Kieran Vernon has enjoyed a competitive run in the 2011 Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the Guildford-based racer improving throughout the year to become a regular top six finisher in the competitive one-make series. The Checkered Flag spoke with Kieran at the final rounds of the year at Silverstone to hear his thoughts on his six meeting spell in the Carrera Cup.
Vernon headed into the 2011 season as one of the winners of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Scholarship, the prize being £50,000 towards a campaign in the series. However Vernon was unable to raise the rest of the budget to join the series, meaning he returned to single seaters to compete in the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship with Fortec Motorsport.
The BRDC Rising Star enjoyed a strong start to the year, picking up one win and two other podiums in the opening eight races. However prior to the Oulton Park rounds of the Carrera Cup, Tim Harvey announced he was leaving the series and gave his Nationwide-backed drive with Motorbase Performance to Vernon. He jumped at the opportunity and aimed to compete in both series for the remainder of the year, but with budget tight, he had to pull out the BARC series.
Vernon said: “Obviously I wanted to start the year in Porsche but I didn't have the budget to go through with it. I went back into the single seater route and it started off really well, a win at Brands and a few podiums. Unfortunately after Croft we just didn't have the budget to carry on and the Porsche drive was there available, so I had to take it.
“Coming into this round I was still sixth in the BARC standings, which shows how well it was going, so it was a shame to drop it as we were in contention for the championship. At the end of the day though, the Porsche is a great series and I'm really enjoying it.”
The move into the Porsche series left Vernon with the difficult task of joining a new championship in the middle of the season. Not only that, but Vernon had to learn a totally new car with a new team to him, with his only previous Porsche experience being a brief run in the older specification car during the Scholarship, meaning it would be a difficult learning experience for the youngster.
Vernon explained: “It's very difficult because it was a new car to me, completely different to anything I'd driven before. It weighs three times as much as a single seater, with the engine right over the rear wheels, so it's a big thing to learn. We have made good progress every single race we've done so far and I've been gradually learning the car more and more, as the more time you spend in the car, the more you understand it and the more comfortable you feel in it. When I was at Oulton Park, I felt like the car was driving me, but now I'm starting to get on top of it.”
Vernon has improved as the season's gone on and the Rockingham meeting in September saw him move into the front pack. The former Formula Ford race qualified fifth and then raced wheel to wheel with far more experienced Porsche racers to take his first top six finish. The next round at Brands Hatch saw him improve further, taking fifth and sixth place finishes on his most competitive weekend to date, confirming his status as one to watch in the one-make series.
Vernon commented: “Fifth and sixth at Brands was a really good result, pushing the front guys fighting for the championship. It's looking good to be in there position next year and hopefully that's where we can be. It's a very competitive championship so it's good to be able to mix it up with them so soon.”
The last two meetings of the year at Brands Hatch and Silverstone has seen Vernon joined in the Nationwide/Motorbase camp by Porsche Carrera Cup superstar Nick Tandy, the Porsche Supercup and Deutschland series regular taking the seat vacated by Michael Caine earlier in the year.
Having Tandy alongside him is something that can only be beneficial to a rookie like Vernon, as he explains: “For me learning, having a guy that's faster than you is always brilliant. At Rockingham I didn't have that, the data I had was my own, so it was tough to improve from where I was, but we were still quick there. It is very helpful though to see what he's doing and with him on pole, it's ideal for us to have the fastest time to look at. For me, it's all a good learning experience.”
With his foot now firmly in the door in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Vernon is hoping to remain in the championship next year and believes a full title charge wouldn't be out the question if he returned. It all boils down to budget once again though and Vernon hopes he has done enough to impress Nationwide and secure their backing for 2012.
Vernon concluded: “A full campaign is what I want to do, but it's what Tim [Harvey] wants me to do and how Nationwide, the sponsors, feel about my performance this year and whether they want to back me next year. Hopefully they will, I've really enjoyed working with Nationwide and Loctite this year, the supports been fantastic. Hopefully we can do it next year, but obviously it depends on a lot of things, as it always does in motorsport. Fingers crossed.”