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ROUNDS 1 & 2: 13/14 APRIL
ADCOCK & WALKER SHARE DONINGTON VICTORIES
Barnstorming Beetle driver Nick Adcock made a superb start to his Volkswagen Racing Cup season at Donington Park, racing away with the series lead after claiming a thrilling victory in the opening round and making the podium in round two.
Championship newcomer Steve Walker meanwhile enjoyed a dream debut, winning round two in his Golf VR6 after staging a brilliant recovery drive to third in the opening round.
Adcock's maiden Cup victory came after a race-long duel with another debutant, Ray MacDowall, who seized the lead on the second lap after Nick had made a blinding getaway from pole position.
Adcock's Attinger Jack-backed car shadowed former BTCC racer MacDowall's Beetle - and Walker's Golf, which had displaced him for second - for three laps before reasserting himself in front with a brave charge past both of them through the Goddards chicane.
By mid-distance Adcock had eked out a one-second advantage, but in the closing laps MacDowall whittled the gap down and set himself up to make a last-lap lunge through Goddards. The two Beetles made gentle contact, Adcock slewing wide but managing to hold on in front at the chequered flag by just four-hundredths of a second.
"I kept my foot down and prayed," said Bromyard-based Adcock, "and fortunately the car managed to sort itself out and I stayed ahead. It was a tough battle."
Walker, who had slipped back to seventh, fought his way back to third by the end, just ahead of another man in recovery mode. Ian Carvell's Class B Golf GTI had started the race a promising third on the grid but completed the opening lap a lowly 16th after a lurid slide on some oil.
Carvell had to claw his way back through the pack, making the top 10 by lap four and humbling some much more powerful machinery as he climbed the leaderboard back to fourth and an easy Class B victory. The Vento VR6s of Mark Smith and Len Simpson rounded out the top six.
Adcock once more led away from the pole in round two, with MacDowall again in close company and Carvell right on their tails for third. It all went wrong for the Beetle men on the fifth lap, however, when MacDowall suffered brake problems and struck the rear of Adcock's car. Nick spun wildly, rejoining second behind Carvell, while Ray's car retired with crash damage.
Adcock's hopes of regaining the lead took a knock two laps later when he found some oil and went for another wild slide. That left Walker and his VR6-powered Golf well placed to dislodge the lesser-engined car of Carvell; he went through for the lead with three laps to run.
Walker was just three-tenths in front of Carvell at the line, with Adcock recovering to third ahead of Simpson, Smith and Dave Hale's Vento.
"Ian drove brilliantly," said Walker later, "and he was extremely difficult to catch." Added Carvell: "The VR6 had the legs of me and I just had to settle for second. It was a brilliant race." Ian was awarded the Sony Driver of the Day prize for his efforts.
The Volkswagen Racing UK-prepared Golf TDI of reigning champion Mike Neuhoff made British motorsport history at Donington by becoming the first ever diesel-powered car to race in this country. Neuhoff more than fulfilled the team's early expectations of the car by claiming a top-10 finish. "We've still a lot of work to do to turn it into a race-winner," said Neuhoff, "but the potential is definitely there."
Adcock, who played his points-doubling joker card in the opening round, leads the championship by 24 points from Walker.
ROUNDS 3 & 4: 11 MAY
WALKER ON THE DOUBLE AT OULTON PARK
Steve Walker romped home to a double Volkswagen Racing Cup victory at his home circuit of Oulton Park, the Stockport-based Golf VR6 driver snatching the championship lead in the process.
Walker had started both rounds three and four of the championship from pole position but had to beat off a determined giant-killing challenge from the Class B Golf GTI of Ian Carvell before he could claim the victory laurels, breaking the lap record twice along the way.
Volkswagen Racing UK meanwhile celebrated a brace of superb placings for the ground-breaking turbodiesel racing Golf, reigning champion Michael Neuhoff taking fourth position in the first race of the day and following that up with a thundering third next time out.
