VOLKSWAGEN RACING CUP RACE REPORTS 06
17 APRIL 2006
RUTHERFORD & TAYLOR THE VICTORS AT OULTON
Beetle racer Martin Rutherford, for three seasons a Volkswagen Racing Cup bridesmaid, ended his victory drought at Oulton Park and assumed a slender championship lead over the day's other race victor, Paul Taylor.
Taylor's Golf R32 triumphed in the slippery first race but was no match for Rutherford's Citygate Volkswagen-backed machine in the dry conditions of round two of the Hankook-backed championship.
Round one couldn't have got away to a worse start, with four cars eliminated by a startline shunt. It was triggered when Lloyd Allard's Golf stalled on the front row and, with cars spearing left and right to dodge the stationary TDI, mayhem ensued. 'It was an awful moment,' said Lloyd. 'The car just died on the grid and I had to sit there and brace myself for the impact.'
The crash when it came was bad enough to wipe a rear wheel from Allard's car and damage badly the Golf GTIs of Mike Kurton and Didge Dziurzynski, with the Beetles of Steve Dorrell and Paul Lloyd-Roach escaping with slightly less damage. Only Lloyd-Roach was able to make the restart, after some hasty pit lane repairs.
Clearing up delayed the start by several minutes, long enough for the weather to play right into the hands of Taylor and his four-wheel-drive Golf. With a steady drizzle making the circuit surface increasingly greasy, he found the conditions ideal and rocketed into the lead on the opening lap from his fourth row grid position.
But Rutherford wasn't about to let Taylor have things all his own way, posting fastest lap of the race on the second tour in his pursuit before spinning away his chances next time around. 'It was just too wet for my car's dry weather set-up and I tried to hard to catch him and spun,' said Martin.
Newcomer Tony Gilham was next to hold second position in his Beetle, but a misunderstanding with the Vento VR6 of Martyn Culley brought his race to an end with a holed radiator and saw Culley slip well back.
Craig Inskip then lasted for a lap in second spot, until his Golf whacked a kerb and broke a shock absorber. By the time Alex Dziurzynski inherited second in his Corrado, Taylor was long gone. 'They made it very easy for me,' said Paul. 'They were just falling by the wayside. I was very lucky with the weather; had it stayed dry, I doubt I would have gone away like I did.'
Taylor crossed the line more than six seconds ahead of his closest pursuer, Grant Woodhatch, who had powered his Vento past Dziurzynski for second with two laps to run. 'It's my best-ever Volkswagen Racing Cup finish,' said a delighted Grant, 'and it's very pleasing to finish top two-wheel-drive runner.'
Dziurzynski was no less elated with third and the first podium finish for his hitherto troublesome Corrado. 'Finally the car held together, and I was able to have some good battles,' said Alex.
Joe Fulbrook's Bora survived a brush with another car to claim fourth spot, some four seconds ahead of Steve Wood, driving a borrowed Beetle after his new Golf GTI was unready for the season's start. Culley recovered from his spin to take sixth, and Rutherford from his moment to claim seventh, ahead of Peter Wyhinny's sold eighth in the Caddy TDI.
The Beetle of 17-year-old Darelle Wilson was ninth, his best finish, ahead of Giles Lock's Caddy, Lloyd-Roach, Barrie Culley's Vento - which was limping along with a standard gearbox after qualifying dramas - Keith Wood in the all-new Polo GTI, Michael McInerney's Golf GTI and championship debutant Jamie Turner in his Golf VR6.
Race two was no less exciting but thankfully rather less destructive. Though there was no rain this time around, it didn't stop Taylor's R32 from rocketing into the lead once more on the opening lap, this time from grid row three, with pole man Martyn Culley powerless to halt him. It took the Vento man two laps to regain top spot as Taylor, with a bone dry track to contend with, started to falter. 'It's just not a winning car any more in dry weather,' lamented Paul.
Rutherford soon edged Taylor down to third and set about reeling in Culley, whittling away at the gap with a succession of fastest race laps and then nosing ahead once or twice until finally managing to make the manoeuvre stick on lap eight, when he dived down the inside of Culley through Old Hall. 'I could see him getting closer,' said Martyn, 'and I knew that unless I was very lucky he would get me before the end.'
