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Volkswagen Racing Cup 2001

ROUNDS 1 & 2: 25 MARCH 2001


Two blistering races got the 2001 Volkswagen Racing Cup off to a superb start at Donington Park, with William Black and Rob Carvell sharing the honours.

An impressive 24 cars lined up for the opening two rounds of the nation’s fastest-growing championship, a grid which included Vento VR6s, Golf GTIs and the first of the new 2.8-litre racing Beetles to compete in the UK.

In the damp, overcast conditions, qualifying saw the Class A 2.8-litre Ventos to the fore. Nick Adcock (Bromyard) claimed pole, just one tenth of a second ahead of Rob Carvell’s (Norwich) car. Rob’s brother Ian Carvell (Daventry) put in a showstopping performance in his Class B Golf GTI to line up in fifth place, almost seven seconds faster than the next quickest driver in his category and comfortably quicker than many of his higher-powered rivals.

The slippery conditions were to have an immediate impact on the outcome of the day’s first race. Cars on the right side of the grid, including polesitter Adcock, struggled to find grip as the field powered towards the first bend, Redgate. On the drier side of the track, Carvell was able to seize the lead, with the Gerrards and British Pork Racing-backed car of William Black (Bury St Edmunds) hard on his tail and the impressive Steven Wood (Ruislip) in third, cutting through the slithering pack from 12th place.

A barnstorming manoeuvre around the outside by Malcolm Harrison (Ingatestone) took his Vento briefly into the lead out of Redgate, before contact with Rob Carvell sent him sliding into retirement. The Craner Curves claimed more victims, Ian Carvell delayed by an off and Elton Sheldon’s (Dunley) Vento also sidelined. At the end of the first lap Black emerged in front, enjoying an advantage over Wood, Adcock, Rob Carvell, the Vento of Andrew Smith (Sale) and the remarkable Class B Scirocco of John Irvine (Edinburgh).

Black kept his cool as Rob Carvell, then Adcock, closed on him, the latter having overhauled Wood, who was suffering from brake problems. In spite of damaged tracking, the legacy of his tangle with Harrison, Rob Carvell – playing his championship ‘joker’ to double his points score – mounted a spirited challenge for the lead, cutting Black’s advantage to less than half a second by lap six. But the Suffolk farmer was not to be bested, and at the end of the 10-lap contest the same top four order prevailed. Irvine took the Class B win, an excellent sixth overall, and the Class C battle was won by the Mk II Golf GTI of Phil Jeffery (Andover).

"The conditions were very hard to judge, but I managed to come through the carnage at the first corner unscathed and after that was able to take things pretty steadily," said Black.

With the results of round one determining the grid for round two, Black lined up on pole alongside Carvell. But he was overhauled by the Norwich driver first time through Redgate, sparking off a titanic battle that was to last right to the chequered flag in the shortened, eight-lap race.

In spite of increasingly bold overtaking attempts as the two Vento VR6s coursed through the chicane, Carvell always had an answer to his rival’s attacks and claimed victory by two tenths of a second. Adcock made it a brace of third places, while Irvine and Jeffery were again respective Class B and C winners. Irvine’s success in the SCB-backed Scirocco also earned him the Driver of the Day Award.

"It was worrying to be out in front, because Willie is the kind of driver who knows how to find a way through, but I felt comfortable as the race progressed and was driving defensively towards the end to protect my position. He has got the better of me two or three times in the past, but in doing so has taught me some useful lessons about how to keep him back," said Rob.


ROUNDS 3 & 4: 29 APRIL 2001


Volkswagen's New Beetle scored its maiden UK track victory, saloon race star Michael Neuhoff romping to a brace of convincing Volkswagen Racing Cup wins at Oulton Park.

Despite never having driven his Beetle prior to the third and fourth rounds of the championship "apart from on and off its trailer", Neuhoff won both races from pole position.

But he was made to work hard throughout each by the Vento VR6 of Rob Carvell, and the Norfolk driver's double second-place finish helped him extend his overall championship lead.

Neuhoff's first track experience of the 2.8-litre Beetle came in qualifying, in which he edged the giant-killing Class B Scirocco of John Irvine off the pole by just six-hundredths of a second. Rob Carvell lined up third on the grid ahead of Vento men William Black, Steven Wood and Nick Adcock.

Irvine's hopes of challenging for the lead were dashed by a fouled plug on the startline, his Scirocco swamped by Vento VR6s as they pursued Neuhoff down to Old Hall Corner.

