Motorsport News - Sportscar
Birch secures double victory at Rockingham in GT3 Cup Challenge GB
22nd May 2012
James Birch won both races at Rockingham as the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge GB
visited Northamptonshire for rounds three and four. There were also podium
finishes for Peter Smallwood, John Ferguson and Justin Sherwood as the
series once again produced some thrilling racing.
With rain having fallen a few hours before qualifying started, the session
was run on a drying track but the greasiness of the circuit meant that the
drivers were forced to contest the whole session on wet tyres. Birch
(In2Racing) eased to pole position lapping the circuit in an impressive best
time of 1m35.490s. "I went out there to get pole so very happy to be leading
from the front, I enjoy driving the car in the wet to be honest,"
he said. John Ferguson (Ask Racing) recorded his best qualifying result so
far with second position, just under half a second shy of Birch's best time.
Championship leader Stephen Liquorish (Team Parker Racing) was third fastest
as the top three were separated by less than seven tenths of a second, and
considerably faster than the rest of the field in challenging conditions.
They would line up in the same order for the second race.
The first race of the weekend was an action packed affair with drama right
until the final corner of the final lap. The circuit was much drier than it
had been in qualifying so the whole field opted to run on slicks. Birch
managed to hook up a near perfect start to lead the pack into Deene Hairpin
with fellow front row starter Ferguson holding second and Justin Sherwood
(Team Parker Racing) up to third after managing to get away better than
Liquorish who ran fourth. Whilst Birch streaked clear by 3.6 seconds over
the first two laps, Sherwood began to exert pressure on Ferguson for second
which allowed Liquorish to close up on the pair but before a three way
battle for second was allowed to develop, Sherwood slowed with a right rear
puncture and was forced to pit to replace it, dropping him to the back of
the field. This left Ferguson and Liquorish to dispute second place for the
rest of the race. Liquorish looked the quicker of the two but he could not
find a way through as Ferguson robustly defended and countered every move.
As they went onto the final lap Ferguson looked to have done just enough to
hold on to second but Liquorish got alongside at Tarzan which put him on the
outside for the final chicane, with neither driver wanting to concede
position they both braked too late and ran onto the grass. Liquorish was so
eager to get back on track first and claim second place that he spun. Neil
Houston (Team Parker Racing) and Peter Smallwood (Parr Motorsport) who had
been running fourth and fifth for most of the race arrived at the chicane
just as Liquorish and Ferguson were scrambling back on to the circuit. This
delayed Houston but Smallwood threaded his way through cleanly to take
second place, his best result of the season to date, this was made all the
more remarkable considering he had started from ninth. Ferguson recovered
the quickest of the three drivers caught up in the mayhem of the final
chicane to finish third with Houston fourth and Liquorish fifth. There was
close racing all the way down the field including between two of the
debutants of the series, Mark Flaherty (Redline Racing) and Guy Riall
(Almara Racing) who were separated by half a second at the line for sixth
and seventh, with Flaherty ahead. In class two, Tom Hallissey (Ask Racing)
The last corner drama not only shuffled the finishing order but also gave
Birch an emphatic winning margin of 19 seconds. "I'm really really happy. I
got a good start, managed to get a bit of a gap and then just tried to hold
it from there," he said.
"The car was fantastic," said Smallwood of his charge through the field.
While Ferguson admitted he was "delighted," to secure his first podium of
The second race of the weekend saw Birch complete his clean sweep of
victories but not by quite as convincing a margin as in the first race. He
made another good start from pole to lead into Deene Hairpin despite the
efforts of Neil Houston who having made a rocket start from sixth on the
grid had momentarily run side by side with Birch. The majority of Houston's
good work was undone at Deene as Ferguson and Sherwood dived through
demoting him to fourth just ahead of Liquorish who had not made a great
getaway. There were more changes of position further round the opening lap
as Sherwood swept past Ferguson at Tarzan to take second position. The
eventful start to the race was swiftly neutralised as the safety car was
deployed to remove Tom Hallissey's car from the side of the track after he
had connected with the barriers. At the restart Birch timed his bolt towards
the line perfectly, catching Sherwood off guard and allowing him to make a
crucial break away. Sherwood ran at a solid pace though and kept Birch
honest by making sure that for the first few laps after the restart the gap
was no more than two seconds, before in the later stages of the race Birch
edged a little further clear to win by just over four seconds.
Sherwood took a comfortable second position finish as behind him battle
raged once again between Ferguson and Liquorish. The latter passed Houston
for fourth at mid race distance and then closed the gap to Ferguson rapidly
and spent the final eight laps shadowing his every move. However, Ferguson
defended well for the second time during the weekend and held Liquorish off
until the chequered flag to claim the final podium position.
"It's fantastic to make it two wins out of two and come out with full
points, I'm very happy," said Birch. "I came here to win both races and
we've managed to achieve the dream," he added.
"I'm satisfied with that today, James ran a good pace and I did my best to
keep up with him," said Sherwood of his first podium of the weekend.
Race One: 1. James Birch; 2. Peter Smallwood; 3. John Ferguson. Class One:
1. Tom Hallissey. Fastest Lap: Birch 1m23.738s (83.40mph).
Race Two: 1. James Birch; 2. Justin Sherwood; 3. John Ferguson. Fastest
Lap: Birch 1m22.216s (84.94mph).
Provisional overall points after round four: 1.Birch 66; 2.Liquorish 61; 3.
Houston 60; 4.Smallwood 57; 5. Sherwood 42. Class Two: 1.Cowne 28;
Next rounds: Thruxton, 17th Ju
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