Whilst most of the attention the Porsche Carrera Cup of Great Britain receives is focussed on the Pro classification at the front of the field, throughout Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2 there are also some very capable gentlemen racers. One of those is Redline Racing driver John McCullagh, who spoke to The Checkered Flag last week about his fitness, his rallying background and the opportunity to race at Spa-Francorchamps.
From 1986 to 1991, McCullagh could regularly be found ploughing through UK forests in low powered, front wheel drive superminis, often with great success. He contested the British Open Rally Championship, finishing second in the title race, driving a Vauxhall Nova in the 1300cc class. McCullagh also became a member of the British Junior Rally Team.
From 1992 to 2011, he took a motor sport sabbatical but had any of the car preservation tactics required in his rallying career, carried over to Porsche racing? “Because of my early experience I am perhaps more suited to endurance events, so I am really working on how to pull a qualifying lap out when it’s needed,” McCullagh comments before adding the age-old rally driver to circuit racer conundrum, “I also still enjoy driving sideways however I have to remember not to do this when I’m racing as whilst it’s great for the spectators to watch, it’s really no good for lap times!”
When he returned to racing, it was in the Porsche GB Club Championship. In 2013 he became the series champion in his Porsche Boxster and after one further season in the category, he decided to move into the fiercely competitive Carrera Cup GB. With the move up in terms of horsepower, also came a move up in preparation from the McCullagh. “In the Porsche club series I had to carry extra weight in the cars to hit the minimum so there really wasn’t any incentive for me to have to worry about my eating and lifestyle habits,” he comments, adding “For my age and height I wasn’t particularly overweight but any gram over 80kg suited and booted was going to put me at a disadvantage when I moved up to the Carrera Cup of Great Britain.”
So, for McCullagh, what did getting fit actually require? “Firstly it was off into the gym most days and combined with some sensible eating and drinking habits I embarked on a weight loss program in which over a period of 8 weeks I dropped 13kg or 2 stones in old money,” he says gleefully. Even in Pro-Am2 it is vital to be as fit as you can be if you wish to compete seriously in 2015.
McCullagh’s first race in the series resulted in a DNF but his second at Brands Hatch, netted him a tenth position overall after a hectic race and an excursion through the gravel. Yet it is the class podium that he achieved at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps that stands out, as he comments “Being invited to drive at Spa was really special. It is probably the most iconic F1 circuit in the world and a real challenge to drive. It was my first trip to there and I was delighted to take a class podium at the meeting. It also really gave us an opportunity to stretch the legs of the cars!”
Multi-class racing is often seen as problematic for the professional drivers at the front of the field but it also presents a headache for those in the gentleman classifications, as McCullagh describes. “It’s important that if you are going well in your class that you shouldn’t get tangled up battling with the Pro-Am1 or the Pro drivers and jeopardize your class results.”
After a successful opening two meetings, McCullagh is slowly but surely becoming accustomed to life in one of Porsche’s premier categories and hopes to remain there for the foreseeable future. “I think I’ve still got an awful lot to learn in Carrera Cup and I am keen to fulfill my potential in this car so my mind is firmly fixed on the job in hand and this season. That said I would like to be in a position to continue next season and will consider this with Inlec my sponsors, and potentially some additional sponsors nearer the time,” he tells The Checkered Flag. We certainly wish him the best of luck.