Rob Carvell, Black and Wood emerged as the Beetle man's chief opposition to make it a four-way battle for lead. Neuhoff seemed well enough in control, though, until a fumbled gearchange at Fosters on the sixth lap gave Carvell the opportunity he had awaited.

"I missed a gear because I'm not used to the gearbox," said Michael, "put a couple of wheels on the grass and that was that." Unruffled, he set about clawing his way back on to Carvell's tail and, with three laps to run, outmanoeuvred him, at Fosters once more, to regain the lead. He was 3.5 seconds ahead at the chequered flag.

A fine dice for third, which looked set to go Wood's way after he displaced Black at mid-distance, was brought to a premature end by a last-lap clash at Druids Corner. Both Wood and Black were eliminated by the crash, handing third to a surprised Ken Lark, who was giving his Scirocco VR6 its race debut.

Terry Flatt's Golf GTI was an impressive fourth overall and claimed Class B honours; his closest class rival was John Irvine, who finished two laps down, after Ian Carvell's Golf was caught up in the Black/Wood last-lap incident.

Even more surprised to take a class win was Phil Jeffery, whose Class C Golf GTI was hobbled by brake problems. He inherited the win after the demise of Angus Irvine's Polo G40 and Phil Halfpenny's Golf GTI, also in that last-lap Druids crash.

There was further damage at the start of round four, when Lark's fast-starting Scirocco was nudged into a spin at Old Hall and was collected by several following cars. The race was red-flagged and restarted without Lark and several others, including John Irvine.

Neuhoff once more claimed an early lead with Rob Carvell in hot pursuit. But, having learned his lesson in the first race of the day, Michael made no errors this time. Though he smashed his own lap record as he chased, Carvell could find no answer to Neuhoff's pace and had to settle for the runner-up spot again, less than a second adrift.

The real fight of the race centred on third place, with Flatt determinedly clinging to the position despite pressure from the Vento VR6s of Andre Tautz and Len Simpson. It wasn't until the eighth of the 13 laps that Simpson managed to find a way past, Flatt having lost second gear through a gear-linkage problem.

Simpson hung on to third at the flag despite late-race pressure from Dave Sturdy's Vento, with Black fifth after a spirited drive through the pack in the Gerrards-backed car. Flatt was sixth and the only Class B finisher. Class C victory went to Phil Halfpenny (Golf GTI).

With eight rounds remaining, Rob Carvell - who has played his 'Joker' - leads the championship by 21 points from Jeffery, with Black third overall. Neuhoff, who collected the bgcarhifi Driver of the Day award for his Oulton Park performance, is eighth in the standings.


ROUNDS 5 & 6: 21 MAY 2001


Michael Neuhoff and Steven Wood shared the Volkswagen Racing Cup victory spoils at Snetterton, the Beetle driver and the Vento VR6 man taking a win apiece in the 30-minute endurance rounds of the championship.

Each of the races provided a fascinating battle, with both Neuhoff and Wood taking turns in front. Both men move into the championship top five as a result of their victories.

Wood made the perfect start to race one from his maiden pole position to lead Neuhoff, Malcolm Harrison’s Vento – up from the third row of the grid – and Alan Sawyer’s Golf VR6 through the first lap. Neuhoff, double winner at Oulton Park last time out, harried Wood’s insure-yourhome.com-backed car before squeezing past it and into the lead on lap four.

There was a major shake-up behind as William Black’s Gerrard-sponsored Vento managed to steal third, with the similar car of Elton Sheldon following through for fourth at the expense of Sawyer (suffering from gear selection problems) and Harrison; Malcolm was shortly to drop from contention after a brush with Rob Carvell’s Vento.

Wood may have been passed but was far from beaten. He closed on to the Beetle’s tail on the ninth lap and retook top spot the next time around at the Esses. Thereafter everything went Wood’s way and his first Volkswagen Racing Cup victory was assured.

Neuhoff was meanwhile coming under pressure from Black. Exiting the Bombhole on lap 18 (of 22), William staged the bravest manoeuvre of the race to slide up the inside of the Beetle and snatch second place.

At the flag Wood was three seconds clear of Black, with Neuhoff a close third. "Once I was in the lead I thought I’d back off and preserve my tyres, but maybe my race plan was too conservative," said Michael.

Sheldon scored his best result of the season with fourth, while Andre Tautz (Vento) impressed with his steady climb to fifth ahead of Sawyer and the Vento VR6s of a down-on-power Nick Adcock and George Haynes. An unlucky non-finisher was erstwhile championship leader Rob Carvell, who was forced out three laps from home with a puncture.