Rutherford crossed the line to claim his maiden Volkswagen Racing Cup victory some two seconds ahead of Culley. 'I thought they'd never show the chequered flag,' he said. 'This is my ninth season of racing and I have more second place trophies than I know what to do with. I'm delighted to have won at last.' Rutherford now enjoys a 10-point championship lead.
Fulbrook demoted Taylor to fourth on lap five but could make no inroads on the leaders, with Inskip battling through from the back of the grid to fifth to show what could have been but for his first-race problems. Steve Wood was a conservative sixth ahead of the storming Beetle of Lloyd-Roach, Wyhinny, Lock and Woodhatch, who had had to start from pit lane with a misfire. Barrie Culley, Keith Wood, Turner, McInerney and Kurton completed the finishing order.
There was heartbreak for Andrew Smith, another back row starter, who had wound his Golf VR6 up into an excellent seventh until sidelined by a last-lap mechanical problem.
21 MAY 2006
TURBODIESEL GOLF ON TOP AT DONINGTON
Diesel power triumphed over petrol at Donington Park, Lloyd Allard and his Golf TDI blasting to victory in the fourth round of the Volkswagen Racing Cup. It was the first UK race win for a diesel car since 2002.
Allard, grandson of Monte Carlo Rally victor and sports car marque founder Sidney Allard, was in unstoppable form on the drying track and was not to be denied his maiden championship victory.
The day's other big winner - apart from the atrocious weather - was Paul Taylor, who won the very wet round three thanks in part to the superior traction afforded by his four-wheel-drive Golf R32.
Hertfordshire-based Taylor, only fourth fastest in the dry qualifying session, spent Saturday night praying to the gods of rain and was not disappointed, streaming wet weather facing him and the other runners as they lined up for Sunday's first race.
Predictably his R32 proved more than a match for the conditions, Paul able to floor the throttle at the lights and rocket past front row men Martin Rutherford and Allard as if their front-drive-only machines were standing still. By the end of the first lap Taylor was nearly five seconds to the good.
But though the task of reeling Taylor in might have been a daunting one, Allard and his ATMR-prepared Golf were more than up for the challenge. Cheltenham-based Lloyd twice claimed the fastest lap of the race during his pursuit and, though hampered by an intermittent misfire, he was able to prevent Taylor from romping away, crossing the line in second spot less than seven seconds adrift. 'The weather played right into my hands,' said Taylor. 'I had a good run and the car was perfect.'
Third place ought to have belonged to Adrian Dziurzynski. 'Didge' had gambled on running slick, dry-weather Hankooks on his Mk II Golf GTI in the hope of capitalising on a strong showing in qualifying. His bid appeared to have paid off, Dziurzynski hanging on well to the leaders until three laps from the end when he skated off into the Redgate Corner gravel trap.
'I am so disappointed,' said Didge, from Exeter. 'The tyres were fine when it was really wet, but it started to dry a little and the track became greasier. I saw Rob Palmer bearing down on me and just overdid it.'
Palmer was making his first appearance of the season in the Exeter Diesels Golf and did a sterling job to climb from eighth on the grid to fourth before Dziurzynski handed him third. He resisted perfectly a last-corner attempt from Steve Wood to pass him, holding his line into Goddards to secure his maiden podium finish.
Wood, still at the wheel of a borrowed Beetle RSi due to persistent teething problems with his new Golf GTI, had tried to outbrake Palmer but spun instead and lost fourth at the last to Craig Inskip's turbo Golf. Martyn Culley recovered from an early misfire with his Vento to take sixth, hard on Wood's heels.
Ken Lark put in the drive of the race to fight back from 20th after a second-lap excursion into a gravel trap in his Corrado. 'I was well stuck but I was determined to get the car out, I was that angry,' said Ken. 'I waved away the marshals who came to help and managed to reverse the car back on to the track.'
The bit firmly between his teeth, Lark carved his way through the field and broke into the top 10 by lap seven. He picked off a further three cars by the end.