With the Beetles of his Donington rivals Ray MacDowall and Nick Adcock off the pace - Ray's with a down-on-power engine and Nick's with a handling imbalance - Walker's chief opponent throughout the day was the mercurial Carvell, who snatched the lead of round three as Walker made a tardy getaway.
Carvell's grip on top spot lasted two laps before the superior VR6 power of Walker's Golf swept him past and into a lead he never looked in danger of losing. Carvell kept in close touch throughout but had to settle for second at the chequered flag.
The oldest man on the grid, 59-year-old Len Simpson, showed most of his younger rivals a clean pair of heels, sweeping home to third in his Vento VR6 after overhauling the similar car of Mark Smith.
Smith's race was brought to a premature close when he was in collision with Adcock, and this incident allowed Neuhoff, who had started from 10th on the grid, to climb up to an impressive fourth.
MacDowall took fifth ahead of Ian Fawcett's Vento and the Beetles of Terry Flatt, Elton Sheldon and Adcock, with Ken Lark taking 10th on his debut in his new Corrado VR6.
The start of round four saw Walker once again slow off the pole, the Polemarch-backed driver slipping to third behind Carvell and Neuhoff on the run down to Old Hall Corner.
By the end of the opening lap Walker had regained second spot, but Carvell was already more than a second in front and looking to widen the gap. By lap four Ian's Golf had a three-second advantage and it looked as though a major form-book upset was in the offing.
Unfortunately for Carvell, it was then that the full-course caution flags were shown while a stranded car was retrieved from a dangerous position, and his lead was cut back to nothing by the restart two laps later. Next time around, Walker pounced at the Knickerbrook chicane and seized the lead, racing on to victory by seven-tenths of a second.
Walker admitted post-race that he'd given up hope of winning: "I wouldn't have caught him but the for the flags coming out. Ian drove brilliantly and I made a bad start..."
Carvell was nonetheless delighted with his fourth consecutive Class B win and second place overall: "It was a shame the flags came out when they did, but I thoroughly enjoyed the race and second is a good result."
After losing second to Walker on the opening lap, Neuhoff drove home to collect an untroubled third place, the first-ever podium finish for a diesel racing car in the UK. "The Golf TDI was much better here than at Donington," said Mike, "but there's still plenty of work to be done to make the power go down better..."
Simpson held off a late challenge from MacDowall to take fourth, with Adcock sixth ahead of Grantley Woodhatch's Vento, Lark, Smith, Sheldon and Fawcett.
Championship newcomer James Hodgkinson was 12th in his Vento VR6, his gritty drive earning him the Sony Driver of the Day award.
Walker, who played his points-doubling 'joker' card in round three, now leads the championship title race from Adcock by 28 points.
DONINGTON NON-CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: 18/19 MAY
CARVELL A CLEAR VICTOR AT DONINGTON
Watched by a crowd of 20,000, competitors in the Volkswagen Racing Cup provided the ideal curtain raiser for the DTM German touring cars at Donington Park, with Ian Carvell laying on a thrilling giant-killing performance in his Class B Golf GTI.
Carvell, who only narrowly missed out on a race victory last weekend at Oulton Park, was determined not to be stopped this time - even if the race was a special non-championship event. He took the win by six seconds from the Beetle RSi of Nick Adcock and the amazing turbodiesel Golf of Mike Neuhoff, which claimed its second podium placing within a week.
Carvell got the jump on the Golf VR6 of pole man Steve Walker from the green light, with Neuhoff trying the outside line at McLeans to challenge Walker for second. Walker defended successfully as Neuhoff's attack dropped him behind Mark Smith's Vento VR6 and Adcock's car.
Carvell's lead began to grow from the second lap, as Smith and Walker began a series of exchanges for second place. Adcock took the opportunity to latch on to the dicing duo, while Rob Carvell's Vento slipped ahead of Neuhoff for fifth. Further back, Elton Sheldon's Beetle started to ease clear of David Sturdy's Vento for eighth, who was left to defend his place at the head of a four-car train.
