2020 has unfortunately been a difficult year for everyone across the globe after the COVID-19 pandemic, but as Government restrictions slowly lifted, Motorsport in England resumed in the month of July. Unfortunately, the impact of COVID-19 had been hard on everyone, but with determination from many, Snetterton on the 11th and 12th July 2020 saw a new championship launched. Over the winter of 2019, Porsche Motorsport announced the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB as Porsche’s new one-make series, effectively enabling drivers to climb from Club-Level racing to the heights of top level International GT3 competition. Based on the format of the Porsche Carrera Cup, but with cost half of that, competitors compete in identical 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport Models, with each round made up of one qualifying session and two races, either support Porsche Club GB, the British GT Championship or TOCA BTCC and the Carrera Cup. The structure of the championship would see two classes on the same grid, split between Pro drivers and the other for Ams. The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport features a 3.8-litre-flat-six engine, generating 425 hp, aided by a six-speed PDK gearbox. With options of slick or wet Michelin tyres, it hoped racing would be competitive in all conditions.
Snetterton kicked started 2020 Championship
For the opening round of the Porsche Sprint Challenge, sponsored by Cayman Islands, a grid of thirteen would take to the track for the qualifying session on Saturday 11th July. With six Pros and seven Amateurs, the lap times in both categories were expected to be quick from the off. In the early part of the session, James Dorlin and Tom Jackson stood out as the early Pro pacesetters, but were later joined by Ethan Hawkey, the Brother of Porsche Carrera Cup competitor Esmee. The pace improved for the Pro drivers as the session neared conclusion and when Archie Hamilton got into the 1:56s, there were four drivers targeting the first pole of the season. The honour in the end as the chequered flag waved went to James Dorlin, who lapped Snetterton with a 1:56.736 in the IN2Racing prepared Cayman to snatch pole from Tom Jackson by 0.203s, whilst Hawkey and Hamilton were only 0.248s and 0.397s adrift from Dorlin, all covered by a second.
The pace in the Amateur class was slightly staggered in comparison, however Ambrogio Perfetti showed his endurance racing experience, as the owner of Chupa Chups confectionery company went to the top of their times. His time of 1:58.343 nearly matched the pace of the Pro drivers, which was very impressive from the off. His closest challenger in the category and lined up alongside on the grid for race one was Ian Humphris, who ended the session slower than Perfetti by 0.972s, but this was only 0.263s quicker than the JRT prepared Cayman, driven by Peter Chambers. Only four drivers were slower than 2:00.000 in the Amateur class, but with qualifying trouble free it showed the standard of the drivers taking part.
Jackson wins on track, but doesn’t on time sheets
Sitting on pole for the start of an opening race for a new championship could be daunting, but James Dorlin was experienced enough for the task at hand, but Tom Jackson had his own script to follow. When the lights went green, Jackson nailed the start to lead the field into turn one, with Dorlin down to second and ahead of Theo Edgerton. Drama behind saw Ethan Hawkey struggle to get away, swamped by the Amateurs, but he was on the tail of Ambrogio Perfetti down in eighth. As Perfetti had the amateur lead and was fighting with the Pros ahead, Mike Price settled into second in class, with Nigel Rice closely behind but having Peter Chambers for company, creating a good tussle between the three.
The next few laps saw the race settle down with drivers matching each other on track and therefore positions mostly unchanged. With Dorlin trying to close on Jackson out-front, he had to be cautious of Theo Edgerton, who closed the gap and was lapping quicker. A similar battle started to occur for fourth, as Alex Toth-Jones and Archie Hamilton closed up on track, whilst in the amateur podium contest, Rice had caught Price for second.
In the closing stages there were reports of track-limit warnings being issued with Alex Toth-Jones seeming to ignore the warnings, finally receiving a fifteen-minute penalty for his actions, dropping him down the order and promoting Hawkey and Perfetti. The worse was to come though in terms of penalties and destroying his race, as close to the chequered flag being waved, race leader from the start Tom Jackson was handed a penalty of ten seconds. Initially people thought it was for track limits, but soon the stewards confirmed it was for a false start, handing the race win to James Dorlin. Dorlin’s pace in the final stages brought the gap down to 0.968s but more hurt was to come, as the gap between Jackson, Edgerton and Hamilton was less than ten seconds, demoting Tom to fourth at the finish, effectively ruining a superb opening performance in a new championship.
Taking the opening amateur win was Ambrogio Perfetti, finishing sixth overall. Taking second in the class ended up being Mike Price, who was able to defend off a challenge from Nigel Rice. Ian Humphris jumped Peter Chambers for fourth late on, after Peter had originally been in a podium position.