Alex Dziurzynski claimed eighth in his Corrado, ahead of Barrie Culley's Vento VR6, Tony Gilham's Beetle and the Europcar Golf GTI of Michael McInerney. Paul Lloyd-Roach was 12th in his Beetle and Rutherford a disappointed 15th, blaming his tyre choice and power delivery problems.
Among the disappointed non-finishers were Car magazine editor Jason Barlow, whose strong run in the new Polo GTI came to an end in the Craner Curves gravel on the penultimate lap, and Joe Fulbrook, whose Bora's engine cried enough. Peter Wyhinny failed to make the grid after ignition problems with his Caddy.
Taylor's prayers weren't completely answered, however - for the start of race two the sun made a brief enough appearance to start drying the track. Some of his rivals were tempted on to slick Hankooks, but Paul stuck to grooved rubber, a choice he would later rue.
Taylor made his customary lightning grid getaway to overhaul front row men Martyn Culley and Wood for the lead on the run to Redgate but was to stay ahead for only two laps this time, the track beginning to dry enough to lessen his four-wheel-drive advantage and to hurt his tyres. Wood was the first to dislodge him from top spot, with Allard battling past both Taylor and Wood to lead on the fourth lap.
Lloyd wasted no time in pulling out a lead, building his advantage to more than three seconds with a blinding fifth lap, the fastest of the race up to that point. A brief safety car hiatus, required to retrieve Wyhinny's stricken Caddy from the circuit after it suffered a mechanical problem, interrupted Allard's progress only briefly and he sailed on to his first championship victory - and the first for a diesel since Michael Neuhoff's Thruxton wins in 2002 - by a margin of two seconds.
'My tyres were almost gone towards the end,' said Lloyd, 'and I was panicking a bit when I saw another car coming up behind. But it was a brilliant race and I really enjoyed it. It's great to have won at last.'
It wasn't Wood who followed Allard home for second but Inskip, who had overcome the struggling Taylor for third on lap nine and was promoted to second when Wood slithered into a gravel trap at Redgate. 'It's good to get on the podium again,' said Craig.
Expectant father Martyn Culley was third: 'I'd just like to thank my wife for letting me go racing on the day she was due to give birth!' he said.
Lark flew to fourth this time, ahead of Didge Dziurzynski, whose fifth place was his best-yet championship result. A popular sixth was the slick-shod Beetle of Darelle Wilson, the Solihull 17-year-old not only scoring a personal best but setting fastest race lap into the bargain. His rivals voted Darelle driver of the day.
Taylor slipped to seventh at the flag, with Grant Woodhatch eighth in his Vento, Gilham ninth and granddad-to-be Barrie Culley 10th ahead of Lloyd-Roach, McInerney and Barlow in the Polo GTI, which the journalist rated a 'cracking good hot hatch' after his strong finish.
Those unlucky not to make the finish line included erstwhile championship leader Rutherford, who spun into the pit straight wall at the start; Andrew Smith, whose Golf did the same later in the race, and Palmer, whose Golf was dealt a heavy rear-end blow by Alex Dziurzynski's Corrado.
With four of the 12 rounds complete, Taylor is the new championship leader with a 22-point advantage over Martyn Culley. Rutherford slips to third overall.
16 JULY 2006
TAYLOR, CULLEY VICTORIOUS IN NORFOLK
A third race win for championship leader Paul Taylor and a maiden victory for Martyn Culley were the highlights of the Snetterton rounds of the Volkswagen Racing Cup in association with Hankook, watched this weekend by a huge crowd of spectators making the most of the glorious weather.
Just as he did at Oulton Park in April and at Donington Park in May, Taylor secured a convincing victory in the first of the day's races at the wheel of his Big Boys Toys-backed Golf.
His rivals are used to seeing the Hertfordshire driver take advantage of the R32's four-wheel drive to sprint ahead in damp conditions, but this time Taylor made it to the top step of the podium in the bone dry and blistering heat.
Paul threw down the gauntlet in qualifying on Saturday, securing pole position for the first time this season with a time two-tenths of a second better than that of his closest rival, Bora driver Joe Fulbrook. But with a bare second covering the top eight on the grid, Taylor's advantage appeared slim.
