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GT Cup, Donington - Race Reports
Short & Johnston Put On A Show

All images © Mick Herring

Saturday Qualifying

“It was lethal,” was how David Witt described the conditions after a rain shower led to the LED extra sponsored GT Cup qualifying session being declared wet. The session was halted initially when the throttle on Mike Donovan’s Porsche stuck open, sending him into the gravel at Redgate.

The red flag was brought out while the stricken car was recovered and the field lined up at the pit lane exit as the dark skies threatened.

Alex Martin was the on form man once the cars rejoined the circuit overtaking to get a clear track and the ability to set a quick lap. “It wasn’t my best lap,” said Alex. “It was slippery because the rain was coming down when I came across the line. I was faster On the following lap through the first sector but up the hill I was wheel-spinning so had to radio the team and tell them I couldn’t go any faster. They said it’s okay, you’re fastest!”

A second red flag came out with eleven and a half minutes to go after Kevin Riley spun his Mosler at the Old Hairpin. On the same lap the Ginetta of Lee Mowle & David Barker went into the gravel at McLeans, soon joined by David Witt in his Chevron.

The cars once again returned to the pits to await the restart; however the rain was pouring down bringing an end to any meaningful running. The clock restarted but with the times twenty seconds slower in the wet conditions it only allowed the drivers to get some wet weather experience ahead of the race.

The final times had Alex Martin’s FF Corse Ferrari on pole ahead of a mildly embarrassed Mike Donovan. “We always like to be the first on track and it was clear that it was going to rain,” said Mike. “With the rain everyone was so much slower so my first lap was fast enough for the front row. So the moral of the story is first up, best dressed!” Ian Loggie’s Porsche was third with the first of the faster GTO class cars fourth in the hands of 2012 champion Derek Johnston.  Colin Broster topped the GTB class in twelfth overall in the ABG Motorsport prepared Porsche.

Race 1

“Challenging” was how John Dhillon described the race conditions for the opening race of the 2013 GT Cup season. The weather conditions had been changeable all day ranging from brilliant sunshine to hale via rain. Half an hour before the race it was the turn of the latter and heavens opened meaning it was going to be a wet race.

An early casualty was the Ferrari 430 Scuderia of Ian Dockerill who was unable to get out of the pits. The source of the problem is still being investigated but is thought to be either clutch or gearbox. The 26 remaining cars formed up behind the safety car to run the two warm up laps before the race started. GTC class front-runner and pole-man Alex Martin got a great start to lead into Redgate corner with Derek Johnston jumping to second. The glory was short lived however when he spun down the field at McLeans.

By the end of the first lap Martin had a staggering lead of 3.8 seconds over second placed Ian Loggie who was fending off Martin Short in his Ferrari 458 Challenge.  By the end of Lap 2 the gap had grown to 4.4 seconds but Short was able to go around the outside of Loggie into Redgate. He held his car on the outside in a brave move that put him ahead down through the Craner Curves. Now in second, Short was able to put the hammer down and catch Martin at a rate of two seconds a lap. Martin got a reprieve when the BMW of Don Grice spun at Coppice leading to the safety car being deployed.

With the cars circulating under yellow flag conditions the clock ticked down until the pit stop window opened. The question was who would pit first? With the track drying there was a chance that a move to slicks would be advantageous. On Lap 10 the safety car was in and the top three put their foot down. John Dhillon in the AF Corse Ferrari was the first to pit, leading in eight other cars to perform their mandatory 60-second pit stop.

At the end of Lap 11 Short seized the lead from Martin into the final chicane and built a small lead before pitting with Martin following. Third placed runner Shamus Jennings also pitted to hand over to Phil Andrews but the fire extinguisher was accidentally deployed during the driver swap so the Ferrari was wheeled back into the garage and retirement.

With four laps to go John Dhillon’s strategy paid off as he snatched second from Alex Martin, with the Chevron of Jordan Witt in fourth. The order remained the same when the chequered flag fell to bring an end to a very exciting race.

“It was a good race and confidence giving as I was competitive with higher spec cars.” said third placed Alex Martin. 

Ian Loggie. “I had a collision with a Ferrari and so went from second to eighteenth and back to eighth, so it was great and I can’t wait for tomorrow.“

Sunday Qualifying

After a fabulously successful opening day to the LED Extra sponsored GT Cup on Saturday, the paddock was in buoyant mood on Sunday morning. We lost two cars with the Whale family having other commitments for the second day of racing and Colin Broster’s Porsche suffering gearbox issues. As a sign of the championship’s strength this year their places were filed by the Ferrari of Peter Rowbottom and the BMW of Dan Stringfellow, keeping the grid at an impressive 27 cars.

Martin Short’s Ferrari was the subject of some debate after his race win in the previous day’s 40-minute endurance race. After lengthy discussions his entry was placed into the faster GTO class. “It’s been an interesting weekend,” commented Martin. With technical discussions aside, it was time for the action to switch to the track.

Yesterday’s front-runner Alex Martin set the initial pace on a 1:11.447 before a spinning Chevron brought the red flag out. The #18 of Darren Nelson was the offending car and had to be dragged out of the gravel at McLeans.

When the track went green again the pack was able to get down to the serious business of setting quick times and the GTO cars soon hit the front. Derek Johnston led the way in the MTECH 458 GT3 ahead of the rapid Jordan Witt in the Chevron GT3. “The car was perfect,” said Johnston. “I had to wait for the tyres to come in and traffic was busy with the full grid. We managed to get two reasonable laps in so I’m very, very pleased with that.”

