Porsche Carrera Cup GB: Carrera Cup Le Mans, round seven – preview

The Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the UK, will be stepping back onto the international stage for round seven at the blue riband Carrera Cup Le Mans race on Saturday 17 June.

61 mechanically identical 911 ‘Type 991’ GT3 Cup cars – the highest number competing in any one place at any one time – will line up in support of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Competitors have gathered from nine of the 19 Porsche championships around the world, some travelling from as far as Australia, Brazil and Japan.

The majority of the grid will be from Porsche Carrera Cup GB (19), Porsche Carrera Cup France (20) and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Benelux (17). Each of these drivers will be competing not only for points in their respective championship, but also for the prize awarded to the overall winner: a full-day test in the Porsche LMP1 driving simulator at the Weissach Research and Development Centre.

In 2014, Earl Bamber competed in Carrera Cup Le Mans, just one year before winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright alongside fellow Carrera Cup graduate Nick Tandy in the LMP1 919 Hybrid.

Ragnar Schulte, General Manager Marketing and Motorsport for Porsche Cars Great Britain, commented: “We’re very pleased with the growing presence of our competitors, past and present, in Porsche Motorsport internationally. This is reflected at Le Mans, where we have a strong grid and a good chance of taking another overall win. The prize of a test in the LMP1 simulator will be an incredible experience and one our drivers will be working hard for.

“Our international presence is also very much in evidence in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup this year, where seven drivers – almost a quarter of the field – have competed or are competing in Carrera Cup GB. At Silverstone next month when Supercup supports the British Grand Prix, that number will be even higher.”

2017 Carrera Cup Le Mans Preview
2014 marked the debut of the Porsche 919 Hybrid at Le Mans, and also the last time Porsche Carrera Cup GB took to the Circuit de la Sarthe. On that occasion, Ben Barker (Parr Motorsport) took overall honours and three years later will be making his second appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, once again piloting a 911 RSR.

For 2017, Porsche Carrera Cup GB can count a record number of Pro category drivers, and the competitive nature of the season so far has been evidenced by the fine margins separating the entire grid in every session. Of the 61 car Carrera Cup Le Mans grid, 19 are from Carrera Cup GB. Of those, nine from the regular Pro category will be placed in Class A, while the remaining ten from the Pro-Am1 and Pro-Am2 categories will race in Class B. Despite this split for the overall race, each individual category will still score points as it would in any other round.

Leading the charge to take overall honours will undoubtedly be the Redline Racing duo of Dan Cammish and Porsche GB 2016 / 2017 Scholar Charlie Eastwood. Both have taken turns at the top of the points table and both have scored double race wins this season, although much like the majority of the 19 drivers, neither has ever raced on the unique 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe before.

Fresh from a perfect weekend at Oulton Park and podium finish at Monaco, reigning double champion Cammish is back in control with an 11 point lead over Eastwood. A superb debut season in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup has proven Cammish’s ability to learn new circuits and adapt to the different track conditions caused by unfamiliar rubber.

However, team mate Eastwood will be pushing harder than ever to make his mark, and the 2016 Rookie champion has already proven his pace and mastery of the 911 GT3 Cup with dominant wins in rounds three and four at Donington. The Belfast driver, recently named Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the Month, can also lay claim to being the only other driver to lead the Porsche Carrera Cup GB championship in 2017 aside from Cammish.

Never to be counted out are Dino Zamparelli and newcomers JTR. Zamparelli has no shortage of international experience, and JTR has the knowledge of team principal Nick Tandy, 2015 Le Mans winner, to call on. Zamparelli currently sits third in the overall standings, and four podium finishes from six races underline the 2016 vice champion’s potential.

Scoring three podium finishes from six races is JTR team mate Lewis Plato. Building on the pace that saw him finish second in the 2016 Rookie championship, Plato has also shown superb racecraft in 2017 to fight his way to the front on more than one occasion – a useful skill when part of a 61 car grid.

The driver more often than not found battling with Plato has been Tom Oliphant (Redline Racing). Oliphant once again showed his own ability to battle through a talented crowd during a successful Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup appearance at Barcelona which netted him a top ten finish.

Euan McKay (Redline Racing) has already made a strong start to his campaign after stepping up into the Pro category. After only just missing out on the podium at Donington, the reigning Pro-Am1 champion has been preparing for Carrera Cup Le Mans in the simulator and with Porsche Human Performance – whilst also completing university finals. Never far away is brother and team mate Dan McKay. Dan trails Euan by just six points in the overall championship, and will be looking to finish the first half of the season ahead.