Paul made a superb start, lighting up all four Hankooks and sprinting instantly into a handsome lead over Berkshire's Fulbrook on the run down to the tight Riches right-hander and on to a two-second lead over the Bora man by lap's end.
Fulbrook's hopes of reeling in the leader took a blow within a couple of laps when his second place came under pressure from the flying Golf GTI of Exeter's Adrian Dziurzynski. Within a few laps Kent man Tony Gilham and his Beetle joined the party, along with fourth-round victor Lloyd Allard in his turbodiesel Golf, who had started 11th on the grid.
Fulbrook clung to second for nine of the 15 laps but had to give best to Allard at the Russell chicane. 'Lloyd got it all sideways and I had to back off to avoid hitting him,' said Joe, 'and then he was through and away.' Added Allard: 'It was a scary moment and I was lucky to get away with it. I'm grateful to Joe for giving me the room.'
By this stage Taylor was 3.6 seconds up the road and though Allard did his best to catch the R32, too few laps remained for him to achieve it. Taylor's winning margin was 2.3 seconds. He said: 'I made a good start and tried to pull away, then fortunately everyone else seemed to be having their own battles and I was able to keep clear. I'm very pleased with my third win.'
Gilham, his Beetle rejuvenated for this meeting by a new engine, pinched third from Fulbrook at the Esses on the penultimate lap to record his best-yet finish in the championship.
Gloucestershire driver Steve Wood gave his long-awaited new Golf GTI an encouraging race debut, battling through from 10th on the grid to fifth at the chequered flag, profiting from Ken Lark's problems - his Corrado slowed a lap from home with a broken driveshaft.
Martyn Culley finished sixth in his Vento VR6, ahead of Craig Inskip in a down-on-power Golf and Martin Rutherford, who was also suffering from a lack of straight-line speed in his Citygate Beetle.
Barrie Culley's Vento was ninth, the hobbling Lark 10th, 17-year-old Darelle Wilson 11th in his Beetle and Steve Chaplin, having his first run in his new Beetle, 12th just ahead of championship debutant Paul Wyhinny in his V6 Golf. Golf Plus magazine journalist Mike Breslin brought the Polo GTI home 20th, delighted with the car's performance but disappointed with his: 'I had to back off at the start to avoid a collision and lost a lot of time, but it was great fun fighting back and it's a brilliant little car to drive.'
Dziurzynski's strong run at the sharp end of the field came to a disappointing end after 12 laps with a broken driveshaft. Paul Lloyd-Roach was bitterly disappointed by his retirement with a brake-less Beetle, coming as it did after securing seventh on the grid.
There was to be no repeat of Taylor's runaway performance in race two, not least because of the reverse-grid rule which dictates the first-race victor must start race two from sixth on the grid.
It was Basingstoke-based Martyn Culley's turn to start from the pole and he and his venerable Vento - a veteran of 12 seasons of racing - made no mistake at the green light, rocketing away to gain a useful lead over his pursuers. There was confusion behind as Wood missed a gear and received a tap from Gilham; Taylor seized his chance to shoot past both and into second.
There was an even bigger drama at corner two, Sear, where Inskip - at the wheel of a borrowed Golf GTI to replace his ailing car - mounted the rear of Lloyd-Roach's Beetle and rolled. Craig was unhurt but his Golf badly damaged, and Lloyd-Roach was forced to retire also. A lengthy safety car period was required to clear the track of debris.
Culley timed the restart to perfection to rebuild his lead, this time with Allard as his closest pursuer, Taylor having slipped back after a brush with Wood's Golf at the Riches chicane.
Allard's pursuit was relentless but the diesel driver had no answer to Culley's pace, Martyn clocking up a popular maiden championship victory. 'I'm over the moon,' said new father Martyn. 'I made the perfect restart and everybody behind seemed more interested in tripping over each other than in catching me.'
Allard was two seconds behind at the line, with Fulbrook third after holding off a challenge from Gilham to claim his second podium of the season. Wood was fifth ahead of Dziurzynski, Rutherford, Wilson, Lark and Taylor, a gearbox problem further hampering the championship leader's progress towards the end.
Chaplin, Michael McInerney, Breslin and Peter Wyhinny were the only other finishers in what proved to be a race of attrition.
With the championship at the half-way stage, Taylor's overall points lead is cut from 22 to 16.
28 AUGUST 2006
ALLARD AND GILHAM ON TOP AT BRANDS HATCH
Two drama-filled Volkswagen Racing Cup events provided the Brands Hatch Bank Holiday weekend crowds with thrills aplenty, Lloyd Allard stealing into the championship lead with his first-race victory at the wheel of the ATMR turbodiesel Golf and Beetle driver Tony Gilham claiming his maiden win in the second of the day's events.
Erstwhile points leader Paul Taylor finished both races in second spot and now trails Allard by just four points with four rounds remaining, ensuring a grandstand finish to the Hankook-backed championship over the coming five weeks.
In race one, Taylor's chances of a fourth victory at the wheel of his Big Boys Toys-backed Golf R32 were dashed by an untimely safety car intervention, the vehicle scrambled to control race pace after a fourth-lap clash between the Golf GTI of Steve Wood and Darelle Wilson's Beetle.
Hertfordshire-based Taylor had done everything right, blasting past pole sitter Allard (Cheltenham) on the run to corner one and stretching his legs to build a two-second lead over the second placed car of local hero Gilham.
But the safety car came into play for two laps while the stricken cars of Wood and Wilson were removed to safety, and this had the effect of bunching up the pack and cancelling Taylor's advantage at a stroke.
At the restart on lap seven, Allard, who held third after a tardy grid getaway, was not slow to pounce. Lloyd dived through on the inside of Graham Hill Bend to seize second from Gilham and then swooped alongside Taylor into Clearways. The two Golfs raced doorhandle-to-doorhandle for the length of Brabham Straight, Taylor forced to concede the lead as they reached Paddock Hill Bend.
It was physical stuff: 'I'm not very happy,' said Taylor later. 'I had two wheels on the grass and I've asked Lloyd to give me a bit more room next time.'
Allard was quick to open out a breathing space and raced to his second win of the season by a margin of just seven-tenths. 'I had a bad start,' he said, 'because I could find no grip, and then I found myself stuck behind Tony. Getting past him and then Paul was a bit of a hassle, but it was a good fun race and I enjoyed it greatly.'
Swanley-based Gilham's hopes of depriving Taylor of second were thwarted by red flags, which flew to halt the race on the 10th lap when Barrie Culley's Vento slid off into the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap and tipped on to its roof. Culley - like Wood and Wilson - was unhurt but his car was deemed to have come to rest in a dangerous place.
Joe Fulbrook and Martyn Culley duelled for fourth place throughout, with Bora driver Fulbrook eight-tenths ahead when it counted. Adrian Dziurzynski's Mk 2 Golf GTI claimed sixth, with Barrie Culley credited with seventh despite his race-ending excursion.
Reigning Stock Hatch Champion Darren Blumson was an encouraging eighth on his championship debut at the wheel of a Vento, with the Beetles of Paul Lloyd-Roach, Martin Rutherford and Steve Dorrell ninth, 10th and 11th respectively. The battle of the Caddy vans was won by Giles Lock in 12th, with Peter Wyhinny's example 14th, just behind Steve Chaplin's Beetle.
Motorsport News editor Jim Holder brought the Polo GTI home 16th on his race debut, relieved to return it to the paddock without a scratch. 'I put it all down to the car,' he said. 'It certainly wasn't the driver!'
Despite another safety car interlude and, again, a premature race stoppage, the second race of the day was a real corker with several changes of lead, plenty of drama and another new face in the winner's circle.
By dint of his first-race sixth, Adrian Dziurzynski started from the pole - his first - and led the early laps after a superb start. Taylor, starting from fifth, made an even better getaway from the grid but found his progress blocked by Dziurzynski, Gilham and Martyn Culley, three abreast as they dashed for Paddock Hill Bend.
Dziurzynski's redoubtable Golf held the Regal Autosport/GIAC Beetle of Gilham at bay until lap five, despite intense pressure, but Adrian lost out when Tony lunged up his inside into the Druids hairpin following the conclusion of a brief safety car period, necessary to retrieve Jamie Turner's beached Golf VR6 from the Clearways gravel trap.
