18 April 2019
Richard Chamberlain made a successful return to the GT Cup Championship by picking up a brace of victories at Donington Park. After one-and-a-half years out of the championship following a fiery Silverstone exit in 2017, Chamberlain returned with his venerable Porsche 935 which had undergone a substantial repair job since the incident.
Chamberlain batted off the attentions of Century Motorsport’s BMW pairing on his way to double GTO honours, while GTC wins were shared between FF Corse and Team Webb. Chamberlain was not the only double winner of the day, as GT Cup regulars Topcats Racing enjoyed two wins in Group GTB thanks to Warren Gilbert in his Marcos Mantis.
Group GTH twice went the way of Steve Ruston in the all-new JMH Auto McLaren 570, while in GTA it was Team HARD that twice tasted success on their return thanks to the rapid young partnership of Ryan Harper-Ellam and William Phillips in their Ginetta G55.
Chamberlain sealed early bragging rights in a competitive 15-minute qualifying session. The Porsche 935 showed no signs of fatigue and set a pole position effort 0.6s better than nearest rival Adrian Wilmott in the BMW M6. JMH enjoyed strong pace with their new Lamborghini Huracan as John Seale grabbed third, ahead of Gibson Motorsport’s McLaren 650S and Wilmott’s Century Motorsport team-mate Dominic Paul.
Chamberlain swiftly converted pole position into victory in the first 25-minute sprint race of the season. The Porsche driver enjoyed a lights-to-flag performance but was kept honest throughout by the BMW of a chasing Willmott, while Seale’s defensive skills were tested as he clung on for a hard-fought third place ahead of the McLarens of Gibson and Simon Green Motorsport.
Against machinery significantly more modern, Gilbert fought to sixth overall to seal GTB rights in the Topcats Racing Marcos Mantis, even beating the fierce dice over GTC honours. That went the way of James Webb, who ensured a winning start for the former BMW man’s new Lamborghini Huracan, after a race-long fight with the Ferrari 488 Challenge of Laki Christoforou.
Group GTH went to Steve Ruston in the new nostalgically-liveried McLaren 570, while a rapid opening handful of laps were enough for William Phillips to keep the similar Ginetta G55 of Grahame Tilley at bay in a tight GTA squabble.
Chamberlain doubled up in the 50-minute endurance race later in the afternoon, but had to fight for it after losing the lead to a fast-starting Wilmott heading into Redgate for the first time.
After a brace of safety car interruptions, Chamberlain tucked up behind Wilmott and sliced around the outside of the BMW M6 heading down the pit straight to assume a lead he would never surrender. A late charge came from the Lamborghini of Jamie Stanley, who set the fastest lap of the race on his way to closing the lead gap to 5.4s before a red flag ended proceedings seven minutes too soon.
The incident in question denied GTA leader Tilley the chance to avenge the sprint race outcome, Team HARD the beneficiaries as Phillips and Harper-Ellam were victorious. GTH spoils again went the way of Ruston, sharing with John Whitehouse.
A familiar name graced the podium as Group GTC winner. Former GP2 race winner Adam Carroll shared the FF Corse Ferrari with Christoforou as they beat Team Webb on this occasion, Graham De Zille and 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class winner Matt Howson sharing the second FF Corse car in third.
“It’s been a good weekend so far, and I’m really, really pleased with the performance of the car. The first race in the car for me in 20 months, and I’m exhausted. Up to this race, the longest it lasted in a race was 27 minutes, so I might have needed that luck. It’s been a 20-month job, but over the last 12 months we’ve worked on it like dogs. It feels so fast. I’m already going quicker than I ever have at Donington and it’s carrying 12mph more corner entry speed than it used to.”
“The new Ferrari 488 Challenge car is a good machine. There’s a lot of horsepower in it, so it’s a very different power-to-grip ratio. It really keeps you on your toes but it’s also good fun to drive. Donington is a very technical circuit, so it’s good to be getting back out there and helping with Laki. It’s a good start to the partnership!”
“It’s been absolutely brilliant to be back out. I wasn’t sure how far up we could get with it without a second driver, but also we didn’t even do any testing with it or anything. I think for me I’ve done my personal best here, which is not a bad time for that car. Really enjoyed the first race – last year I battled a lot with the Webbs – and sort of took it easier in the second race thinking the GT3s would take each other out.”
“It’s been a fantastic day. It’s been faultless all day really, so I’ve just had to point it and go. We had a Ginetta here last year so it’s nice to go out with a bit of power under us this year; we suffer a bit in the corners because of the weight of the McLaren, but so far it’s been brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”
“It’s been perfect. Two wins and a good team effort for ourselves. We’re really pleased, and it’s been a year since I’ve been in a race car as well. It’s definitely been good to be involved, and it’s a friendly paddock.”
“To get a win in the endurance race where we’re working as a team was great. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be just as fast, and Will has shown that by jumping straight into the car and doing so well. I’m sure he’ll do well in the Sprint tomorrow and we can fight for another endurance win.”