Smith started to make a break for second after four laps, as Neuhoff attacked Rob Carvell in his quest to reclaim fifth, with both closing on Walker. Into the Melbourne hairpin Rob Carvell demoted Walker and suddenly the second-to-sixth battle had all closed up.
Adcock made it into second at Melbourne on lap five and slowly but surely edged clear of the battle behind. Neuhoff snatched fifth from Walker into Goddards, which allowed Rob Carvell to challenge Smith for third. Into McLeans for the penultimate time, Smith and Carvell clashed, with Smith ending his race in the gravel.
While Ian Carvell continued on his way to victory Adcock settled into a safe second. Rob Carvell slipped back to fourth behind Neuhoff, while Walker completed the top five. Sheldon's once safe sixth place was surrendered to Grantley Woodhatch with three laps to go.
ROUNDS 5 & 6: 15/16 JUNE
MacDOWALL & CARVELL TAKE SILVERSTONE VICTORIES
The Volkswagen Racing Cup welcomed two new drivers to the top step of the podium, Ray MacDowall and Ian Carvell taking the honours in the fifth and sixth rounds of the championship at Silverstone.
MacDowall and his Beetle RSi held off a determined challenge from Carvell to win Saturday's encounter, but Ray was unable to prevent his rival's Class B Golf GTI from getting its revenge in Sunday's dramatic and exciting exchange and had to settle for second place.
With the championship now at the half-way stage, Steve Walker still leads the points standings - albeit with a reduced advantage and MacDowall now his closest title rival.
Ray and his ECM-backed Beetle claimed their maiden pole position in qualifying, nearly half a second quicker than John Irvine's much improved Scirocco GTI. An impressive 27 cars made the startline.
But any hopes that Irvine had of challenging for the lead of Saturday's fifth round evaporated on the startline when he failed to get away promptly at the green light... MacDowall charged into the lead, hotly pursued by Carvell, Walker and Alan Sawyer, making his championship debut in his new Mk IV Golf 1.8 Turbo.
Carvell's pursuit of MacDowall on what was the Volkswagen Racing Cup's first visit to the Northamptonshire circuit was relentless, barely a car's length separating them for the 12-lap duration. But Ray was not to be denied his maiden win, and he established a new lap record on his way to victory. Carvell was just three-hundredths of a second behind at the line.
The battle for third place was no less exciting with Sawyer outmanoeuvring Walker on the fourth lap and hanging on in front until the final tour, when Steve - driving Alan's old Golf - managed to nip through for the final podium placing.
Ken Lark's Corrado took fifth in Sawyer's wheeltracks, and Irvine staged a brilliant recovery from his startline problems to climb from 13th to sixth - and second in Class B - by the end.
Nick Adcock, his Beetle suffering from a lack of straightline speed, was seventh, ahead of the Vento VR6s of Grant Woodhatch, Mark Smith and Len Simpson. The Golf GTI of Chris Adams was 11th, just ahead of reigning champion Mike Neuhoff, whose TDI Golf had handling problems.
Carvell knew that his best hope of victory in Sunday's race was to make a break at the start, and that's just what he achieved - outdragging MacDowall to Copse and making good his escape on the opening lap as Ray and Steve Walker disputed second.
Walker won that duel but took several laps to get back on terms with the leader. By the closing stages Carvell's advantage was whittled back to nothing, and Steve looked set to stage a last-lap attack. Unfortunately for him his Golf spluttered to a halt with a suspected fuel pump problem. "Why couldn't it have lasted another half a lap?," he pondered later...
Walker at least had the satisfaction of breaking MacDowall's day-old lap record.
That left Carvell to claim a three-second victory over MacDowall, with Lark third - his best result of the season. Ken also collected the Sony Driver of the Day award.