Frantic lap five saw Culley demoted from third to sixth after he got crossed up through Surtees, with Fulbrook, Taylor and Allard each taking the opportunity to slice past the Vento.
Dziurzynski wasn't beaten yet, however: on the seventh lap he repassed Gilham for the lead and even managed to pull a slight advantage, only for his wretched luck to return a couple of laps later with the loss of fourth gear. Gilham, Taylor and Allard all took advantage.
With four minutes still on the clock and three cars vying for victory, there was every prospect of a grandstand finish. Alas it was not to be for, just as in race one, the red flags flew after a Culley accident. This time it was Martyn in the wars, a rear wheel shearing from his Vento and sending it into a roll at the ultra-fast Westfield Bend. Martyn was shaken but otherwise unhurt.
So the results were declared after nine laps, Gilham the popular victor by the season's narrowest margin, just 0.29s, from Taylor, and with Allard only six-tenths further behind for third. Gilham was generous with his praise for his team: 'The boys have worked solidly for this for three days and I can't thank them enough. It was a very hard race but I'm well happy.'
Dziurzynski, disappointed at losing out on his maiden win, was consoled by fourth place, his best-ever result, and the fact that it was the first time this year he had finished both races in a weekend. Adrian's brother, Alex, by contrast posted a double retirement at Brands.
Less happy in fifth was Fulbrook, who was bounced out of third two laps from the end by Taylor, the R32 driver forcing his way past through Surtees. Wilson, the youngest driver in the race at 17, battled his way through from 21st on the grid to sixth by the chequered flag.
Rutherford claimed seventh ahead of Blumson, Wood, Lloyd-Roach and Ken Lark's Corrado, with Wyhinny - his Caddy renumbered 50 for the weekend in celebration of his milestone birthday - delighted with 12th. Michael McInerney, his pace revitalised by a between-race engine change for the Europcar Golf GTI, was 16th and Holder 19th in the Polo after a pit visit for running repairs lost him two laps.
25 SEPTEMBER 2006
TAYLOR DOES THE DOUBLE AT SILVERSTONE
The Volkswagen Racing Cup is all set for a grandstand finish following twin wins at Silverstone for Golf R32 pilot Paul Taylor, results which propelled him back into the championship lead.
But just 20 points separates Taylor and his chief title rival Lloyd Allard as they head for the deciding rounds of the Hankook-backed championship at Thruxton, with Golf TDI racer Allard determined not to give up the fight.
Allard endured a character building time at Silverstone: he was forced to start the first race from the back of the grid and then suffered fuel problems in race two which cost him the championship lead.
Hertfordshire-based Taylor was in superb form at Silverstone in his four-wheel-drive machine, winning both races - one wet, the other dry - in great style, despite clutch problems which hampered his performance and which, despite the greasy conditions, rendered him unable to take advantage of his Golf's superior traction at the start of race one.
Alex Dziurzynski, who claimed his maiden pole position in qualifying, was the early pacesetter in his Corrado, but once Taylor had found his form Alex was unable to hold on to the lead. Paul rocketed past and into top spot on the second lap and, though Dziurzynski harried him all the way to the chequered flag, Taylor collected his fourth win of the season by a 3.7-second margin.
'The four-wheel drive was a definite help to me in these conditions,' said Taylor. 'The car was superb, even though I did have some problems at the start selecting the right gear.'
Dziurzynski's attack was hampered in the closing stages by his need to defend against the attentions of his Golf GTI-driving younger brother, Adrian. "We should have agreed on team orders before the start!" joked Exeter-based Alex. Adrian did not push the point too far, however, and settled for third - his maiden podium finish.
Joe Fulbrook enjoyed a strong outing in his Bora Turbo to collect fourth, just ahead of Tony Gilham's Beetle RSi. An excellent sixth despite his relative lack of track experience was former British Rally Champion Gwyndaf Evans at the wheel of the 'celebrity' Polo GTI.
Martyn Culley was pushed back to seventh by Evans with three laps to run, his Vento VR6 beaten back into shape after suffering serious damage last month at Brands Hatch. Relishing the new-found performance of his rebuilt Golf VR6, Tony Harberman ended a long run of bad luck with an excellent eighth, and collected second fastest lap of the race for good measure.