Porsche Sprint Challenge – Pro Top Three – Race One
- James Dorlin (No.32 – IN2 Racing) = 25:34.991s
- Theo Edgerton (No.54 – TCR) = 25:38.168s
- Archie Hamilton (No.16 – Redline Racing) = 25:42.532s
Porsche Sprint Challenge – Am Top Three – Race One
- Ambrogio Perfetti (No.51 – IN2 Racing) = 26:00.756s
- Mike Price (No.3 – Forelle Estates Racing) = 26:12.085s
- Nigel Rice (No.15 – Redline Racing) = 26:17.362s
Dorlin shows Class in Tricky Conditions
The final race of the opening weekend took place towards the end of Sunday and with conditions still perfect, James Dorlin made the most of his starting position and blasted into the race lead, as Theo Edgerton slotted into second. With Hawkey and Jackson dicing over third and fourth, with Jackson getting the better of the two, the field spread out pretty quickly on the opening lap. The battle on track early on was between Alex Toth-Jones, Archie Hamilton and Perfetti, as the Am tried to jump ahead of a Pro driver down in sixth. The amateurs were racing closely for class honours over the first few laps, with Nigel Rice, Mark Price and Peter Chambers racing hard for the same piece of track, with Rice holding second in class.
Back at the front, Dorlin’s lead started to decrease instead of widening as Edgerton upped the pace, closing to within half a second by lap five and applying pressure, without being close enough just yet to attempt a move. Behind in third, Tom Jackson had pulled out a gap over Hawkey, whilst the next on track fight was between Alex Toth-Jones and Archie Hamilton. Perfetti continued to hold onto Amateur lead comfortably, with Nigel Rice was now in control of second with a gap formed between himself and Peter Chambers.
Whilst the race looked comfortable for majority into the final stages, the race was nearly thrown on its head on lap nine, as a mechanical failure for Ethan Hawkey around Coram, split oil on the racing line. As Hawkey was running fourth, nearly everyone behind was caught off guard and cars spun everywhere. Alex Toth-Jones suffered and had to retire on the corner, whilst Perfetti did a couple of 360s across the grass and nearly lost the amateur lead. The field was shaken up and on guard when they hit Coram the next lap, with Dorlin avoiding a spin and Theo was unable to challenge, as the gap went out to over two seconds. Things were unfortunately terminal for Theo Edgerton on the final lap, as a mechanical failure for the TCR Cayman resulted in a DNF and handed podiums to Tom Jackson and Archie Hamilton, whilst Dorlin went on to record first on track win, but his double for the weekend.
After spinning across the grass, Perfetti held on to record his second Amateur win of the weekend, whilst the oil spill benefitted Ian Humphris, who jumped up the order to record a class podium, ahead of Nigel Rice., who took final class podium position. Rice, Price and Chambers all lost places after near misses on the oil in the final stages, after what had been a great on track battle throughout the race.
Porsche Sprint Challenge – Pro Top Three – Race Two
- James Dorlin (No.32 – IN2 Racing) = 25:47.506s
- Tom Jackson (No.10 – Rob Boston Racing) = 25:55.927s
- Archie Hamilton (No.18 – Redline Racing) = 26:30.986s
Porsche Sprint Challenge – Am Top Three – Race Two
- Ambrogio Perfetti (No.51 – IN2 Racing) = 26:36.877s
- Ian Humphris (No.27 – Valluga) = 26:46.306ss
- Nigel Rice (No.15 – Redline Racing) = 26:47.928s
By taking two from two in the opening round, former Clio Cup runner up James Dorlin heads the championship as the Porsche Sprint Challenge will turn its attention to round two, in just under a month’s time. His closest challenger for 2020 looks to be Tom Jackson and can expect these two to battle hard throughout the season in the Pro category. In terms of the Am class, Ambrogio Perfetti appeared to be in a class of his own, after the pace he was showing in both races, but as the season progresses, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more Ams challenging for class wins. Going into round two, Ian Humphris sits as Perfetti’s closest challenger, after taking a fourth and a second in the Am class.
With the calendar condensed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 champion will be determined from six rounds with twelve races. For round two, the Porsche Sprint Challenge takes up a slot alongside the British GT championship, visiting Donington Park on the 15-16th August 2020. After visiting Donington, the series will head south and be a headline championship as part of the Festival of Porsche, at Brands Hatch on the 6th September. Later in the month the series returns to Leicestershire on the 19-20th September to contest Donington Park for the second time. For the penultimate round, a trip North to Yorkshire sees the Sprint Challenge join the TOCA package alongside BTCC and Porsche Carrera Cup, on the 10-11th October at Croft, before the 2020 season ends at Silverstone, on the 7-8th November.
To keep up to date with the Porsche Sprint Challenge, we recommend you check out and follow @PorscheRacesGB on Twitter for latest news, round previews and race results.
For our full photo album from the MSVR event at Snetterton, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs