and we cleared the tyres and went out and did my fastest lap. The car started to feel a bit loose so I came in a lap or so before the end.”

In Group One Richard Chamberlain put in the fastest lap of 1:53.847 on the last of his nine laps completed in the CTR Development Porsche 935. Although he was nine-tenths ahead of Championship leader Derek Johnston he hadn’t met his own expectations.

Richard Chamberlain: “We’ve got an engine problem and it tends to stop after about five laps so that’s why we came in. I was one and a half seconds slower than yesterday. We had an experimental set-up on from the last session testing yesterday and it was not as good but we’ll leave it on for the race. We have reliability issues so we’re really looking for a finish.”

Group Two was claimed by Don Grice in his BMW M3. His time of 2:00.075 put him one-tenth ahead of the ensuing Porsches of Group Two leader Peter Smallwood and Nick & Harry Whale with only two tenths separating the class top three.

The Wales duo were disappointed after having not tested on Friday and being two seconds off their own time set at the Norfolk track on the Championship Media Day.

Nick Whale: “We needed to bed in two sets of tyres and both had to qualify. We’ve got 55kg of success ballast for the race as well. It’s frustrating not to be showing that [Media Day] pace.”

Race 1 – All Change In Every Group

It was all change in all three groups in race one at Snetterton on Saturday. Derek Johnston took the win ahead of pole-sitter Richard Chamberlain in Group One, Peter Smallwood won Group Two and Colin Broster claimed Group Three. The race was held in blustery but sunny conditions and 13 laps were completed during the 25 minute race on the Snetterton 300 track.

After a clean start, there were no sudden surges and the first place change happened only on lap three when Group Three’s Colin Broster in the ABG Motorsport Porsche 996 overtook the Alemdent Ltd Ginetta G50 of John Saunders. Saunders held second in group followed by Chris Bentley (Porsche 996) at the flag.

Only one lap after the Group Three shake-up it was Group One’s turn for drama when a threatened sensor problem struck Richard Chamberlain’s CTR Development Porsche 935. Derek Johnston overtook for the race lead in the Graypaul Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge car. Chamberlain rebooted all systems and attempted to chase but the recurring problem prevented a challenge and ultimately he finished 20 seconds behind Johnston in second place.

Until lap ten Group Two had held station, although provided the closest racing of the race with Don Grice in the lead and Peter Smallwood and Nick Whale (In2Racing) separated by less than a second for the majority of the first nine laps in their pair of 997 GT3s vying for the second step on the podium. The duelling Porsches closed in on Grice’s BMW M3 and their pressure was rewarded with a spin for the leader. Smallwood initially led but then he went wide allowing Whale through.

The drama didn’t end there. With two laps remaining Nick Whale was forced to retire with a gearbox issue and pulled off the track.

Although no-one improved enough to upset the status quo for the majority of the Group Three race, lap-times fell throughout with Broster posting the fastest time of 2:02.120 to secure Group Three pole for race two on Sunday, and new driver Saunders setting a very credible 2:02.935 to take second. In Group Two Grice, Whale and Smallwood all broke into the 2:00 times, Grice taking group pole with 2:00.468. Group One and overall pole was to be taken by Johnston with 1:55.138.

Derek Johnston, Greypaul Racing: Overall & Group One winner
“We had a good race until Richard had his problem. I know where he’s fast now and his car’s fast in a straight line but I’ve got better brakes!”

Peter Smallwood: Group Two winner
“Don got away at the start. Nick and I started to pull him in and then he had a spin so I was first – then I slid wide on the next lap and Nick got me coming into the last corner. It was a shame he broke down.”

Colin Broster, ABG Motorsport: Group Three winner
“I got him [John Saunders] into Riches on the brakes – I just got some momentum and got alongside. Once I got by he held onto me for a lap or so but then I got my head down and got away.”

Race 2 – Three Manufacturers in Top Three and a Win For The Newbie In Group Two

John Saunders followed his achievement of a pole position at his debut event yesterday with his first GT Cup Group Three victory. The top three finishers were Johnston, Smallwood and Saunders in a Ferrari, Porsche and Ginetta respectively.

On the opening lap Richard Chamberlain powered past Derek Johnston’s Ferrari in his Porsche 935. The pair were close with the Ferrari’s braking ability making up for the Porsche’s straight-line speed but the battle was brought to a premature end when Chamberlain’s turbo blew on the second lap.

The Group Three pack were still in grid order but when leader Colin Broster came across the limping Richard Chamberlain a collision occurred, which Chamberlain later admitted was more his fault than Broster’s. Broster’s punctured Porsche 996 pitted for a wheel change and rejoined the track on a mission. His charge showed with a dramatic decrease in his lap times. His race one fastest lap was 2:02.120 but today he shaved off over a second with his best time of 2:00.756. It wasn’t enough to regain the lead but his valiant efforts were rewarded by a third in class after he took the final podium place with just four minutes remaining on the clock from GT Cup debutee, Mark Cowne in the Kruger Cowne Porsche 996.

Following another good battle for the Group Two lead, Peter Smallwood took the win from Don Grice after Grice, having led from the start until lap 11 of 13, retired with a traction control problem.

The fastest race laps were for Johnston, Smallwood and Broster who take their respective group pole positions for the race three grid.

Derek Johnston, Greypaul Racing: Overall & Group One winner
“Richard drove past me on power and I was catching him at the corners. I thought we were in for a good race and then he pulled over which was a real pity.”

Peter Smallwood: Group Two winner
“I was trying fairly hard and thought this was going to be great. I was catching him and we were on for a really good battle. It’s a shame for Don and the spectators but we’ll take the points and get on with the next one.”

John Saunders: Group Three winner
“That was great! I loved it. It was a shame about Colin but you’ve got to take what you can get. At the start I tried to go round Colin on the outside and he kept the inside line and I had to tuck back in. I held onto the back of him and tried to squeeze him at Coram but I couldn’t do that either. I was close behind and saw him come together with Richard. I managed to avoid him and get past.”

Race 3 – Group Three Broster Takes Second Overall

Colin Broster drove an amazing race to take second overall in his Group Three ABG Motorsport Porsche 996. Derek Johnston had a straightforward pole to flag race with the action all happening behind him. After his disappointment from race two Broster was fired up and by lap five had closed the gap to Peter Smallwood’s Porsche 997 in second place and made his move, overtaking with a bold manoeuvre at Montreal. From there the gap was never more than three tenths as Smallwood fought hard to reclaim his position but to no avail and he crossed the line in third by just seven hundredths of a second. Having missed out on a podium in the previous race, Mark Cowne (Kruger Cowne Porsche 996 GT3) took the bottom step to take his first GT Cup trophy at his first event.

Derek Johnston, Greypaul Racing: Overall & Group One winner
“It was good training to be ahead and on my own and I was trying to put in consistent laps. It made me appreciate how beautiful the car is and how lucky I am to be able to drive it. We head to Oulton Park next with walls and not a lot of run-off so it’s a really challenging circuit which makes it exciting. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Peter Smallwood: Group Two winner
“Unfortunately I love making it hard for myself! I’m not really sure how he [Broster] got through. He was pushing hard and racing well. I just couldn’t get back. He was defending really well. It was a great race – really good. I’ve got no complaints.”

Colin Broster, ABG Motorsport: Group Three winner
“That was great fun! I nicked it on the inside going into the second corner. I suppose you could call it a lunge. He [Smallwood] gave me the room and I didn’t give it back. I was quicker in a couple of places and I used everything I’ve learnt to keep him behind me.”

Pippa Neilson