The fastest man on the circuit was Allard. Lloyd fell foul of the scales after qualifying when his ATMR-prepared Golf found to be just shy of the required weight. He was put to the back of the grid, then gambled on slick, dry-weather tyres, only to discover he had made a major mistake.
'I pitted after the warming up lap to change back to wets,' said Allard, 'and lost a lot of time.' He charged back through the field, establishing the lap record for the class, on his way to ninth.
Ray MacDowall returned to the championship in a V6 Golf to take 10th ahead of newcomer Damian Gray's Vento and 17-year-old Darelle Wilson's Beetle RSi.
Sixth on the grid proved little handicap for Taylor in race two, his Golf sprinting into the lead on lap one and away into a lead which it never looked in danger of losing. Win number five was probably the easiest of his season, and Paul was quick to praise his mechanics: 'The team did a great job for me this weekend and these two wins have given me a big boost for the championship.'
Gilham, struggling for straight line speed throughout the weekend, handled his Beetle well to stay in touch with Taylor, and to keep the determined Alex Dziurzynski behind him for the duration to secure second.
Third-placed Alex, meanwhile, was under intense pressure from Allard in the closing stages, until Lloyd's luck returned with a vengeance at the start of the last lap when his Golf started to splutter through fuel starvation. He managed to make it to the line but dropped from fourth to sixth.
Others in last-lap bother were Adrian Dziurzynski and Fulbrook, the former with a race-halting gearbox problem and the latter with a broken driveshaft. Joe pitted at the end but was credited with seventh.
All of which promoted the remarkable Evans to fourth to collect the new-for-2006 Polo GTI's best-ever finish, just ahead of Martyn Culley. Martin Rutherford made up for a race one non-finish by taking eighth in his Beetle, with the flying Michael McInerney recording his best result of the year in ninth in the Europcar Golf GTI. Barrie Culley, Steve Dorrell and Giles Lock rounded out the top 12.
1 OCTOBER 2006
WINS FOR WOOD & CULLEY AT THRUXTON AS TAYLOR IS CROWNED
The Volkswagen Racing Cup in association with Hankook enjoyed a truly grand 2006 finale at Thruxton this weekend, Golf R32 driver Paul Taylor clinching the championship title and Steve Wood and Martyn Culley claiming the victory honours in a pair of breathtaking races.
Wood broke through yesterday to give the Mk V Golf GTI its maiden championship win, and local hero Culley pleased the Hampshire crowd with victory in today's tricky damp-weather 12th round.
Taylor led both races but finished neither on the podium, but his Saturday fourth and seventh today earned the Hertfordshire man enough points to settle the championship in comfortable style.
Taylor more than made up for a disappointing qualifying - he started from ninth on the grid - by making an electrifying start to Saturday's race to seize the lead on the opening lap. His charge through the pack had at least one unintentional side-effect; seeing him steaming up behind, Lloyd Allard moved his Golf TDI over to block the four-wheel-drive Golf's progress and they brushed wheels, hard enough to puncture one of Allard's rears and end his race moments after it had started.
Meanwhile, Brands Hatch victor Tony Gilham started from the pole for the first time in his Beetle RSi and was chasing Taylor for all he was worth, with Culley's Vento VR6 close behind and Wood fourth, up from sixth on the grid.
Lap two brought near disaster for Culley, who was pushed wide and on to the grass up the fast Woodham Hill section. 'I was fired on to the grass at about 130mph and it was a scary moment,' said Martyn. 'Somehow - perhaps it was my grass-track racing experience - I managed to hold it together and get back on to the tarmac in time to brake for the Club chicane.' Culley's problems were not yet over, however: his tyres, now covered in damp grass, subsequently provided him with less grip than he was expecting through the Noble left-hander and he spun at 100mph. He ended the lap fifth.
Gilham snatched the lead from Taylor's grasp on the fifth lap and held on in front for another three laps until he was held up by a back-marker through Club. 'My Beetle doesn't have the straight-line speed of some of the other cars,' said Tony, 'and I need to keep up the momentum. Unfortunately I was held up, and Steve Wood caught me and I couldn't keep him behind.'
