Esmee Hawkey ends Carrera Cup GB season with podium
At the Porsche Carrera Cup GB season finale in Brands Hatch, home driver Esmee Hawkey missed out on the Pro-Am title but ended a positive season with yet another podium finish.
After a thoroughly exciting season, Porsche Carrera Cup GB entered last weekend its final 2019 round, with the battle for Pro-Am title still very much on.
In contention for the crown it was also 2019 W-Series driver Esmee Hawkey, who enjoyed a very competitive season in the fastest Bristih one-make GT series.
Racing on her home track, Esmee entered the title decider with a 16 points gap to standings leader Karl Leonard. On the historic GP racetrack, though, the young lady from Kent had previously experienced first class results, such as qualifying third for the W-Series season finale earlier this year.
"Obviously Brands Hatch is my home circuit, so I can't wait for it.” – Hawkey said before the event. “I've got some good results at Brands, obviously the start of the season went really well for me, and also with W-Series I qualified third in a car that I've had not much experience in. I think Brands GP is gonna be a really good circuit for me and it's going to go down to the wire for the Pro-Am championship, so I'm excited for my home race."
"The track is very ondulating, the first corner is not like many tracks that we have here. The start is always interesting, and it's also a track which isn't very roomy, it's really hard to make overtakes, so qualifying will be really crucial."
The practice sessions went underway under typical weather, with mixed conditions influencing track running throughout the day. Adam Hatfield topped the timesheets, ahead of Esmee Hawkey, who led in the early stages, Karl Leonard and Sam Brabham, with all the pace-setters closely matched. Inevitable red flags hampered both the morning and afternoon sessions, as drivers struggled for grip in the tricky wet-dry conditions.
More rain fell on the British racetrack on Saturday, when Josh Webster secured the last pole position of the 2019 season. The 30-minutes session was again heavily disrupted by red flags, with three separated incidents prevented Esmee Hawkey to even post a competitive lap time. Class pole position went thus to Karl Leonard, who was marginally quicker than other title hopeful Jack McCarthy. With the two additional points for the pole, though, experienced Parker Racing driver Leonard closed in on sealing the Pro-Am title.
The 22-cars lined up on the grid for the penultimate race of the season bolting wet tyres once again to compensate for the incredibly challenging weather conditions. Tio Ellinas had the best start from the second row and went side-by side with front-row starters Webster and Plato on the short run towards Paddock Bend Hill. The trio squeezed into the first corner and Plato got the worst out of it, as the Motorbase Performance driver ended up stuck in the gravel, immediately triggering the Safety Car.
In the Pro-Am class, McCarthy passed Leonard on the first lap, after a contact with Tom Roche. Hawkey, taking the start from 16th on the grid, started her chase for the higher end of the standings.
At the restart on the third lap, Pro champion Dan Harper attacked Dan Vaughan for third: both drivers went off in the process, with Harper surrendering one position and Vaughan retiring soon after. On lap 5, another incident required the intervention of the Safety Car again, as Robertson beached his Redline Racing Porsche at Clearways.
The race resumed with 15 minutes left on the clock and Brabham found a way past Leonard for second place in Pro-Am, while ahead the battle for 3rd overall lit up: Ellinas was under pressure from Gamble, who was however passed by Harper. The Porsche Junior driver and newly-crowned overall champion catched Ellinas and forced his way past him at Druids, making contact with the Cypriot. Ellinas lost one more place to Gamble, as Harper chased down race leader Webster, unsuccessfully. A post-race penalty demoted Harper to fourth, following the over-ambitious move on Ellinas.
Pro-Am championship hopeful Esmee Hawkey could not go further than 12th:
"The weekend definitely started off with a bit of a disappointment, we didn't get the best out of the tyre in qualifying, which ended with a P16 due to the red flags, so it just put us on the back foot really. Going into the first race, the conditions weren't great for us: it wasn't dry nor really wet so we didn't know what tyre to go on and they overheated. Just really tough race for me, not a lot of traction out there. I managed to go up to P12, and that's where we started race 2."
The sun finally came out for the last race of the 2019 campaign. Dan Harper had a good start from second and took the lead at Druids from reverse grid polesitter Wylie. He would eventually open a gap on Ellinas, who had cleared Wylie soon after. In the Pro-Am class, McCarthy led Leonard and Brabham after the first lap.
Behind them, a fast recovering Esmee Hawkey put increasigly pressure on Brabham, forcing his competitor to a mistake. The 21-year old lady moved up to third, while Brabham rejoined 5th.
The Pro-Am category provided some more plot twists as Vaughan made contact with Leonard, sending the championship leader into the gravel and out of the race at Paddock Bend Hill. The Safety Car was called out for the first time, and when the race resumed, the new order was McCarthy, Hawkey and Hatfield in the top-3 positions.
The race restarted with just one lap to go and Harper brought home his seventh seasonal win at the chequered flag. Positions were held also in Pro-Am, with home hero Esmee Hawkey completing her Carrera Cup GB season on a high with the second place finish, despite missing out on the title that went to Karl Leonard.
"I'm really happy of how I competed in race 2: I ended up P2 in my Pro-Am category. Starting P5, I made up those places and I'm really happy that I brought some silverware home for the last round." – commented Esmee.
"2019 has been a lot better than last year, definitely still had some ups and downs and full of learning curves, as it always is. I think Thruxton was my highlight, having pole, two fastest laps and two race wins. I really thought that taking the lead of the championship there was going to be a great running for the rest of the season, but it kind of went downhill at Silverstone. Me and Silverstone are not really friends at the minute, but I think I'll just look at next year and just keep building: we've gone further in the championship this year and that's the aim of the game. We'll just keep pushing and keep improving."
The young Brit will now await for the W-Series 2020 drivers announcement to discover if she will retain a seat after the inaugural year. Hawkey is anyway likely to continue her progresses in the competitive Porsche one-make series.
In Esmee's words:
"I think I'll just look at next year and just keep building: we've gone further in the championship this year and that's the aim of the game."
Ph credits: Porsche Carrera Cup GB