Well about time Alan! Late in the day due to circumstances beyond my control; but here we are. As this great series is coming towards the end of the current season there are still doubts about eventual outcomes, with pride and passion making for competitive races.
So Suzuka.. a track I enjoy; but then I like most tracks being easy to please.. The question for me is does the track favour one car over another. We have seen the power and sheer grunt of the M4 BMW overpowering the more agile Porsche Cayman at some tracks but in recent weeks the Porsche has been using it’s agility to dance around the opposition.
Over in the TCR camp we have seen the season long struggle between Chris Shaw and Tom Stanley continuing whatever the track or conditions but Karl Hardy, David Eyers and the other Result guys have been working hard to close the gap. Martin Brennan has made the jump from the BMW into the TCR this week; a brave move as the TCR is an idiosyncratic little beastie with the front wheel drive presenting a very different challenge.
After qualifying things were looking good for the Porsche with Kevin Viemont taking the top slot and Tyler Newitt in second. Kevin’s teammate Romaim Rateau in third was making it a happy grid for Meka e Sports while Andy Hopley was unusually for him in 4th. As there was only around half a second between them it was tight at the top!
The TCR grid had Chris Shaw closely followed by Mark Heron only 0.129 seconds adrift and Tom Stanley at 0.150! Karl Hardy taking up the 4th spot. Needles to say the time gaps are minuscule and promising of some close racing.
As the pace car pulled into the pits it was pedal to the metal for the GT4’s and Double R using the power of the BMW swept past Tyler and Kevin down the the straight and was leading by T1! A fantastic start for Romaim. Meanwhile the TCR’s were at least 5 wide as they filled the track coming to the first corner. Eeek! it looked like disaster was about to happen but a bit of shuffling and door banging saw everyone through with Garry Craig and David Eyer’s both visiting the grass but re-joining safely.
Martin was finding out about cold tyres and quirky front wheel drive.. but not how he would have preferred with an early visit to the Suzuka armco and the pits. Meanwhile Tom was keen to renew his season long fight with Chris making his way to second place past Mark Heron.
Karl Hardy had crept in front of Garry Craig into 5th just behind Scott Malcolm. Running in 7th was Pete Bingham. ‘Princess Pete’ commentator and charity fund raiser was strutting his stuff in this weeks custom paint job. Hoping to rise to the occasion ‘Viagra’ was sure to be helpful in lifting him up the grid. Breathing down his neck was Roger Morton. In fact the length of the field was alive with drivers in nose to tail competition.
As lap 9 came and went Double RR was still leading from Kevin with Tyler still pushing hard in 3rd. Paul Burgess in 4th was doing a great job of keeping Mr Hopley behind him. Scott Malcolm found out just how lethal a wheel on the kerb can be, taking Karl with him on a visit to the wall.. while just up the road Andy’s brief contact with Paul had him in the boondock’s Andrew showing his class as a driver and gentleman by apologising and giving up his inadvertent place gain to put them into 8 and 9th respectively.
Princess Pete had darted into the pits gambling on an early stop to shuffle the pack. Chris Shaw had opened a 2 second gap back to Tom Stanley. Might not sound like much but these 2 drivers have been locked together for weeks neither able to establish a dominant position and Tom had his hands full with Mark Heron just behind and looming in Tom’s mirror’s. As lap 11 came around Tom dashed into the pits.
At the front of the GT4 field Double R had pulled a small gap from teammate Kevin who was getting some serious attention from Tyler in his Porsche and Andy finally got past the bravely resisting Paul Burgess. The pit stop round was slowly coming to it’s end with Tyler pulling in and trying the undercut on Kevin. Pulling out the Meka Porsche of Mr Viemont almost brushed the nose of Tylers car and retained his second place by a hairsbreadth.
A new element entered the fray as the car lights blazed to life! Yes it was getting darker by the moment.. Garry Craig had swept by Pete into 5th then 4th as the last drivers took their stops. Shaw, Stanley and Mark Heron were firmly ensconced at the front of the TCR battle with Garry and Pete in his best position running 5th.
The leading trio was unchanged with Tyler pouring on the pressure to Kevin who was defending for all he was worth. Someyhing had to give and finally Tyler squeezed past Kevin into 2nd and the chase was on.. Could he close the gap on RR who looked like his tyres had seen better days.
Stewart Dick in 5th in the GT4 race was seeing Andy Hopley looming large and Mark Heron was having the same issue with Garry Craig who was pressing hard before Mark got a wheel on the grass and Garry slipped by into 3rd place with Princess Pete now in 4th!! Pete had to be delighted with this position which he held onto.
As the last lap unfolded Tyler was trying everything he knew to pass the M4 of RR but despite a brave lunge at the last chicane Romaim held on for a well deserved victory. In the TCR’s Chris Shaw had a quieter time with another fine win from this talented driver.
So! The BMW is triumphant again but this time not with the redoubtable Andrew Hopley behind the wheel. It was yet another exiting race in this series and we now move on to next week. See you then.