The battle for Class B honours went the way of Ian Carvell (Golf GTI) after leader Terry Flatt’s Golf expired with engine trouble five laps from home, while in Class C Phil Halfpenny’s Golf cruised to a very comfortable class win over the Golf GTIs of Phil Jeffery and Mark Hope.

The second race of the day saw Wood make another perfect getaway from the pole to lead Neuhoff, Black, Tautz and Sawyer into Riches; before the lap’s close Tautz had lifted third from Black, while from the back of the grid Rob Carvell was carving his way through the field to a surprising eighth.

Neuhoff had no intention of allowing Wood to repeat his success of the earlier race and nipped in front as they crossed the line to start the sixth lap. Black was meanwhile in trouble with a broken oil cooler, punctured by a stone, and pulled off to let Rob Carvell through into fourth. Sawyer was again fading with gearbox problems.

Neuhoff’s grip on the lead extended to nearly four seconds by mid-distance, but in the closing stages Wood brought it down again to a second as he scented the chance of another victory. It was not to be, Michael crossing the line to take his third win of the season.

Ken Lark drove an inspired race from the back of the grid in his Corrado VR6, twice lowering the lap record as he carved his way through the field. He made the top 10 by the third lap and disposed of the cars of Rob Carvell and Tautz with identical manoeuvres on successive laps at Riches to move into third place with five laps to run.

Carvell followed Lark through to liberate fourth place from Tautz, who held on in fifth ahead of Class B winner Ian Carvell, the Ventos of Haynes and Simon Marcantonio and Stuart Scott’s Beetle. Halfpenny was 10th overall and the Class C victor again.

With the championship now at the half-way stage, Class C man Phil Jeffery holds a one-point overall championship advantage over Rob Carvell, with Neuhoff and Wood moving into fourth and fifth places respectively behind Phil Halfpenny.

ROUNDS 7 & 8: 3 JUNE 2001


The second half of the 2001 Volkswagen Racing Cup season opened with a brace of victories for Michael Neuhoff at Cadwell Park. The Helmdon driver fully exploited the potential of his 2.8-litre V6-engined New Beetle, a machine which proved ideally suited to the demands of the twisting, switchback Lincolnshire circuit.

Neuhoff clinched pole position for round seven of the championship with his penultimate qualifying lap. He was joined on the front row by the Corrado Storm of Ken Lark (Harpenden), whose similar last-gasp qualifying effort bumped the Vento VR6 of Class A leader Rob Carvell (Norwich) down to third.

At the green light, Neuhoff was cleanly away, but Lark bogged down on the line and was overhauled by Carvell and the Ventos of Len Simpson (Hinckley), Elton Sheldon (Dunley) and William Black (Bury St Edmunds), the latter making one of his characteristic bullet starts from 10th on the grid.

The Beetle was never seriously challenged throughout the 10-lap race and Carvell, too, was able to pull out a comfortable cushion ahead of the scrap between Simpson, Sheldon and Black. Black briefly made it through to fourth place in a breathtaking manoeuvre out of Charlies on lap five, but Sheldon reclaimed the place before the lap was over.

The order remained the same through to the chequered flag, with Ian Carvell’s (Daventry) venerable Mk I Golf GTI taking an impressive Class B victory (ninth overall) and Phil Jeffery (Andover) holding off Phil Halfpenny (Stoke-on-Trent) to claim Class C honours in his Mk II Golf.

Round eight was shortened to eight laps after the race was stopped on lap one to recover the Golf of Mark Hope (Weybridge), which rolled after the exit of Coppice. At the restart Neuhoff was once again cleanly away from Rob Carvell, Simpson and Sheldon.

This time out Sheldon was not settling for fourth. He harried Simpson mercilessly until the third-placed man missed a beat on lap three, earned a gentle nudge and saw his rival through and away to a podium finish. The two drivers were rewarded with a joint share of the Driver of the Day award for their entertaining performances in both races.

Ian Carvell and Jeffery repeated their class victories, the former taking on the might of William Black’s more powerful Vento in a titanic dice, the little Golf wrestling past the Vento into sixth place into Coppice on lap four, but only able to hold the position for a further tour.

Neuhoff came away from Cadwell with maximum points, having played his ‘joker’ to double his yield from the first race and added an extra couple for fastest laps in both rounds – both new records, to boot.

"I felt confident we could do well here today, I love this circuit and knew it would suit the car with its series of twisting sections," said Michael. "Once you get in the groove here, it is fantastic but it will be a more tricky prospect when we move on to Snetterton. I’ll be carrying more weight and we’ve already seen that the Beetle does not enjoy the same kind of advantage there. That’s why it was so important to do well this weekend."