Sawyer's hopes of another good result for the clearly quick Golf 1.8T were dashed early on when, recovering from a spin himself, he collected the rotating Golf of Ian Dewar. Both cars were badly damaged but neither driver was hurt. Stuart Amphlett's Golf was another casualty, rolling gently into the Brooklands gravel trap after brake failure.
Erstwhile championship leader Adcock was fourth, ahead of Woodhatch, Mark Smith, Terry Flatt's Beetle, and Adams. Neuhoff improved on his Saturday performance to take ninth, and newcomer James Hodgkinson claimed 10th - his first top-10 finish.
ROUNDS 7 & 8: 13/14 JULY
WOOD KNOCKS THEM FOR SIX AT BRANDS
British Touring Car Championship driver Steve Wood made a triumphant return to the Volkswagen Racing Cup at Brands Hatch, scoring a double victory at the Kent circuit to give the Mk IV Golf its maiden UK race wins.
He was chased home in both races by Ian Carvell in his Class B Golf GTI, Ian recording his eighth consecutive class race victory and moving into the overall championship lead in the process.
Wood, who was deputising for the injured Alan Sawyer in the Golf 1.8T, established his pace in Saturday's qualifying session with a pole time more than eight-tenths of a second quicker than the best Carvell could manage. Ray MacDowall's ECM Beetle lined up third on the grid, ahead of Mike Neuhoff's potent Golf TDI, which was feeling the benefit of a new limited-slip differential.
Wood made no mistake at the green light and sprinted into the lead through Paddock Hill Bend, pursued by Carvell, MacDowall and Neuhoff, while Ken Lark's Corrado beat Nick Adcock's Beetle away from the line to snatch fifth.
Thereafter it was simply a question of how big a gap Wood could pull out over his pursuers. By mid-distance he was five seconds to the good and by flag fall his advantage over Carvell was nearly eight seconds. Along the way, Steve lowered the lap record by more than half a second.
MacDowall's pursuit of Carvell for second place faltered by mid-distance, Ray settling for a safe third ahead of Neuhoff, who put in a memorable drive in the diesel, and Lark.
Several fancied runners fell by the wayside: erstwhile championship leader Steve Walker tangled with Terry Flatt at Druids, both cars ending the race in the gravel, where they were joined within four laps by the cars of Adcock and Grant Woodhatch after a similar contretemps.
Elton Sheldon was among those to profit, the Beetle driver collecting sixth ahead of the Vento VR6s of Mark Smith and Len Simpson. Craig Inskip's improving Golf 1.8T took ninth and James Hodgkinson (Vento) rounded out the top 10.
The eighth round of the championship was another Steve Wood benefit, the Golf man sprinting once more into the lead from pole as the lights flashed to green.
His closest challenger this time was Lark, who made a mercurial getaway from fifth on the grid to slice his way into second through Paddock, with Neuhoff and Carvell in line astern.
Carvell soon recovered from his relatively tardy start to grab third place from Neuhoff the second time around and then nab second from under Lark's nose on lap five. Thereafter it was Carvell chasing Wood for victory, but with little realistic hope.
"Steve's Golf is a fantastic car," said Ian, "and really the best I could hope for was to finish second to it. I won my class again, and that's the main thing, and the overall championship lead is a bonus."
Wood was delighted with his Volkswagen Racing Cup return: "It's great to be back, and great to be back winning. The second race was a lot harder because the other cars came back at me a bit more strongly, but both were really enjoyable wins."
Lark, suffering late-race with a faulty fuel pump, staved off Neuhoff's challenge to take third. The diesel finished fourth, 10 seconds clear at the flag of Smith, who came out on top in a race-long duel with Simpson.
Adcock drove a storming race from the back of grid to seventh, earning himself the Sony Driver of the Day award for his efforts. Inskip was eighth, Walker ninth and George Haynes 10th in his Vento.
