Damp conditions welcomed the BRSCC Porsche Championship to their third weekend of the season for a pair of races at the challenging but rewarding Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire.
An engine failure had already put Garry Lawrence's participation in doubt but a dash back to the Taylors Foundry Motorsport HQ - including a blowout on the trailer on the way - saw their hire 986 Boxster aka "Blue Billy" delivered to the circuit late Friday ready for Garry to qualify on the Saturday morning. Alastair Kirkham was sadly absent having suffered a slipped disk and Alex Stocker was unable to get his Boxster operational in time.
Pip Hammond is present supporting Gavin Johnson in their shared 924 and as you'll find out, his presence will have a very positive effect on the Runcorn-based driver.
All 13 cars of our somewhat depleted grid make it out for qualifying on a mostly dry track - the damp bits trying their best to catch drivers unawares as they try to get heat into their Toyo tyres. Richard Avery and James Coleman are a mere 9/1000ths of a second apart as they chase Rick Styrin to the Boxster pole; Linda Warren heads the 924s a shade under a tenth in front of Niz El-Chamaa, with Gavin Johnson an impressive third.
The gear shift problem that started to appear in qualifying in James Coleman's car rears its head soon after the red lights go out for Race 1, dropping the white and green #00 Boxster back to 4th.
On lap 2 there are mid-field 924s neck and neck with Jamie Callender leading four cars across the line in persuit of Linda Warren and Niz El-Chamaa out front. Meanwhile Garry Lawrence is right on the tail of Avery in the Boxsters.
Lap 4 and Warren is less than a second behind El-Chamaa, with Callender pulling ahead of the persuing Class C cars. Coleman makes is past Garry Lawrence's Boxster to re-take third and is right up behind Richard Avery to challenge for second - so close in fact that under braking he collides with the rear of Avery's car.
Gavin Johnson gets the inside line at Turn 1 but then Callender passes Johnson to re-take a close-fought 3rd in the 924s; meanwhile Warren is right up with El-Chamaa chasing the class lead.
Styrin has extended his overall lead to 5.3 seconds by Lap 6, but there's drama as El-Chamaa looses a wheel at Knickerbrook, nearly flipping the car and causing Warren to hastily avoid Niz's briefly airborne 986. Its was so close, nearby marshals were sure it had resulted from contact but post-race examination of in-car footage confirms otherwise. Warren recovers to take the Class C lead but there's no let up in the battle for 2nd with Johnson and Callender vying for position.
With just under 7 full laps complete, the Clerk of the Course decides that the position of El-Chamaa's stranded car is a risk and calls for the red flag. Rick Styrin therefore takes the overall win with Richard Avery 2nd and James Coleman, having struggled with gear change issues througout the race, takes a welcome third. Linda Warren is very happy to take maximum points in the 924s, boosted by a fastest lap point, and Gavin Johnson lands his first 2nd place of the season with Hugh Peart is third.
For Race 2 it was full-on sunshine - for a change - and the front of the grid was much closer together, Avery and Coleman again giving chase to Styrin out front. Warren kept pole in front leading Peart and Johnson, with El-Chamaa having had to start last after heroic spannering from the Victoria Garage mechanics plus resident tyre man Tony Mekwinski, replacing Niz's shattered right rear hub.
As earlier a gaggle of 924s crossed the line with El-Chamaa fighting to get through, but for now at least, Warren has a comfortable lead.
Kevin Molyneaux fights with Lawrence for 4th but the front three Boxsters are starting to develop a gap between them. El-Chamaa gains another place past Jamie Callender and half a lap later takes Gavin Johnson to be third.
Molyneaux's yellow 986 is up to third by lap 4, with Lawrence dropping back to 5th. El-Chamaa is now past the rest of the 924 field to be second but the rest of the class - with the exeption of Darren House - are close behind.
Nick Hull bypasses the chicane on lap 5 but the front three now look to be comfortable in their places. Johnson is getting a bit of a tow of El-Chamaa's car in third, stretching ahead slightly of the 924 group of Peart, Callender and Broadley.
Avery gains half a second in his chase of Styrin out fount; similarly Hull is up with Lawrence in 5th. But Hull now spins to drop back again.
El-Chamaa now posting faster laps than Warren out front as he pushes for the 924 lead and by lap 7 he's only 0.8 seconds back.
Richard Avery has dropped out leaving Kevin Molyneaux to take up the 4th spot. El-Chamaa is in the lead - oddly with his right indicator flashing as he passes the finish line.
El-Chamaa stretching his lead out by lap 9 with Johnson just under three seconds behind, but Warren isn't showing any sign of giving up.
With a full duration of 11 laps complete, Stryin wins with James Coleman 2nd but a moment for Molyneaux means Lawrence dives through to grab 3rd. An amazing performance by El-Chamaa, having started at the back, means he wins in the 924s - taking fastest lap too - with Warren just ahead of Johnson in 3rd.
Post-race awards, courtesy of Fine Drinks Cooperative, are made to Niz El-Chamaa for achieving he highest altitude in a 924 and Kevin Molyneaux for getting so close to his first podium in Race 2. Garry Lawrwence's mechanics are also recognised for their 11th hour and nigh-on 11 hour dash to fetch and prepare "Blue Billy".
So, with Ed Hayes absent Rick Styrin strengthens his hold on the Class A Boxsters title and Richard Avery leapfrogs Hayes to take up the title chase. And just nine points now separate Niz El-Chamaa from 924 leader Linda Warren with Hugh Peart in third.
Our next outing will be at Castle Combe on 16/17th July.