Team Parker Racing took both race wins in the opening round of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB to start 2011 in style. Drivers Stephen Jelley and Euan Hankey took the wins, despite both only finalising their deals within a week of the season starting.
The Parker with Juta pair took a comfortable one-two in qualifying for both races, with Jelley on pole twice, with Hankey just a few hundredths of a second behind.
Race one saw Jelley lead away but under pressure from Hankey, he ran wide at Druids which gave him brake-pad knock off, meaning he ran wide again at the next turn, with Hankey sliding through the take the lead and go on to win the race, with Jelley setting the fastest lap of the race on the way to second.
The Leicester driver made no such mistakes in the second race, leading Hankey throughout and taking the win by 1.5 seconds over his team-mate. However an infringement of the track limits saw him awarded a 15-second penalty after the race, dropping him to eleventh.
Jelley, who leaves Brands topping the championship standings, said: “I was disappointed with third in the first race, and that shows where we are as far as competitiveness is concerned. I'm finding this new car really good – it's like the old car but with a bit more structural rigidity, so you can attack the corners well. It suits my driving style.
“It was really good to go out of the weekend having finally got a win. The race was not too difficult – you only need a tiny gap on this circuit to be able to relax. Now I've got the championship lead, and that tells the story.”
Hankey added: “I am so, so happy to have got my first Carrera Cup win in the first race. After Stephen made a mistake it was plain sailing. I just want to say a big thankyou to Juta and Parker, and to my sponsors Ecko clothing. In the second race I had problems with oversteer. In the end I knew I wasn't going to beat Stephen so I settled for second.”
Joining the front-running duo in the Team Parker outfit were Porsche Carrera Cup debutants Sam Tordoff and Richard Plant. Former Clio Cup driver Tordoff enjoyed a strong opening race, holding off 2010 series runner up Michael Caine to take fifth, before going one better in the next race, chasing reigning champion Tim Harvey through to take fifth on the road, before being promoted to fourth with Hankey's penalty.
Yorkshireman Tordoff said: “Everyone around us was a lot more experienced. There were a lot of lessons learned, especially how to manage the tyres over 34 laps. It was a very strong weekend and I'm very happy to have pushed Tim Harvey so hard. At the same time I knew I couldn't make a mistake!”
The Porsche races saw fellow Yorkshireman Plant making his return to racing after a year out. The 2009 Formula Palmer Audi champion was chasing Tordoff and Caine throughout race one, taking a solid seventh, before again running close behind his team mate in race two, taking sixth for a great debut weekend in the series.
Plant said: “I've learned a lot about what this racing is like. I can't knock it – it's good on my first weekend to bring the car home with points in the bag. I'm happy to get back into racing and be close to the top five, while knocking the rust off! We can move on from this.”
Running for Dextra by Team Parker in the Pro-Am1 category were Alex Martin and Derek Pierce. Martin claimed a close fourth in the first race, less than a second off a class podium, before an unfortunate incident on the opening lap of race two forced him into retirement with extensive damage.
Martin said: “I was a little bit disappointed to lose a place at the start of race one. I rolled a bit, then the lights went off. I spent the whole race following the top three, and there was not much in it. Now I feel I can go for the pro-am1 title.
“I got a really good start in the second race, but Rory's move was unnecessary. He went straight into my door and he's broken the whole rear quarter, snapped the suspension in half and put a hole in the shell.”
Like Plant, Pierce was also returning to racing at Brands after a year off and after a strong fifth in class in race one, the Scotsman went on to take a superb podium finish in race two, finishing second, narrowly behind class winner Jonas Gelzinis.
Pierce, who lies second in the Pro-Am1 points, said: “I'm just glad to get it done and we'll move forward as the season progresses. I made a blinding start to race two and was almost alongside Rory when he moved over on Alex. After that I was pleased to keep in touch – I just need time in the car.”
Team Parker Racing principal Stuart Parker was delighted with how the weekend went, adding: “It was a great team performance. I want to thank all the lads who made it happen. We only made the call to run Stephen and Euan at the last minute, and it's only through the team's hard work and dedication that it was possible. They worked tirelessly all week.
“A week ago I had Stephen in my kitchen, drinking tea, not knowing where to go with his life, and now he's leading the Carrera Cup. And Euan was fantastic – he's a talented driver who will shine in this car.”
“Sam had a fantastic weekend and to push Tim Harvey all the way on his first run is brilliant. Both he and Richard are a pleasure to work with. Richard did really well and learned a lot.”
“Alex was right up there on pace in race one, and then Derek had a fantastic second race. It was a great team effort.”