Two weeks ago, the shock news was announced that Porsche Carrera Cup GB stalwart Tim Harvey was leaving the championship after struggling during the first three meetings of the 2011 season. Taking his place in the #1 car is Kieran Vernon, who made his debut in the championship in Rounds Seven and Eight at Oulton Park. TCF caught up with Kieran at Oulton to see how his transition into the Porsche was going.
Alongside Benji Hetherington, 21 year old Vernon won the 2011 Porsche Scholarship, with the prize being £50,000 towards a drive in 2011 Carrera Cup GB. However there was disappointment for Kieran when he was unable to raise the rest of the budget required to compete, leaving him unable to drive in the series.
The former Formula Palmer Audi driver instead stayed in single seaters and has been competing in the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, enjoying some early season success. However when Harvey decided to drop out of the championship, the driver from West Chiltington was given a second chance to get into the championship.
Vernon said: “Winning the Scholarship was the highlight of my career and then to not be able to do it this year was kind of the worst moment of my career, so to be back in it now is brilliant and I can't thank Tim Harvey, Nationwide and Motorbase enough for the opportunity. I'm glad everyone's supported it and it's gone down well.”
Vernon's only experience of driving one of the powerful rear-wheel drive sportscars was during the Scholarship, when he had a brief run in an older specification Carrera Cup car. However with a new 911GT3 Cup car introduced for 2011, Vernon's first taste of the current car was during Friday practice at Oulton, meaning the weekend was a steep learning curve for him.
He said: “We're getting there; I've obviously jumped in at the deep end. It's very different to what I've been driving before, like Formula Renaults and Palmer Audi's. It's just about learning the car and getting there, but we're not far off, there's just a few little things we need to work on to be right on the pace, but it's looking good so far.”
Vernon is running with successful Porsche outfit Motorbase Performance and will be helped by Harvey throughout the remainder of the season, with the 2008 and 2010 series champion acting as a driver coach. He will also receive guidance from his new team-mate Michael Caine, who has finished runner up in the series in 2008 and 2010.
Vernon reflected: “It's a fantastic team, a top class team in the UK and I couldn't be better positioned, with Tim guiding me and Michael still out there in the championship. It's brilliant to compare myself against those two. Hopefully we can get up nears the front towards the end of the year and see what we can do from there.”
Vernon, from Sussex, will be continuing to compete in the Formula Renault BARC Championship for its remaining three meetings in 2011 at Croft, Thruxton and Silverstone, leaving him with the tricky task of switching between the two varying machines.
Vernon commented: “It isn't going to be easy, especially when you race the same circuit twice in different cars close together, as you bring habits from one to the other. I'm used to single seaters, I've been doing them for the last two years, but this is obviously very different, a big GT car and it's just something for me to learn. I'm sure we'll get on top of it soon enough.”
The Loughborough University student has enjoyed a superb run in the Renaults so far this season, taking a podium on his debut weekend in the series at Donington Park, before taking his first win at the next meeting at Brands Hatch. A big off in the second race at Brands threatened to derail his championship charge, but he bounced back to get another podium last time out at Oulton Park, putting him third in the championship, twenty-one points off the top of the standings.
Vernon concluded: “It's been going really well, we had a DNF when the throttle stuck open, which is unfortunate. Apart from that we've had three podiums, a win and a lap record, so we're on the pace, got three rounds to go, we'll see how it goes. We can win the championship, so we'll give it our best shot.”