ROUNDS 9 & 10: 31 AUGUST/1 SEPTEMBER
LARK FLIES TO TWIN WINS AT SNETTERTON
A double race victory for Ken Lark and his potent 2.8 Corrado VR6, plus a brace of remarkable performances by the revolutionary turbodiesel Golf of Michael Neuhoff, were the highlights of rounds nine and 10 of the Volkswagen Racing Cup.
Lark's twin wins at Snetterton were the first this season for the Hertfordshire driver and brought to six the number of different winning car/driver combinations the championship has seen.
Meanwhile the mighty Mk I Golf GTI of Ian Carvell maintained its unbeaten record with another pair of easy Class B wins. Carvell has now clinched the Class B drivers title and, with two rounds remaining, also enjoys a healthy overall championship lead.
Carvell it was who topped the timesheets in qualifying, the first time the Daventry driver has claimed a pole position this year. But Ian's hopes of translating this into an early race lead were thwarted by a slingshot start from Neuhoff's Greenergy-backed Golf TDI and similarly rapid getaways from Lark and Ray MacDowall's ECM-backed Beetle.
They ploughed four abreast into Riches corner for the first time, Lark popping out in front from Neuhoff, Carvell, MacDowall and Steve Walker's Golf VR6.
Lark tried hard to pull away from his pursuers but - despite Neuhoff and Carvell being engaged in a furious battle over second - failed to achieve his aim. By mid-distance the leading trio was circulating as one, with Neuhoff staging a major fight to stay second, ahead of Carvell.
Carvell seized his chance on the seventh lap, slicing past Neuhoff and on to Lark's tail, where he remained for the duration. Ken's Corrado crossed the line just three-tenths of a second in front, with Neuhoff a second further back.
Not only did Michael claim the Golf TDI's second podium placing of the season he also shattered the Snetterton lap record - set by Lark's petrol-powered Corrado last year - by more than two seconds.
Mark Smith's Vento survived a bruising early encounter with Walker's car to claim fourth ahead of MacDowall, who was suffering from clutch trouble. Len Simpson's Vento took sixth from the similar car of Grant Woodhatch.
Walker fought back to eighth at the flag, having spun down to 18th on the second lap after his incident with Smith. Terry Flatt's Beetle and Dave Sturdy's Vento rounded out the top 10.
Among the non-finishers were Nick Adcock's Beetle and Craig Inskip's Golf, both of which retired after a collision, and the promising new Bora Turbo of Simon Marcantonio and the Lupo GTI fielded by Andre Tautz.
The second race of the day was no less exciting, not least because it seemed for most of it that Neuhoff was about to make history and earn the first UK race win for a diesel car.
Neuhoff rocketed away from the line - pursued by Smith, Lark, Walker and a relatively reluctant Carvell - to establish a healthy early race lead. By the third lap the diesel was 2.7 seconds to the good, but by this time Lark had established superiority over the pursuing bunch and started to claw his way into Neuhoff's advantage.
Michael held on in front for 10 laps, but with five to run he had to yield to the Corrado's superior power and Ken was set for his second win of the day. "I stayed in front as long as I could," said Michael, "but there was no way of holding him off all the way. But I'm very pleased with the way the Golf TDI has gone - we've made lots of progress which should stand us in good stead for the final rounds at Thruxton."
Added Lark: "It's been a great day for us and the car has been magnificent. I'm very pleased..."
Carvell made short work of Walker and Smith but was unable to progress further and settled for a safe third. Smith held on in front of Walker for fourth, with Simpson taking sixth, Woodhatch seventh, Flatt eighth and Stuart Amphlett in his totally rebuilt Golf VR6 ninth, his best result of the year to date. Sturdy was once again 10th.
With only two rounds remaining - both scheduled for Thruxton over the weekend of 14/15 September - only four drivers have any mathematical chance of claiming the overall drivers title. Ian Carvell leads the pack with a 27-point lead over Steve Walker; Ray MacDowall and Ken Lark are the two other title rivals.