His results move him ahead of Rob Carvell to lead the Class A runners, but the Vento driver was not downhearted: "I always drive for the win, but I am still pleased to have two second places. We have been working very hard to develop the car and there is still more to do before the next rounds. Already we have been able to move clear of the other Ventos."

Phil Jeffery’s healthy points tally from the day – he was another round seven joker player – keeps him well out in the lead in the overall cup standings, while Ian Carvell moved further ahead of Class B rival John Irvine, the latter sidelined from the event after an off in his Scirocco in the first race of the day.

ROUNDS 9 & 10: 13 AUGUST 2001


Reigning British GTO Sports Car Champion Mark Sumpter made a blinding debut in the Volkswagen Racing Cup, driving his new Beetle RSi to victory at Snetterton on its maiden outing and following that up with a second-place finish behind Rob Carvell’s Vento VR6 in race two.

With five Beetles on the grid for the penultimate Volkswagen Racing Cup meeting of the season, Class A championship leader Michael Neuhoff was always going to have his work cut out to maintain his winning form.

Nonetheless the Bentley sports car team mechanic made the best of some atrociously wet conditions to claim his third pole position of the season, ahead of Sumpter, the Vento of championship newcomer John Quartermaine, Nick Adcock’s new Beetle and the Vento of William Black. Former British Touring Car Champion Will Hoy lined up seventh in his Beetle after a troubled qualifying.

At the lights, Sumpter made the best getaway to assume command of the race, with former Tomcat racer Quartermaine slotting into second ahead of Neuhoff, Black and Adcock. Hoy made a rapid start also and was soon on the tail of the leading bunch.

On lap four Black snatched third from Neuhoff and Hoy motored past Adcock for fifth, Will nipping through to take both Neuhoff and Black next time around to claim third.

Alas that was as far as Will would get: on the sixth lap he and Quartermaine clashed as they disputed second place, John retiring to the pits as Hoy slipped back to fifth.

That left Sumpter with an easy run to victory; he crossed the line eight seconds clear of Neuhoff’s Beetle, with the Joker-playing Black taking third and Adcock fourth ahead of the Vento VR6s of Rob Carvell and Len Simpson. Hoy was classified 14th after a last-lap electrical problem.

In Class B John Irvine (Scirocco) and Ian Carvell (Golf) battled from the grid all the way to the chequered flag, Irvine managing to keep ahead when it mattered to win the class by a second. It was Irvine’s first class win since the opening meeting of the season. Phil Jeffery’s Golf GTI was the sole representative of Class C.

Race two got away to a dramatic start with a number of cars tangling on the opening lap. Hoy was among the victims, his Beetle failing to complete the first tour after a spin in avoidance of another’s accident.

Sumpter once more claimed the advantage at the start but on this occasion Carvell ensured that he did not romp away with the race, nipping through for the lead down the Senna Straight as the duo started the second lap.

Carvell and Sumpter staged a battle royal all the way to the chequered flag, the Beetle man narrowing the gap between his car and the Vento until, on the penultimate lap, he managed to squeeze past and into the lead at the Bomb Hole.

Carvell fought back with gusto on the final lap, edging back to the front down the Revett Straight. Entering the Russell chicane for the final time Sumpter again lunged for the lead; this time there was contact and Carvell spun over the kerbs as Sumpter sped toward the line.

Officials later ruled that Sumpter had gained an unfair advantage with the manoeuvre and awarded victory to Carvell. It was Rob’s second outright win of the season.

Adcock came home an excellent third to earn himself the bgcarhifi.com Driver of the Day award, with Simpson fourth from Quartermaine and Elton Sheldon’s Vento. Neuhoff, badly delayed on the first lap, was ninth.

Class B honours once more fell to John Irvine, with Craig Inskip’s Golf second after Ian Carvell suffered first-lap accident damage. Jeffery once more completed the course to take the Class C points.  

ROUNDS 11 & 12: 10 SEPTEMBER 2001


Michael Neuhoff was yesterday crowned the inaugural Volkswagen Racing Cup Champion, the Beetle RSi driver clinching the series with an emphatic lights-to-flag final-round victory at Brands Hatch.

It was 31-year-old Neuhoff’s sixth outright win of the season and – as well as the champion’s trophy – it earned him a superb bonus prize, a fully-paid works drive with the Volkswagen Racing UK team on next month’s Rally of Kent.

