Doington Park :: :: April 21st and 22nd
Having missed out on the top step of the podium in the opening rounds at Oulton Park, Gary Duckman made it a winning treble at Donington Park in his Excel r8 Motorsport run Seat Leon at the latest rounds of the Dunlop Production Touring car Trophy over the weekend.
Although Joe Girling qualified his Vauxhall Astra VXR on pole for the first race, he was later put to the back of the grid for a couple of technical infringements.
Duckman therefore claimed pole with team mate Luke Caudle alongside in his Seat. Stewart Calder’s Astra headed the second row, from Excelr8 boss Antony Williams’ Renault Megane, and Maurice Hayden’s Megane headed row three on his seasonal debut.
Keith Issatt was alongside debuting the new Volvo C30, while John Robins lined up for his delayed debut with the EJM Seat Leon. He had Dan Malone alongside for a one off return in one of EJM’s trackday cars, an underpowered BMW 330. Sarah Franklin’s Fiat Abarth and Steve Johnson’s Astra completed the line up, with reigning champion Adrian Churchill’s new Ford Focus still not ready for action.
RACE ONE ::
The track was greasy in parts for the first race, which some drivers soon found out. Both Caudle and Williams spun at McLeans, “it all went wrong, I just went in too hard and was lucky to get out of the gravel,” Caudle admitted.
Duckman, Calder, Hayden and Girling from the back row made an immediate break on the first lap. “It’s lucky I saw the spins. If I had started at the front I would probably have spun too,” Girling admitted.
Issatt led the second group from Robins and Johnson, with Caudle rejoining in eighth, ahead of Malone and Franklin. The Volvo tried to close on the lead bunch, but Caudle was reeling him in after taking Robins and Johnson on the second lap.
Girling had already seen off Hayden and wasted no time in reeling in Calder too. But Calder then spun off at the Old Hairpin, which took a front tyre off the rim.
It was all too easy for Duckman who cruised in over four seconds clear of Girling. “It was hard in the conditions, I had a huge slide at McLeans on the first lap too, but Luke’s spin gave me a gap and I maintained it,” he said. “It was a good start for me, but I could smell gear oil later in the race so I just settled for a finish,” Girling added.
Caudle managed to claw his way back to third, after taking Hayden into Goddards on lap eight. “I had a few problems, but pushed hard and we are getting there,” said Caudle.
Hayden was then forced to pit with a vibration problem, “I was having a good run and the wheelnuts came loose. I thought I was going to lose a wheel and we had gearbox problems too,” he explained.
Issatt therefore picked up fourth, with Johnson the last unlapped runner in fifth. “I was closing on Keith and the tyres seemed to go off,” said Johnson. Robins rounded off the top six, “I was cautious after seeing the others spinning. I wanted to finish,” he said. Hayden rejoined to take seventh, with Franklin and the multi spinning Malone completing the finishers.”I hadn’t done doughnuts before this,” said Malone.
Result: 1 Gary Duckman (Seat Leon) 15 laps in 20m 19.090s (87.66mph); 2 Joe Girling (Vauxhall Astra VXR) +4.180s; 3 Luke Caudle (Seat Leon); 4 Keith Issatt (Volvo C30); 5 Steve Johnson (Vauxhall Astra VXR); 6 John Robins (Seat Leon); 7 Maurice Hayden (Renault Megane); 8 Sarah Franklin (Fiat Abarth); 9 Dan Malone (BMW 330) No other finishers. Fastest lap: Duckman 1m18.024s (91.31mph).
RACE TWO ::
With Girling starting from the front row of the grid, it was side by side with Duckman into Redgate at the start of the second race. Girling just held on to lead onto the Craner Curves, with Caudle and Hayden making it an early four car break, as Robins and Issatt disputed fifth.
But Issatt slowed into Goddards which moved Calder up to sixth, before taking Robins a lap later and consolidating a solitary fifth. Johnson also began to close on Robins, but had Williams and Issatt edging closer too.
Although Girling tried to build a lead, Duckman started making inroads into his advantage, but it took until lap 10 for the lead to change as they headed into Redgate. But rather than rechallenge, Girling pulled into the pits, “the alternator belt came off and I was losing ABS and power steering,” he explained.
