Esmee Hawkey 5th in Pro-Am class after "weekend to forget" in Silverstone
Championship contender Esmee Hawkey had a second challenging weekend in Silverstone, as Porsche Carrera Cup GB approaches its season finale at Brands Hatch.
Coming from a difficult round on the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, Esmee Hawkey had another rough weekend on the Silverstone National track, where she could not do better than a 5th place in the Pro-Am class due to unfortunate circumstances.
A championship contender in the one-make Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Hawkey entered the weekend with high hopes after a very competitive season:
"I love the National circuit: obviously there are not many corners and it's a short track, but I think it's brilliant and I've always done pretty well there." - she said before the race event.
"I look forward to try to close that gap that I lost in the championship, but I'm sure it's possible as we've got two more race weekends to go and I'm gonna give it my all."
"With the GP track, there are so many different corners and you have slow ones, fast one, mid-speed corners...whereas with the National you've got two really quick corners and the rest is mid-to-high speed corners, so the setup is gonna be very different on the National circuit compared to what it was in the GP, but in practice and qualifying at the GP I was doing really well so I can take the positives from the last weekend and hopefully we can build on that."
Mixed conditions on the British track saw both Friday's practice sessions interrupted by the rain, with clouds threatening the venue throughout the weekend.
Reigning champion and Porsche Supercup racer Tio Ellinas made his return to the series, setting the fastest lap ahead of Lewis Plato in the practice sessions. In the Pro-Am class, championship leader Karl Leonard topped the timesheets ahead of Rob Boston. Esmee Hawkey was third, with the top three separated by thousandths of a second and most of the entire field covered by less than a second.
In a mainly wet-weather contested qualifying, series dominator Dan Harper claimed his sixth pole position of the season, with title rival Plato taking the start of the first race from the third row, in P5. Karl Leonard's pace was unstoppable and the Team Parker Racing driver finished on top again in the Pro-Am class after the 30-minutes qualifying session, with an impressive P3 overall. Esmee Hawkey ended 4th in the Pro-Am class and 14th overall, in another very close grid.
In the first race of the weekend, all the eyes were on 18-year old Dan Harper, who needed a seventh place finish to seal his 2019 title.
After brief showers, the first race saw the start on drying track. George Gamble pitted for wet tyres at the end of the formation lap, thus taking the start from the pitlane.
Harper and Webster had a clean start on slicks, while Vaughan, Hatfield and reigning champion Ellinas made contact during the first lap and retired.
It was then soon clear that the drivers who had opted for wet tyres had won the gamble: as the leaders struggled for grip, Ross Wylie, Justin Sherwood and Peter Kyle-Henney made their way up through the field and took the lead.
Harper and Webster engaged in a tight fight for 8th place, both swapping positions on several occasions. In the meantime, Gamble had recovered until second place and attacked Wylie on lap 18 for the lead.
As it was the screenplay of a movie, the track dried up and the drivers on slicks started to gain momentum. But time ran out, and when the checquered flag fell, the top 6 drivers were equipped with wets. Dan Harper, first one on slicks, crossed the finish line in seventh and thus secured the title in a thrilling race. The Porsche GB Junior became the youngest series champion ever.
In Pro-Am, newcomer Aaron Mason led Karl Leonard and Jack McCarthy, while Esmee Hawkey finished P5 and 17th overall, with her race compromised by the wrong tyre strategy in the hectic moments before the race.
Sunday's second race saw the green light with a very wet track, as reverse-grid poleman Lucky Khera had a great start into Copse and was soon followed by front-runners Harper and Gamble who had already made up many positions in the challenging conditions.
On the second lap Gamble passed the newly-crowned champion and then claimed the lead from Khera. Behind them, it was the charging Webster, who also had to defend from Ellinas. The Cypriot quickly made up 13 positions and went on to pass both Webster and Harper for P2 down the Wellington Straight.
On the seventh lap, rookie Adam Knight made contact with the Porsche #3 driven by Esmee Hawkey at Copse: the accident damaged the 21-year old lady's radiator and forced the Pro-Am championship contender to retire.
Ellinas closed in on Gamble, but could not find a way past his opponent and, after 28 laps of the Silverstone National circuit, the Brit crossed the finish line to claim his second victory of the weekend. Mason led Karl Leonard in Pro-Am, with Jack McCarthy occupying the third position.
After two unlucky rounds for Hawkey, Karl Leonard extended his championship lead and the 2019 W-Series driver now finds herself third in the championship table, behind Jack McCarthy by only 3 points.
"Silverstone, you've not been kind to us! A weekend to forget, after a wrong tyre choice for race 1 and getting taken out in race 2" - commented Hawkey via her social profiles.
"Finishing the weekend with a DNF put a big dent on our championship. It's not over till it's over ad we will fight again at Brands!"
With Dan Harper already crowned overall champion, the Pro-Am title will go down to the wire at the series season finale in Brands Hatch, on 12-13 October.
The lady from Kent will head to her home track with the clear aim of claiming back the Pro-Am leadership and win the class title.
In Esmee's words:
"I'm very determined to win the class title: it was weird that at the end of W-Series I was coming back to Porsche only half-way through the season and four rounds to go and now we're going into the last two races. It's unreal how quick it has all gone."
Ph credits: Porsche Carrera Cup GB