The Porsche Carrera Cup GB enjoyed somewhat of a renascence in 2015 with new teams and drivers creating the strongest series grid in recent memory. Just as impressive has been the continuation of this revival into 2016.
For championship boss James MacNaughton, the first four rounds of the 2016 campaign have validated the quality of the series.
“I think again we have got a fantastic grid of drivers, with really strong Pro drivers at the front. I think it is a lot more competitive in all the categories than it was last year. That is not to say last year was an easy year for anybody but the closeness of the championship half-way through is fantastic.”
MacNaughton has clearly been impressed by the performances of individuals down the field, as he goes on, “There is a great battle developing between Dino [Zamparelli] and Dan [Cammish] and also we are very pleased with the progress and the results of Charlie [Eastwood] and the other new and returning drivers like Tom Sharp who has had a bit of bad luck but he is certainly showing that he has the pace. Lewis Plato is coming on really well now, he is turning in some good performances. Tom Oliphant is doing very well.”
Carrera Cup GB is inherently a multi-class competition and MacNaughton is quick to acknowledge the stand-out success in Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2. “In Pro-Am1 both the McKay brothers are really quick. Two weekends in a row they posted identical times to the thousandth of a second in practice. The results show that Euan has had a far better season but Dan has had some bad luck. Sean Hudspeth has been a regular visitor to the podium.”
“There are really close battles in Pro-Am2. Mark Radcliffe is new to this car and is doing very well. Tautvydas Barstys is proving that he has converted what was a very good speed but maybe a lack of consistency to good consistency with that speed.”
“You can probably tell we are really pleased with the competitiveness in all of those classes, there isn’t a runaway leader in any of those classes. Half-way through the year that is exactly where you’d want it to be.”
Another plot-line that has really impressed MacNaughton is the progress of the 2016/2017 Porsche Scholar Charlie Eastwood. Firstly though, he highlights the achievements of previous Scholarship incumbent Josh Webster. “First of all Josh was a fantastic scholar for us. He won the championship in his first year and did very well in his second year against stiffer competition.”
“Charlie obviously has come into it with less car racing experience. Obviously he had fantastic success in karts but his career till he became the Scholar with us in cars wasn’t as long as Josh’s was and he had never driven a GT car.”
“We were very careful not to set any expectations, obviously the point is he is the Scholar and he has come to the series to learn and to learn what sportscar racing is all about with Porsche. His results speak for themselves, he’s doing incredibly well against people who have more experience in that particular car.”
MacNaughton also highlights the multi-facetted skill-set required of the Porsche Scholar, and how Eastwood has impressed in this respect. “He’s really getting addicted to the fitness side. So that is fantastic. He’s doing a lot of work with the media. He spends quite a lot of time at various different Porsche centres doing different things – car launches, special customer evenings etc. From our perspective he is doing fantastically well.”
“Obviously the other thing that I know he really enjoyed and did a fantastic job for us was Goodwood. To achieve what he achieved… On the second day he was second in qualifying in the wet, to achieve that with cars that were far more suited and drivers that have driven up that hill many, many, many more times than he has was a really, really impressive performance. The conditions weren’t in our favour on Sunday but to get a fifth, was a fantastic achievement. His performance was probably the most impressive of the weekend. We were really pleased with that.”
Also pleasing for MacNaughton was the staggering performance of the Carrera Cup runners who guested at the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup British GP support event. “Obviously Supercup is a big stage not just because it is within the Formula 1 calendar but because it is the next step up. The drivers in Supercup are the best drivers of these cars in the world. So for our guys to go there and turn what was a really good qualifying experience into an exceptional race result for everyone, it was really good. Tom Sharp was fourth for much of the race which is a really, really strong performance against these guys who are used to driving those cars on the F1 rubber, which is a real dark art.”
“For our guys to go in with no experience of those conditions was a really outstanding performance. We are very proud of what they achieved. It does show how good the Porsche Carrera Cup GB field is,” he concludes.
After this moment of reflection, attention inevitably turns to the future of the category. With the World Endurance Championship support events proving so popular with teams and drivers, our discussion moves towards the idea of a different weekend format for the series on a permanent basis, maybe including an extended ‘enduro’ race.
The answer reveals much about the thorough, professional and progressive approach that is the foundation of the current success enjoyed by the series. “We are very keen to work with our teams and drivers because it is all very well us sitting in our offices in Reading and making a grand plan of what is going to happen but if we don’t talk to the people that are going to make that plan happen for us, it is pointless. We’ve been discussing face to face and we sent out a survey to our teams and drivers. We want to know what they like, what could be improved and so on.”
“We will formulate a plan for 2017 and then present that plan to the teams and drivers at Knockhill or by if not before Silverstone. The race duration was one of the things the drivers mentioned. It isn’t as simple as saying we will do a forty-five minute race because obviously we need to fit in with the TOCA schedule and time is very, very restricted and precious within that schedule. It is not as easy as banging another ten minutes onto a race. It is something we are considering, it might be that everyone wants to do it but it is impossible to do.”
Another illuminating comment. “We are consulting with our drivers and teams and we work together very, very well. It does feel like we are a family making it work for everybody – Porsche, the teams and the drivers. If it isn’t right for one of those elements it won’t work. We will present our first draft of what we are planning for 2017 and following feedback we will modify it so it is as perfect as it can be for as many people as possible.”
This inclusive approach has been key to the series’ revival but so too, has the intense competition that looks set to enthral fans trackside over the final four meetings of the 2016 season. “The great thing is who knows what is going to happen. In all three championships we have got very close battles. I am just looking forward to the rest of the season being just as close and hopefully going down to the wire at the Brands Hatch GP circuit. I think that would be a really fitting end to a successful and exciting season of racing.”
MacNaughton summarises the current situation, to this writer’s mind, perfectly. “That kind of close competition can only be good for Carrera Cup GB. That combined with the success at Supercup – Drivers looking to get involved will see our drivers are very, very good not just in Carrera Cup but in other series. I am looking forward to a safe and exciting end to the season. Obviously I am sure there will be a couple more surprises but the fact that it is so close would mean it would be wrong for me to try and predict what will happen. It is completely unpredictable which makes it exciting.”