Neuhoff, by day a mechanic for the Bentley Le Mans team, was overjoyed to have won the championship. “It’s been a hard season,” he said, “because I had to miss the first two rounds through work commitments and because the Beetle wasn’t easy to come to terms with.

“Rob Carvell has driven brilliantly all year to really keep the pressure on me, as well, and it’s fantastic finally to have done it. The prize is great, too, because I’ve always wanted to try rallying.”

Neuhoff, who is backed by Meister Continental, hopes to return to the Volkswagen Racing Cup in 2002, though possibly not at the wheel of a Beetle. “I’d like to give a racing Lupo a go, perhaps…”

Neuhoff went into the Brands double-header finale as one of three drivers in with a chance of the title. Rob Carvell’s hopes were effectively ended in the first of the day’s races when, battling to stay on terms with early leader Neuhoff, his Vento slid on to the grass at Clearways and thence into the barriers.

The Carvell family team performed brilliantly to repair Rob’s car in time for race two but, after starting from the back of the grid, 10th place at the chequered flag was the best that he could manage.

Said Rob: “I’ve been battling all year with a car which really has reached the limit of its performance, and that’s why I went off today. But I’m pleased to have finished third in the championship…”

Third man in the title hunt was Class C Golf GTI driver Phil Jeffery, but even a class win and a second place today was not enough for him to stop Neuhoff’s championship charge.

Neuhoff ended the year with 240 points to Jeffery’s 210, with Rob Carvell third overall on 204. Class B championship honours fell to another Carvell – Rob’s younger brother Ian – with Jeffery a clear Class C victor.

The final meeting of the year was notable also for the startling pace of Ken Lark and his Corrado Storm. After claiming his maiden pole position with a time three-tenths of a second quicker than Neuhoff could manage, Lark soon recovered from a relatively tardy getaway in race one to take up third place behind Neuhoff and Rob Carvell.

After Carvell’s demise Lark smashed the lap record in his pursuit of the lead and managed to dodge around Neuhoff’s Beetle out of Clark Curve on the final lap to snatch a long awaited and well deserved maiden win.

Neuhoff finished a tenth of a second behind, with Nick Adcock’s Beetle third for the second race in succession and Mark Sumpter fourth ahead of the Vento VR6s of William Black and Malcolm Harrison.

Ian Carvell took Class B honours after early pacesetter Terry Flatt’s Golf was nudged from the lead by a Vento driver, while Phil Halfpenny beat Jeffery to the Class C win.

Neuhoff once again got the better of Lark at the start of race two, but this time he stayed in front all the way to the finish, with Lark 2.5 seconds behind. Adcock challenged Lark for second in the closing stages but had to settle once more for third, with Black fourth from Harrison and Len Simpson. Flatt got the Class B victory he deserved with Jeffery the sole Class C finisher after engine problems stopped Halfpenny.



Michael Neuhoff put in a champion's performance to claim a resounding victory in the British Touring Car Championship-supporting Volkswagen Racing Cup event at Donington Park. Neuhoff's Beetle RSi stole the lead at the first corner and held on to it all the way to the chequered flag.

Having clinched the championship title at Brands Hatch a fortnight ago, Neuhoff had been looking forward to a final flourish in the Donington special event. In qualifying, however, the Helmdon-based driver had to settle for fourth on the grid behind the Corrado of pole-sitter Ken Lark, the Vento VR6 of Rob Carvell and Nick Adcock's Beetle.

A swift getaway at the green light was all the Neuhoff required to rectify his lowly start slot, though, and he managed to slice past Lark and just edge ahead of Carvell on the approach to Redgate Corner. By the end of the first lap Michael was 1.6 seconds clear; by mid-distance his advantage was six seconds - too great for any of his pursuers to close down.

The battle of the race was for second, with Carvell trying everything possible to keep ahead of Adcock, and Mark Sumpter's Beetle and Lark joining in the fight. Adcock managed to find a way through on lap seven and, two laps later, Lark - having already got the better of Sumpter through the Melbourne hairpin - followed through for third, breaking the lap record as he went.

At the flag Neuhoff was 8.4 seconds clear of Adcock, with Lark third and Simon Marcantonio fourth for his best race result of the season. Sumpter pinched fifth from Carvell on the final lap.

Seventh overall and the leading Class B finisher was John Irvine in his Scirocco, just ahead of his Golf-driving class-mates Ian Carvell and Terry Flatt. Dave Hale's Vento rounded out the top 10, while Phil Halfpenny's Golf was the unopposed Class C victor.

Among the non-finishers was William Black, whose Vento fell from sixth with gearbox problems.