APR VW CUP ROCKINGHAM ROUND-UP
Howard Fuller scored a first championship success for the Tony Gilham Racing team. Photo: Image Vaults
A brace of dramatic APR Volkswagen Racing Cup races at Rockingham last Sunday brought victories for Golf GTI drivers Aaron Mason and Howard Fuller, Mason and his AWM-prepared machine bouncing back from adversity last time out at Brands Hatch, and Fuller notching up the first championship success for the Tony Gilham Racing team. James Walker took second place in both races in his Scirocco to maintain his series lead and also his remarkable record of finishing in the top two in every round so far.
Mason was on mighty form from the outset, claiming his second pole position of the season in Saturday’s qualifying session despite suffering gear selection problems. Behind him on the grid were Walker and Fuller, but Kieran Griffin was unable to take up his grid slot after suffering a badly bruised shoulder in a collision with a tyre wall late in the qualifying session. Complete Racing Golf man Tom Wilson and SlideSport’s Chris Levett completed the qualifying top six.
Mason got away brilliantly to establish a useful early lead over Fuller, but the Surrey man was in no mood to make it easy for Aaron. Howard was never more than a second behind his Golf rival until the eighth lap, when he slipped back a fraction and into the clutches of a waiting Walker.
There was drama in the cockpit of James’s KPM Scirocco at exactly the wrong moment. Said James: “I had the same problem as I had at Brands Hatch – my accelerator pedal fell off with about four laps to go, and it jammed itself underneath. It went just as I was passing Howard.”
Luckily for Walker, Fuller was removed from the equation next time around, called to the pits to serve a drive-through penalty for not respecting track limits. Thus Walker was able to cruise home nearly 10s behind Mason. “Luckily for me Howard had to do his drive through because I was able just to coast it home; my throttle problem scuppered my chances of catching Aaron.”
Without that drama, James may well have had the chance to fight Mason for the win, for Aaron had problems of his own: “I lost my clutch,” he said. “I just managed to get a start out of it, slotted it into fourth and stayed in that gear all the way.”
Joe Fulbrook overcame engine cooling gremlins to make an excellent start from seventh on the grid to slot into fifth on the opening lap, which became fourth when Mike Neuhoff – suffering from a brake imbalance – spun his Golf on the lap two, and then Fulbrook picked up third thanks to Fuller’s penalty. “I was a bit lucky there to get third,” said Joe. “I was never going to catch Aaron or James because I just don’t have the pace in the car at the moment.”
Brands Hatch winner Jim Cartwright made excellent progress from ninth on the grid to battle through to fourth by the end, chased home by Tom Wilson, who racked up his fifth top-five finish of the season. The Wiltshire youngster reckoned he could have finished higher: “We over-inflated the tyres a bit,” he said, “and I think that contributed to high tyre wear which slowed me late in the race.”
Fuller recovered to sixth after his pit visit, ahead of Stewart Lines, who scored his best finish of the season in his KPM Golf, and Richard Morgan, whose SlideSports Golf had undergone a major rebuild following a crash last time out. The top 10 was completed by Peter Wyhinny’s SEAT Leon and Mike Neuhoff, who spun again, this time at the Deene hairpin, on lap five.
Robin Riley collected his best result, 11th, in his Beetle, with Richard Kingsnorth 12th for another best-of-year finish in his Golf and Scirocco man Jonathan Wilson delighted with his highest, 13th, at a circuit he had never driven before testing onFriday.
Dan Crossley raced to 14th on his return to the series, with Paul Wyhinny 18th on his first outing of the season. Doug Ross placed 20th in his Polo’s first outing with its new 1.8 turbo engine, just ahead of championship debutante Lucy Ramsden and Nikhil Chopra, who was running 12th until driveshaft problems forced him to make two pit calls. Among the retirees was Dominic Pettit, who ran as high as ninth in the Vindis Jetta before being halted by a puncture.
Fuller’s penalty and resulting sixth-place finish had an upside: it gave him pole position for race two, with Tom Wilson alongside and Cartwright and Fulbrook immediately behind. Cartwright made a storming start to charge through a Golf-sized gap between the front-row men’s cars and take the lead into turn one. Alas for Jim, it all went wrong at the next corner, the Deene hairpin: “I just couldn’t get it turned into the corner.” He missed the turn and wound up 10th.
Through this drama emerged Fulbrook to seize the lead, and his venerable Bora held on in front for four laps until Fuller jumped him at Deene; next lap Walker demoted Joe to third.
Until the closing laps, Walker’s Scirocco was never more than two seconds behind Fuller’s Golf, and James professed himself happy with the outcome: “It was a good race, I had a good scrap with several guys and no problems to report.”
Fuller was delighted with his victory: “This is probably the last time I will race for a long time and I wanted to win, so I am very pleased. It was a bit exciting at the start but I stayed out of trouble and it paid off in the end.”
Race one victor Mason placed fourth, ruing his decision not to fit new tyres this race, with Pettit making another back-to-front charge and lift fifth place from Tom Wilson two laps from home. Lines, bothered by braking issues, was seventh ahead of Neuhoff and championship returnee Daniel Walker, brother of James.
Peter Wyhinny completed the top 10, ahead of Cartwright and Levett, whose 12th was a best-yet finish for his new SlideSports Mk VI Golf GTI. Riley was next up, ahead of Kingsnorth and David Fairbrother. Simon Andrews, whose first race lasted only a lap due to a broken steering arm, took 20th.
There was last-lap heartbreak for Richard Morgan, who was running well inside the top 10 before he was forced to the pits with mechanical problems.
For more information about the APR Volkswagen Racing Cup visit www.vw-cup.co.uk