The 2013 APR Volkswagen Racing Cup is set to be another thrills-and-spills season with a bumper grid that continues to grow, but could also be the year that history is made in the series…
During its 13 years since the Volkswagen Cup first began in 2000, there has only been three drivers that have won the championship twice – Phil House, Joe Fulbrook and Steve Chaplin. 2013 could now be the year that we finally see a triple champion, as Fulbrook will be joined on the grid by fellow former double champion House for their shot at achieving the first VW Cup treble.
With a still-expanding field of around 27 cars set to appear on the grid to support the British GT at Oulton Park, headlining the winter silly season is the news that reigning champion James Walker will take a sabbatical from racing in 2013 for personal commitments.
The 2012 champion will however make an appearance with the number one plate at Oulton Park on Easter Monday (April 1), and hopes to share a Golf GTI with his father Richard over the season. “I’ll be sorry not to be out there for a full season, but I fully intend to return to the track with a proper campaign in 2014″, said the 26-year-old, who claimed two wins and 11 podiums on his path to last year’s title.
With the loss of Walker however comes the return of 2004 and 2005 champion House to his old playground. The former double champion and Clio racer’s comeback is one of great interest for fans of one-make tin-top racing, and he will be one of many drivers to race in the newest Volkswagen machinery available – the Scirocco R – as he returns to challenge for a third title with his family PH Motorsport team.
House is not counting out the possibilty of fighting for that third championship, but remains cautious as he gets back into the swing of full-time racing.”I’m not looking too far past the first round at the moment”, he said. ”I just want to try and get some solid points at Oulton and then see where we are. I would hope I can be somewhere near come the end of the season, it would be amazing to be the first triple VW Cup Champion!”
To do so, he faces tough opposition, including the other man who could becoming a triple APR VW Cup champion, Fulbrook. The 2008/2009 champion will form part of a monster six-car line-up for the Warranty Direct/AWM squad, driving a Golf GTI alongside Simon Andrews, Simon Tomlinson and bike racer Josh Caygill, the team also fielding two Sciroccos for Robin Riley and Aaron Mason.
With new machinery at his disposal, Mason should expect to be one of the championship favourites this season with the loss of one of his main rivals Walker, the Doncaster man having finished in the top five in the championship during every season since his arrival to the VW Cup in 2009, finishing third – ironically for the third time – last season with four wins.
The KPM squad meanwhile won seven of 14 races last year and still remain strong despite losing reigning champion Walker, with ex-BTCC and Mini racer Martin Depper racing alongside podium finisher Stewart Lines as their new frontman if you like, Depper now equipped for a full season with the squad in a Scirroco after scoring two victories at Silverstone on his debut to instantly throw his name into the hat for potential 2013 success.
Another four-car entry will come from the Chris Levett/Nick Beaumont-run JWB Motorsport team, the squad also fielding a proven winner as the experienced Kieran Griffin will enter a Scirocco for his sixth season in the VW Cup, joined by Levett himself and supported by GTI racers Mark Clynes and Paul Dehadray.
Tony Gilham‘s busy winter sees his Team HARD squad bolster an enormous nine-car assault on the VW Cup alongside his BTCC team commitments this year, lady racer Emma Selway being joined by Henry Gilbert, Andy Wilmot, Richard Kingsnorth, Tom Barley, David Fairbrother, HARD Scholarship winner David Sutton and 15-year-old Sam Morgan, while Lisbon-born Jorge Calado became the latest entry to Gilham’s ranks as he drives a Mk5 Golf with his sights set on becoming to the first Portuguese driver to make it to BTCC.
Another man to watch will certainly be Brands Hatch sensation, Jim Cartwright, whose debut win at the Kent circuit – coupled with several visits to the podium – saw him finish sixth in the 2012 championship despite missing a good proportion of the season. He will return for a full-time assault in a Golf GTI this season however, and his Independent entry could be a serious spoiler to the bigger teams if his pace remains as strong as last season’s glimmers showed.
Tony Haberman and Andrew Smith will both run Beetles, while Ross Wylie will enter for Slidesports, disabled driver Phillip Morris continues in a DSG semi-automatic Golf GTI for KPM, and Alex Dziurznki adds some 90’s variety with a Corrado GTI for West End Precision.
Fans of the series will also be delighted to see the ever spectacular Caddy van make a return on the 2013 entry list, David Garnsworthy the man returning to the helm of the crowd favourite which has previous top 10 success in the hands of Peter Wyhinny and Simon Elliott, Wyhinny himself racing a SEAT Leon once again for a record-breaking 12th consecutive season in the championship.
The seven-round British GT-supporting championship gets underway on Easter Monday at Oulton Park, consisting of 14 races as the series travels the UK, also stopping off at Belgium’s iconic Spa-Francorchamps in July.
2013 APR Volkswagen Racing Cup race dates:
01 April – Oulton Park (Rds 1 & 2)
06 May – Rockingham (Rds 3 & 4)
26 May – Silverstone GP (Rds 5 & 6)
16 June – Snetterton 300 (Rds 7 & 8)
13 July – Spa-Francorchamps (Rds 9 & 10)
11 August – Brands Hatch (Rds 11 & 12)
06 October – Donington Park (Rds 13 & 14)