Duckman was out on his own to claim his second win of the weekend, “I was confident of catching Joe, but he was very brave early on and got away. Then he started to brake early and I reeled him in,” said Duckman.
Although Caudle was a clear second again, he had his own problems. “Terrible, massive turbo issues from the start,” he explained. Hayden too had more problems, despite coming in third. “The clutch went in the closing laps,” he confirmed. Calder held onto to fourth just, “we were low on fuel and I had to back off,” he said.
The highlight of the race however was over fifth, which finally went to Robins, from Johnson, Williams and Issatt after numerous exchanges. “It was so good being around the others and so close. I learned a lot about lines and just thought I would have a go,” said Robins.
Johnson found it hard to retaliate once Robins had got by on lap 11. “The clutch went at the start and I had to pump it. I thought I had escaped but they got me again,” he said.
Williams settled in seventh, “just wanted to make the finish,” he said. Despite his earlier promise having ebbed, Issatt was still delighted with his new charge taking eighth. “I was losing power inconsistently, but it’s got so much potential,” he said. Malone’s fun day out netted him ninth, from Franklin and the ailing Girling.
Result: 1 Duckman 16 laps in 20m59.268s (90.52mph); 2 Caudle +11.220s; 3 Hayden; 4 Stewart Calder (Vauxhall Astra VXR); 5 Robins; 6 Johnson; 7 Williams; 8 Issatt; 9 Malone; 10 Franklin; 11 Girling. Fastest lap: Duckman 1m16.764s (92.81mph).
RACE THREE ::
With the top six reversed for the final race of the weekend. Johnson and Calder found themselves on the front row of the grid, while Duckman shared the third with Caudle.
With a new clutch hastily fitted, Johnson had his moment of glory and held back the barrage until the McLeans on the second lap. Calder took the inside line and emerged with a marginal lead. “Steve made the Astra very wide, but at least I got to lead too,” said Calder.
The new leader was immediately under attack from the Excelr8 Seat’s of Caudle and Duckman, both surging past into Goddards. “It was like a team manoeuvre I couldn’t turn in,” said Calder after dropping to third.
It was nose to tail, at the front as they pulled well clear of the rest. But Caudle only managed to hold the reins until lap four when Duckman shot ahead into Goddards, but hit a kerb hard on the exit. “If I hadn’t backed off I think Gary would have come through the side door,” said Caudle.
Girling had also picked his way past Johnson, before taking third from Calder into Redgate and started to close on the duelling pair ahead. Although Caudle pressed extremely hard, he had to settle for second, 0.350s secs behind. “I had to work for that, but the car was ballistic down the Craner Curves, so I have to thank Excelr8 and Hatfield Seat. Joe pushed me hard but I had him in the tight bits too,” said Caudle.
“I had a long brake pedal and didn’t feel comfortable, thought I might have broken something too when I hit the kerb hard,” added Duckman after completing his hattrick.
Girling ran Caudle close too, “I was hanging onto fourth longer on the straights and had a stronger first half of the circuit. But they had me from Coppice,” he explained.
Hayden had closed on Calder quite early on, but the gap opened again before the ex Stock Hatch Champion snatched fourth with a lap to go. “I had gearbox issues but it was better than the earlier race,” Hayden explained. “Vibration slowed me down, it went brrrrrr and the steering started to go,” Calder added.
Robins and Williams finished nose to tail in sixth. “I made an appalling start at the front, then went a bit mad but struggled for grip and then the back end was twitching,” said Robins. “I need to learn more racecraft. But there is more to come with the car,” Williams added.
Johnson had a few problems after a hefty whack from Issatt at Goddards almost ground him to a halt. The Volvo secured eighth with Johnson, Malone and Franklin completed the finishers.
Result: 1 Duckman 16 laps in 21m06.114s (90.03mph); 2 Caudle +0.350s; 3 Girling; 4 Hayden; 5 Calder; 6 Robins; 7 Williams; 8 Issatt; 9 Johnson; 10 Malone. Fastest lap: Duckman 1m17.365s (92.09mph).
Published by Peter Scherer for BARC Dunlop Production Touring Car Trophy, April 23, 2012.