Bridgman and Hodgetts share Carrera Cups win at Croft
Tim Bridgman and Stefan Hodgetts shared victories in two superb races for the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire over the weekend (31 May/1 June). Sunday's round 10, played out in front of live TV coverage on ITV4, was an enthralling race run in challenging weather conditions and resulted in victory for Hodgetts on his debut weekend in the championship.
Bridgman continued his fight back up the championship standings by winning round nine at Croft on Saturday. While Nigel Rice (Pro-Am1) and Glynn Geddie (Pro-Am2) took category victories, Bridgman's fifth win of the season took him to within 10 points of championship leader Michael Caine.
The order at the front of the pack was shuffled right from the start as poleman Tim Harvey (Oxford) made a poor start and dropped to third behind Bridgman (Stansted) and Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) in the PCGB entry. "At the start; it didn't go," said Harvey, who slotted into third as the pack rushed into the first corner.
Up front, Bridgman knew that he had been gifted a big opportunity. "Once I got ahead at the start, I knew that 90% of my plan was done," he said. With Hodgetts between him and championship rival Harvey, Bridgman was able to control the pace as Harvey set about challenging Hodgetts.
With the cars so evenly matched, Hodgetts was able to defend his place, although Harvey mounted several attacks. "I had a couple of looks and I knew the move had to be something fairly committed," said Harvey, whose biggest move came at the Hairpin on lap six. As Hodgetts closed the door, the cars touched and Harvey suffered bent steering as a result. "After that, I couldn't risk another attempt to pass," wwwitted Harvey who ran home third.
"It's really hard to pass round Croft and I was just trying to hang on to Tim Bridgman," said Hodgetts. "I enjoyed the race." As the race developed, Bridgman built his lead to nearly two seconds, although lapping backmarkers later on reduced his lead and he was just under a second ahead at the flag.
Sam Hancock (London) ran fourth throughout and was close to Harvey over the opening laps as the top four cars running nose-to-tail made an impressive spectacle. But as the race developed Hancock wasn't able to challenge Harvey and settled into a secure fourth as Michael Caine (Newmarket) ran fifth. "We just struggled like we did in qualifying; we're getting way too much heat in the tyres," said Caine.
Phil Quaife (Tonbridge) and Charles Bateman (Boston) took sixth and seventh before Pro-am1 winner Rice (Beverley) finished eighth. However, Rice had to work hard for his victory after bogging down at the start and dropping behind Tony Gilham (Dartford). Gilham stayed ahead until a quick spin at the Hairpin on lap three cost him the lead and delayed Rice enough to allow Geddie to get ahead. Rice then battled back to pass Geddie, but the 17-year old from Aberdeen still made an impressive Carrera Cup debut as he took ninth overall and Pro-Am2 victory in the PCGB entry. "It's a lot different at this level," he said after a major learning experience. Aberdeen racers Bob Lyons and Tommy Dreelan completed the Pro-Am2 podium.
Hodgetts scored a dramatic victory in an enthralling round ten on Sunday as changing weather conditions made tyre choice a critical factor. Second place on the road to Hodgetts to take maximum points championship points was Caine, while Gilham won pro-am1 and hugely impressive newcomer Geddie won Pro-Am2.
With the track drying out after heavy rain earlier in the day, tyre choice was crucial as the field headed to the grid. Eventually, seven cars dived into the pits for slick tyres, while five others lined up on the grid to start on wets. "It was so obviously not wet," said poleman Harvey, while others heading for the pits included Caine, Quaife and Hodgetts. Meanwhile, Bridgman and Hancock were the leading drivers to stay on wets.
Some rapid pit work by the PCGB crew had Hodgetts onto slicks first and to the end of the pit lane at the head of the queue of seven cars, joining the race after the other cars had gone by. Initially, Bridgman headed the race, but after two or three laps it was very clear that slicks was the right call as Hodgetts headed Caine, Harvey and Quaife in the slick-shod contest.
By lap five Hodgetts had caught Bridgman and swept ahead to take a lead he would retain all the way to the flag, scoring a hugely impressive victory on his first weekend of Carrera Cup experience. "I've never felt better," said an elated Hodgetts. "I'm just hoping the phone rings now. I really want to be in this championship; the cars are fantastic to drive," said Hodgetts.
While Bridgman was powerless to stop his slide down the order as his wet tyres struggled badly on the dry line, Caine had to work hard to fend off Harvey and take an extended points' lead into the six-week mid-season break. "It was the right call to come in for slicks," said Caine. "I don't think I'd have caught Stefan, but the race wasn't with him, it was in my mirrors," said Caine after fending off title rival Harvey.
Quaife was never far away from the Caine/Harvey battle to take fourth, while a superb fifth overall and Pro-Am2 winner was Geddie in the PCGB entry. Driving with a pace and style that belied his age and experience, the 17-year old was the revelation of the weekend. "It's been a brilliant weekend," said Geddie, who was almost caught on the line by Bateman. Over the line the cars were side-by-side and Geddie was ahead by just a hundredth of a second.
Bridgman struggled home seventh, while Hancock took eighth having stopped mid-race to change to slicks. Gilham battled home on his wets to take Pro-Am1 victory after Rice went out with a damaged radiator after clipping the back of Bateman's car in the frenetic early laps.