Also in contention are the top two in the Rookie championship. Both Tom Wrigley (IN2 Racing) and Tio Ellinas (JTR) have had a tough learning curve, but both have already shown their potential – Ellinas with the category lead and eighth overall, and Wrigley with his first podium finish at Donington.

In Pro-Am1, the consistent Justin Sherwood (Team Parker Racing) holds the lead, but the category has proven exceptionally close. Just behind is Graeme Mundy (Team Parker Racing) after team and driver managed to salvage a win and second place from Oulton Park following damage at the first corner.

Not so lucky was erstwhile category leader Alex Martin (Team Parker Racing), who goes to Le Mans as one of the favourites to take Class B and Pro-Am1 honours. However, one of his main challengers from Brands Hatch, Greg Caton (G-Cat Racing) will be making a return. Caton not only has proven pace, but knows the Circuit de la Sarthe from Classic Le Mans.

As the championship heads to France, Shamus Jennings (G-Cat Racing) remains in charge of the Pro-Am2 category. Despite strong pace from his nearest challenger Peter Kyle-Henney (IN2 Racing), Jennings has shown his best form and consistency to stand on the top two steps of the podium in every round bar one so far in 2017. For his part, Kyle-Henney has won the past four rounds in a row, staking his claim to favourite for category victory.

Rupert Martin (Team Parker Racing) is enjoying his most successful season to date, third in the category standings with two podium finishes, while Iain Dockerill (Asset Advantage Racing) and Peter Parsons (The Race Car Centre) have also posted their best results in the championship. Looking to continue his learning curve and impressive progress will be Rookie Matt Telling (Welch Motorsport).

For the first time in the history of Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the race will be streamed live via the championship website with full commentary in English. From Friday 16 June, the following link will go to the live feed page: porsche.co.uk/CarreraCupLeMansLive.

Porsche LMP1 driving simulator – details
The simulator plays an important part in the relentless development of the Porsche 919 Hybrid, and to aid authenticity utilises a real monocoque cockpit. 16 circuits are available, several of which will be familiar to Porsche Carrera Cup GB competitors: Abu Dhabi, Aragon, Austin, Bahrain, Barcelona, Fuji, Lausitzring, Le Mans, Mexico
City, Monza, Nürburgring, Sao Paolo, Silverstone, Spa, Valencia and PG Weissach.

Based at the Weissach Research and Development Centre, the simulator’s primary role is as a development tool, with driver training as an additional benefit. Even in the digitally generated virtual world, the driver is core to every activity and essentially acts as postprocessor for the vehicle dynamics simulation. Feedback is used to improve the vehicle modelling in combination with the data recorded during each session.

Through the simulator, complex hybrid control systems can be developed and tested in real-life situations, any time of the day or night. In addition, the simulator can be used to assess vehicle handling in areas that can be hard to evaluate objectively, for example aerodynamic balance.

The vehicle model can be modified very quickly and without any limits. This allows engineers to investigate multiple ideas or potential setup changes rapidly and in a purely hypothetical way, without needing to consider limitations such as packaging, parts availability, track time, etc. Another benefit is that external factors can be kept constant, which provides engineers with a consistent base against which to measure any technical changes.

The opportunity for the winner of Carrera Cup Le Mans to spend a day working with the simulator team represents a significant insight into the pinnacle of the Porsche Motorsport pyramid.

For 2017, the official timing partner of the Porsche Motorsport LMP1 team will be awarding a Chopard Superfast Chronograph to the driver scoring the highest number of fastest laps during the season in each of the four categories: Pro, Pro-Am1, Pro-Am2 and Rookie. The ‘Chopard Fastest Laps’ awards will be announced at the end of season awards in November.

2017 Carrera Cup GB technical support
The demands of a ‘fly away’ round may seem greater than the usual domestic weekends, and in many ways they are, but for the technical team that forms an often unsung but core component of Porsche Carrera Cup GB, everything carries on much as usual.

After a first corner collision during round five at Oulton Park saw nine cars unable to continue, all but three returned to the grid for round six. This was due to an exceptional overnight effort by the teams involved, but also from the nine-strong Porsche Carrera Cup GB technical team. In addition to deciding and maintaining the levels of trackside parts and components, the technical team oversees all major mechanical work, provides advice and assistance where necessary, particularly for new teams, and even lights to work by when most would be asleep.

At any one time, over 2,500 parts are immediately available to teams, along with access to specialist equipment and knowledge. For Carrera Cup Le Mans, despite the unique demands and logistics involved, preparations remain at the same level as they would be for any other round.

A 60-minute qualifying session will take place at 14.30 GMT on Thursday 15 June, with a 45-minute race for round seven scheduled to start at 09.15 GMT on Saturday 17 June.

Source. Porsche/Photo. The Editor

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