VW CUP ZANDVOORT REPORT
Steve Chaplin stormed to the top of the Volkswagen Racing Cup with Fuchs Lubricants championship standings at Zandvoort in Holland last weekend thanks to a pair of consistently strong podium finishes. For erstwhile points leader Didge Dziurzynski, though, it was a weekend to forget.
Aaron Mason boosted his campaign with a hard-fought maiden win during round three, less than a second ahead of Chaplin, while a deserved round four victory went the way of Richard Walker, some four seconds clear of Sam Edwards and the ever-present 'Herbie' Beetle RSI of Chaplin. For Dziurzynski, the championship's first overseas trip couldn't have been much less fruitful and although enjoying the demands of the Zandvoort track he rued two unfortunate mechanical failings with his Golf GTI – a broken gear linkage in race one resulting in a 12th place finish and a complete loss of power in race two leading to a lap seven retirement.
At the beginning of round three, Edwards led from the front of the grid but a fast-starting Paul Taylor moved into second on the opening lap – up from fifth – at the wheel of his Golf R32, ahead of Mason and Chaplin. It was incredibly tight at the front; Mason edged into second on lap two and Chaplin then took third as Taylor was pushed back to fourth. Daniel Walker, meanwhile, was given a drive-through penalty for breaching track rules, dropping him out of contention and leading to an eventual result of 16th. Michael McInerney was also penalised 10 seconds, for a jump start; he finished 18th.
Heading into lap three, Mason edged ahead of Edwards to lead by a couple of hundredths and although Sam tried to fight back around the outside of turn one – Tarzanbocht – Mason held the correct line for the following corner and maintained a slim advantage. Chaplin sliced past Edwards at the first corner on lap four to take second place and from that point on the lead duo pulled well clear of the rest. He tried hard to usurp Mason, setting the fastest lap on the seventh tour, and Chaplin made the pressure pay off on lap 11 when he led briefly. Mason hit back on the following tour to retake top spot and secure the win.
Edwards, some 10 seconds adrift at the finish on lap 13, held third place with Taylor fourth, Richard Walker fifth and Michael Kurton sixth. SEAT Cars UK director Peter Wyhinny was unbelievably lucky to avoid major contact on lap one at the third corner, Hugenholtzbocht, but he recovered ahead of a delayed pack of half a dozen cars to finish 10th. Reflecting on his debut win, Mason said: "I thought I was going to lose it towards the end. Steve pushed me into making a few mistakes so I was lucky to hold on. I made a mistake a couple of laps from the end and he got through but I got him back at the same corner. To get my first podium was the objective. I've got that now with a win, so I'm absolutely delighted." Chaplin added: "I've got to be happy with second; a good solid finish and an enjoyable race."
After missing out on a podium finish during the first of the Zandvoort races, Richard Walker more than made amends with a strong victory during round four in his Mk V Golf GTI, ahead of Edwards' similar machine. Lining up second on the reverse grid alongside pole-sitter Michael Kurton, Walker shot into an early lead as Paul Taylor too made another very strong getaway from third. Into lap two, Walker held a 1.3-second margin over Edwards – up from fourth – with Taylor keeping Chaplin at bay for third.
Edwards, with his car providing fantastic grip early in the race, made the most of the tools available to him and moved past Walker on lap three. As the lead pair stretched out a six-second cushion over the rest of the pack, Taylor slipped from third to sixth on the fifth tour with Chaplin assuming the final podium spot, James Walker taking fourth and Mason grabbing fifth. With clear track ahead, Chaplin started to reel off his best laps of the race and managed to close down Edwards, who was battling an ill-handling car as the race neared its conclusion. As it turned out, the camber settings which offered so much grip early on came back to haunt Edwards with his tyres paying the price over the final few laps.
Losing the lead to Walker on lap eight at Tarzanbocht, Edwards did fight back but lost out again a couple of laps later. Slipping further back over the final few miles of racing, Sam just managed to hold on to the runner-up spot, a mere 0.1 seconds ahead of Chaplin. Walker, meanwhile, kept things neat and tidy over the course of the last three laps to win by 4.2 seconds. Mason came through to take fourth ahead of James Walker, with Kieran Griffin sixth to hold off pole-sitter Kurton. Paul Taylor, meanwhile, ended the encounter eighth after slipping out of the top six on lap 11.
"I was beginning to think I wouldn't see the podium this weekend after the first race," said Richard Walker. "We discovered I had a flat spot at 4000 revs, so I was determined to get a clear run in this one. We had a new set of tyres, too, which lasted much longer and Sam's tyres and brakes went off so I was able to capitalise. It's been fabulous coming to Zandvoort, a really great weekend." Edwards commented: "I had too much camber which killed the tyres towards the end. At the start the car was fantastic, it all felt very easy, but in the end it was terrible – I had no grip at all, so it was good to get second place, I'm well pleased with that."
"Sam drove a good race," said new championship leader Chaplin, "even though he was struggling he held on well to second place. It was hard fought but to take two podiums from the weekend is good."
At the close of the weekend's action, the competitors were united in their praise of the Zandvoort track and gave a major thumbs-up to the decision to include the Dutch venue on the 2010 calendar.