The Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the fastest single marque GT racing championship in the UK, arrives in Cheshire amid a fascinating title fight between Porsche prodigies new and old. 18-year-old Porsche GB 2018 / 2019 Junior Dan Harper (JTR) more than doubled his championship lead over 26-year-old title hopeful Lewis Plato (Motorbase Performance) following a weekend at Croft made doubly challenging by extreme weather changes. However, both drivers are coming under increasing pressure from Porsche GB 2014 / 2015 Scholar and former champion Josh Webster (Team Parker Racing), who now sits third in the title race.
Current Porsche GB Junior Harper excelled at Croft taking a commanding pole position, race one victory and points paying finish in a rain-affected race two. In just his second race weekend of 2019, Webster was ever present in his mirrors after a stunning return to the championship for rounds three and four at Donington Park which produced a win and third place. Likewise, Plato has kept himself in the title hunt with a typical blend of speed and consistency, rewarded by a win last time out in treacherous conditions.
Porsche GB Junior Harper now enjoys a 15 point advantage over Plato at the top of the standings, though that could be eroded quickly such has been the close-fought nature of the championship so far in 2019. His recovery drive to a points finish in the rain during round six at Croft showcased his ability to keep a cool head under pressure – a skill that will prove vital as the season evolves and the pressure on each driver intensifies.
A race winner at Oulton Park in 2018, Harper – who will support the British Grand Prix in July when he takes part in the ultra-competitive Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup – will do everything in his power to stay ahead of the competition in Cheshire.
Plato added to his tally of overall podium finishes in 2019 last time out, the Essex-based driver clinching a category victory in round six to put him second in the driver’s championship standings – nine points clear of the advancing Webster. Plato was consistent at Oulton Park in 2018, recording two second place finishes, but he will want to go one better this year to close the gap.
Despite missing the opening weekend of racing, 2014 Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion Webster is already up to speed and chasing the pacesetter – Porsche GB Junior Harper – every time they share the track. Like Harper, Webster was caught out by a change of weather prior to the start of race two at Croft, but his recovery drive to a points paying position showed his class. Webster finished on the podium when he last visited Oulton Park with the Porsche Carrera Cup GB in 2015, but the 25-year-old will need to score maximum points in 2019 to close the deficit to Plato and Harper ahead.
Already a race winner in 2019, George Gamble (Amigos Redline Racing) was involved in an incident at the start of round five, the resulting damage precluding him from playing any further part in the weekend. Up to Croft, the 22-year-old reigning Porsche Carrera Cup GB Rookie champion had not finished outside the top four, showcasing his ability amid tough company. Gamble will need to muster a charge to get his championship hopes back on track in Cheshire before he takes on the challenge of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in July.
Having stepped up to the Pro category for 2019, 2018 Pro-Am category champion Seb Perez (Amigos Redline Racing) has endured a difficult start to his season. Adding to his podium result at Brands Hatch in round one, the 19-year-old finished fourth in round five at Croft – that translated to a reverse grid pole position for round six. However, Perez was one of three drivers caught out by the changeable weather in North Yorkshire – forced to pit for grooved wet weather tyres, he watched his advantage evaporate. As Oulton Park is a local circuit for the Derbyshire teenager, he will be hoping that the home advantage can change his fortunes before he joins Harper and Gamble at Silverstone for the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.
Dan Vaughan (Motorbase Performance) also stepped up from a Pro-Am campaign to the Pro category of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB for 2019. The 23-year-old has been a consistent points scorer during the early part of the season and secured his best result of the season at Croft – finishing second in category behind teammate Plato in round six. Vaughan finished in the top six overall at Oulton Park in 2018, the kind of form he will only look to build on in 2019 with much more experience under his belt.
Tom Roche (Rob Boston Racing) is new to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB for 2019, having raced on the TOCA package in 2017 and 2018. The 32-year-old Welshman has already scored points in 2019 and continues to adapt to racing his 485hp ‘Type 991’ GT3 Cup as he visits a track with which he is familiar.
Established Porsche Carrera Cup GB driver Karl Leonard (Team Parker Racing) took a surprise overall race victory at Croft in a rain-affected round six – the first time this feat has been achieved by a Pro-Am driver. In difficult driving conditions, Dubliner Leonard displayed a great strategy and skills to finish ahead of his Pro and Pro-Am category rivals. The result moved the 43-year-old – who has competed in over 50 Porsche Carrera Cup GB races during his career – to the top of the Pro-Am category points standings.
Rookie Jack McCarthy (Redline Racing) bolstered his record of podium finishes at Croft, the Rookie finishing an incredible second overall to Leonard in round six – he currently trails his experienced rival in the Pro-Am category championship standings by seven points. The 18-year-old from Kent has displayed promising pace in his debut season and enjoys a commanding lead in the Rookie championship, but will be one of the category favourites at Oulton Park.
Jamie Orton (JTR) took his best result of 2019 at Croft, adding to his existing tally of category points scoring finishes. The 39-year-old Londoner took a category podium finish at Oulton Park in 2018, and underlining his race pace he recorded the fastest lap time of any Pro-Am category driver around the 2.2-mile circuit. With the benefit of experience, Orton could be poised to post a strong result.
Esmee Hawkey (GT Marques) continues to conduct a tandem racing campaign in 2019, competing in Porsche Carrera Cup GB and the high-profile international W Series. Hawkey has appeared on the Pro-Am category podium five times from six races this season, resulting in just three championship points separating the 21-year-old from Orton – third in the category standings – and second-placed McCarthy.
Leading the Am category championship standings is Justin Sherwood (Team Parker Racing), the 2014 Pro-Am champion boasting an unbroken record of podium appearances in 2019. Twice a category race winner in 2019, the 46-year-old enjoys a healthy 19 point advantage at the top of the table over his nearest rival and goes to Oulton Park as category favourite.
However, following his double return to the top step of the Am category podium at Croft for the first time in 2019, the experienced Peter Kyle-Henney (IN2 Racing) is regaining the form that has made him the most successful Am driver in the championship’s history (26 wins). The resulting points haul saw Kyle-Henney leapfrog newcomer John Ferguson (Redline Racing) into second place.
Rookie Ferguson has shown strong pace to date in his debut season, already a category race winner, and the 45-year-old will be looking to put his championship challenge back on track at the challenging Oulton Park.
Both Porsche GB Junior Dan Harper and Lewis Plato showed strong pace at Oulton Park in 2018 – Harper taking overall victory in race two. However, looking to curtail their progress will be the on-form Josh Webster. Overtaking around the fast and flowing circuit at Oulton Park can be tricky, while last season very small margins separated the drivers up and down the grid making qualifying crucially important.