Martin Short found himself in third place, only eight-tenths off the pole time. After a troubled day yesterday Ian Dockerill in the Parr Motorsport-prepared Porsche RSR put in a superb series of laps to grab fourth place, just head of the AF Corse entry of John Dhillon. Alex Martin held his own in the GTC class Ferrari to net sixth place ahead of Chris Dockerill’s Ferrari. The top ten was rounded out by Ian Loggie’s Porsche, Mike Donovan’s similar 997 and Sean Balfe’s Ferrari 458 Challenge.

Race 2

The field crossed the line in almost perfect side-by-side symmetry to mark the start of the second race of the GT Cup. Derek Johnston’s glorious orange and blue Ferrari controlled the pack well to lead into Redgate. Martin Short got the jump on the #98 Chevron of Jordan Witt while Ian Dockerill held fourth ahead of John Dhillon’s Ferrari.

Johnston had a rapid first lap to assert his domination on the field to lead by 3.8 seconds at the end of Lap 1, a lead that would continue to stretch over the following laps.

Further back the BMW of Dan Stringfellow and the Ferrari of Chris Dockerill had a coming together at the first corner, forcing Dockerill into a 360-degree spin. “We had a coming together at Redgate but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it as he out-braked me into the corner and we crossed paths,” said Stringfellow, who continued with minor damaged to the bodywork and tracking. Dockerill took time to get back up and running and slipped down the order to the back of the field. It would however led to a mighty comeback for the GTO class machine that would ultimately see him finish eighth.

Back at the front, Ian Dockerill passed John Dhillon for third and Jordan Witt overtook the GTC Ferrari of Alex Martin for fifth place. Loggie and Rowbottom both spun independently at McLeans but continued with their races.

By Lap 12 Johnston continued to dominate and lost very little time lapping slower cars, despite hitting a gaggle of six backmarkers out of the Old Hairpin. By the last chicane he had dealt with them all and maintained his 21 second lead over Martin Short. Ian Dockerill was forced to pit with a fuel surge problem requiring him to refuel. He left the pits, hunting a fast lap time to set his grid position for the last race, but was ultimately excluded for contravening the rules when he refuelled.

As the flag fell Johnston’s lead was 26 seconds from Short and Dhillon. “We got a good start and pulled a gap,” said Johnston. “The backmarkers were pretty good and it’s up to me to get past. From everything I saw it was a really good race. It was really busy in there and I was trying as hard as I could because the car was changing with tyre wear. MTECH are doing an amazing job.”

Alex Martin was largely untroubled on his way to GTC class glory, even with rear tyres that were past their best.

Dan Stringfellow hustled his battle damaged BMW to the line to win GTB honours with Lee Mowle winning GTA. “I’m delighted with that,” said Mowle. “With eleven cars in my class I’m really chuffed because it’s a good quality grid.”

Race 3

The final race of the weekend would prove to be the icing on the cake of an already exciting opening weekend to the LED Extra GT Cup. Jordan Witt gave the first indication of the drama that was about to unfold when his Chevron had an unscheduled pit stop on the pace lap.

Derek Johnston led the pack over the line after his morning race win and held his lead as the flag fell.

Second placed Martin Short, in the GTO class Ferrari 458 Challenge, allowed the third placed car of Ian Dockerill to put his nose up the inside into Redgate. Short stuck to his line though, to keep the place after going side-by-side with the Porsche through the daunting Craner Curves. John Dhillon held fourth off the line while Chris Dockerill in the Ferrari 430, managed to get the jump on the GTC class Ferrari of Alex Martin.

Witt’s Chevron rejoined the race before the cars finished the second pace lap and soon caught up to the back of the pack. He joined Kevin Riley, also out of place due to missing the first race when his gearbox needed to be replaced. Riley looked like he might have to retire in the early laps when his car lost power, but it managed to fix itself after five laps and Donington Park was once again able to enjoy the wondrous thunder emanating from the Mosler.

Back at the front, Chris Dockerill was able to work his way past his father’s Porsche for fourth, but Johnston’s lead was already 7.6 seconds over second placed Short. Dhillon maintained third and the race looked like a foregone conclusion, until Johnston spun exiting Redgate. The Ferrari rejoined back in fifth place and Johnston begun the charge of a man possessed.

He dispatched Ian Dockerill and was soon on the tail of Chris in the Ferrari. A late lunge into Redgate on Lap 11 was to prove unsuccessful but he only had to bide his time. They were both catching John Dhillon and as they crossed the line the gap between them all was wafer thin.

Johnston moved to the outside of Chris Dockerill around the first turn and took third. Chris got on the power just a little too soon exiting and spun down the order. Dhillon was next to succumb at the same point, three abreast into the corner as both cars lapped a GTA car.

With seven minutes remaining the gap to Short was ten seconds, but Johnston was determined. The time tumbled and with two laps to go the gap was only three seconds. Short just had the legs of Johnston but was still having to take risks, taking to the grass to lap Lee Mowle before the flag.

With such an action packed race at the front it was easy to overlook the other runners. “That was awesome,” said GTC winner Alex Martin. A sentiment echoed by GTB winner Mike Donovan. “It was a good race. I knew I was quicker (than Loggie) and it’s a matter of not making mistakes and hoping that he does. He made a very wide Porsche but at the end of the day we beat him.”

Peter Young’s Ginetta rounded out the winners taking the GTA class win.

Full results - here

Thomas Baker/GT Cup