Wood became the third different leader of the race on the ninth lap, but Gilham was close behind and intent on revenge. Unfortunately for him he was delayed by back-markers once more on the final lap and Wood was able to achieve the win by 2.3s.
It was the first time Wood had seen a chequered flag wave for him - although he was technically a winner at Thruxton two years ago, that came after two cars in front had been excluded from the results for technical infringements. 'It's a great feeling finally to see the chequered flag,' said 44-year-old Steve. 'It was a really close and very enjoyable race. I managed to get Tony into the complex after selling him a bit of dummy and then pulled enough of a gap.'
Culley moved back into fourth on the sixth lap, then lifted third from Taylor with two laps to go. Martyn's dad, Barrie Culley, was a superb fifth in his Vento - his best-ever result - ahead of Steve Chaplin's Beetle, whose sixth spot came at the expense of Caddy TDI pilot Peter Wyhinny, who qualified an impressive eighth and was headed towards sixth, and the pole for race two, when a collision with Chaplin sent the Caddy to the pits with a broken driveshaft.
Michael McInerney followed up his strong Silverstone showing in the Europcar Golf GTI to take seventh, ahead of 17-year-old Darelle Wilson at the wheel of a borrowed Bora, his Beetle having suffered engine problems last weekend. Andrew Smith returned to the championship in his VR6 Golf and took ninth ahead of Mike Kurton's Golf GTI, Damian Gray's Vento and Paul Lloyd-Roach, who had had to stop to change his Beetle from wet-weather tyres to slicks. Steve Dorrell and Jamie Turner were the final finishers.
Thruxton's reputation as a car-breaker held true, with several drivetrain related retirements. Alex Dziurzynski's Corrado fell from fourth with gearbox problems, similar trouble halting John Quartermaine, Giles Lock and Ken Lark. Adrian Dziurzynski spun his Golf on the opening lap and was collected by Joe Fulbrook's Bora, while Max Power journalist Nick Trott suffered clutch hydraulic problems in the Polo GTI. Craig Inskip's Golf stopped early with a blown head gasket.
Today's showery weather suited Taylor's machine down to the ground and it romped into its customary lead within a couple of corners, despite starting from sixth on the grid. By first lap's end Taylor had stolen a 2.7-second march on Culley Jnr, but Martyn found the track conditions suiting his Vento more and more with each passing lap.
'Dad and I had gambled on slicks and it didn't look good when there was a shower right before the start,' said Martyn. 'But as the track dried the car got better and better.' Taylor fought to maintain his advantage but Culley whittled the gap away to nothing on the third lap and stole past and into the lead at Church. Taylor soon after fell into Wood's clutches, and then Gilham's to fall back to fourth.
Wood had opted for a full set of wet-weather Hankooks and, as the track dried, he began to struggle to stay with Culley. Steve was soon under threat from Gilham who, after seeing off a renewed challenge from Taylor, was gunning for second. Tony's Beetle found its way past the Golf GTI with four laps to run; he finished 11.9s behind Culley.
But the result could all have been very different, for Culley had had a slowly deflating tyre since before mid-distance. Yards after victoriously crossing the line, Martyn had to pull off on his slowing-down lap when the tyre let go. His Vento was brought to the podium ceremony on the back of a recovery truck.
'I've always gone well at Thruxton,' said Martyn, 'but never had much luck here before. This is a great result and a superb way to end the season.' It was Culley's second race win of the season and helped him secure championship runner-up spot. Barrie Culley was sixth to add to the family celebration.
Wood found himself in more and more tyre trouble as the race neared its conclusion but managed to hang on to third, some 13 seconds ahead of Allard, whose charge from the back of the grid was a highlight of the race. Alex Dziurzynski, another rear-of-grid starter, placed fifth, with Taylor finishing seventh behind Culley Snr.
Wilson looked set for a strong finish until he and Taylor got a little too close for comfort at the chicane; the youngster backed off to take eighth ahead of Adrian Dziurzynski, Lloyd-Roach, Fulbrook, Lark, McInerney, Wyhinny, Inskip and Smith. Trott claimed 17th in the Polo GTI.