ROUNDS 11 & 12: 14/15 SEPTEMBER
CARVELL CLAIMS VOLKSWAGEN RACING CUP CROWN
Ian Carvell is the Volkswagen Racing Cup drivers champion for 2002. The 25-year-old from Daventry clinched the crown at Thruxton after a season of intense on-track rivalry and some superb giant-killing race performances from him and his Golf GTI.
After another easy Class B win in the first of the day's races - his 11th consecutive class victory - Carvell cruised home in the final round to take second place in class and collect enough championship points to lift the overall championship beyond the reach of his rivals.
Said Ian: "It's a superb feeling to know that I've won the championship. The car has been fantastic all year and really good fun to drive. I've loved every minute of it, apart perhaps from that last race because I had to take it very easily to make sure I got to the end."
Carvell's chief overall title rivals, Steve Walker and Ray MacDowall, couldn't quite find the pace at Thruxton to stop him. Golf VR6 pilot Walker had the satisfaction at least of winning the Class A drivers title.
The race victor's laurels at Thruxton went in both events to the amazing turbodiesel Golf driven by 2001 champion Michel Neuhoff. It was the first ever race win in the UK by a diesel car, and a superb end-of-year result for Volkswagen Racing UK after much development of the Golf TDI.
Neuhoff it was who started from pole position after setting a searing qualifying pace in the Greenergy-backed car. Michael went fastest by more than three-tenths of a second, finding Thruxton's ultra-fast sweeping corners ideally suited to the diesel's performance characteristics. Walker's Frazero Motorsport-prepared Golf took second grid spot, ahead of the Beetles of MacDowall and Nick Adcock, and Carvell's Mk I Golf.
Neuhoff quickly recovered from an indifferent start to lead the first race of the day, with MacDowall in his wheeltracks and John Irvine's Class B Scirocco slipping ahead of Adcock and Terry Flatt's Beetle on the opening lap. The diesel quickly built a useful lead only for the race to be red-flagged after a crash left Dave Sturdy's Vento VR6 in a dangerous position on the circuit.
Neuhoff had it all to do once more come the restart but he managed to pull it off and lead again, this time with Adcock his nearest rival. MacDowall slotted into third ahead of Mark Smith's Vento, while Carvell assumed the Class B lead and fifth overall after Irvine spun.
Neuhoff and Adcock battled all the way to the chequered flag, interrupted by a late-race caution period, and the diesel Golf crossed the line half a second ahead of the Beetle. "It's a great way to end the season," said Michael. "I didn't make a great start but I managed to get back past Adcock and MacDowall and stay there..." He established a new lap record along the way.
Adcock collected maximum Class A points for his efforts, with Smith taking third after getting the better of MacDowall in the late stages. Walker finished a disappointed fourth after a brave fight back from 15th place following a first-lap whack from another car.
MacDowall held on for fifth ahead of Flatt, with James Hodgkinson taking seventh and his best placing of the season in his Vento. Len Simpson's Vento was eighth, Carvell ninth and George Haynes, in another Vento, took 10th, just ahead of the recovered Irvine.
Unhindered by race stoppages or caution periods, Neuhoff simply flew from pole position to victory in race two, opening out a healthy lead over his pursuers as early as the second of the 14 laps. By flag fall he was 14 seconds to the good...
Adcock once again established himself as the best of the petrol-powered brigade, hauling his Motorsport Engineering-prepared Beetle around to a richly deserved second overall and a second helping of maximum class points after seeing off a mid-race challenge from MacDowall.
Ray's ECM-backed car slid further down the order with clutch problems as the race neared its conclusion. Walker fought past for third with Smith right behind him.
Irvine blotted Carvell's perfect finishing record with a superb fifth overall and Class B victory. Flatt was sixth from MacDowall, Haynes, Grant Woodhatch and Hodgkinson. Simpson's grip on eighth place was loosened by a last-lap spin and collision with Lee Wharton's Corrado.