VOLKSWAGEN RACING CUP RACE REPORTS 07
9 APRIL 2007
JOE SMOKES TO DOUBLE VICTORY AT OULTON
The formbook was thrown out of the window for the opening rounds of the Volkswagen Racing Cup at Oulton Park, with Joe Fulbrook claiming twin wins at the wheel of his turbocharged Bora and reigning champion Paul Taylor leaving Cheshire point-less.
Fulbrook's first win was gifted to him when early leader Taylor crashed out, and he went on to do the double by picking his way through the debris of several accidents and excursions in tricky wet conditions.
Oulton's rounds of the Hankook-backed series also saw two successful world motorsport debuts - for the new GT TSI Golf with its turbocharged and supercharged 1.4-litre 230 PS engine and the DSG semi-automatic Golf R32.
Fulbrook emerged a delighted but somewhat surprised victor of round one for, although his Warranty Direct-backed Bora had the legs of everyone in qualifying, it had been comprehensively outpaced at the start of the race.
Fulbrook's best qualifying lap was a superb effort, nearly a second inside last year's pole time and nine-tenths better than that of his nearest rival, reigning champion Taylor.
One man might have stood between Fulbrook and pole position - Martyn Culley, but his qualifying session ended prematurely with a seized engine after he had set a time which would have been good enough for fourth. His Vento hors de combat, Martyn borrowed his father Barrie's identical sister car and started from the back of the grid.
Taylor made full use of his Golf R32's four-wheel-drive system to rocket past Fulbrook and into what would be a 3.3s lead by the end of the opening lap. And though Joe never looked like he was about to give up the chase, his pursuit looked like it was going to prove fruitless.
Until three laps to go, that is, when Taylor, who enjoyed such good luck throughout 2006 on his title charge, suffered a reversal of fortune when his steering rack snapped. Powerless to prevent the accident, he sailed into a tyre wall at Britten's chicane.
Fulbrook, who had on the previous tour claimed the fastest lap of the race, could hardly believe it: 'I was certainly a bit lucky there,' said Joe, who was able to cruise to a 6.1s victory. 'I had made up a bit of ground on Paul and was wondering whether I could get closer, and then I didn't have to!'
Fulbrook had pulled well clear early on of the squabble for what was third place between Adrian Dziurzynski's Mk II Golf and Steve Wood's modern-day version. Wood, despite a brake imbalance, pressured his younger rival for the full race distance and managed to squeeze past on the final lap at Druids Corner to secure second. There was more bad news to come for Adrian: keen to retake Wood he overcooked it at the final corner, Lodge, and plunged into a gravel trap.
The next battle was the most captivating of the race, contested early on by the Beetles of Darren Blumson and Paul Lloyd-Roach, Andrew Smith's Golf GTI and the crowd-pleasing 'Herbie'-liveried Beetle of Steve Chaplin.
Smith fell from the fray early on with a broken hub, but his place in the melee was taken by Tony Gilham's new Golf. Tony, like Culley, had started from the back of the grid after an off in qualifying and was in fighting form, climbing to ninth on the opening lap and up to sixth by middle distance.
Culley was close behind in seventh and both he and Gilham made short work of Blumson's ill-handling car, then passed Lloyd-Roach, and then demoted Herbie to take up station in fourth and fifth.
But Culley was not done yet. He sold Gilham a dummy three laps from home and sliced past to take what would become a richly deserved third place. 'That was fantastic,' said Martyn. 'I have never done so much overtaking in my life. I am so grateful to my father for giving up his car for me, because I'm going for the championship this year. At least it sends him a message that his car is just as quick as mine!'
Gilham finished two seconds behind for fourth, with Chaplin fifth, Lloyd-Roach sixth - his best-ever result - and Alex Dziurzynski seventh in his Corrado, a good finish after starting way back on the grid following a qualifying accident. Blumson struggled on with terminal oversteer to eighth ahead of Peter Wyhinny's Caddy and the Golf GTI of Mike Kurton.
Championship newcomer Jamie Perry survived a first-lap spin and clutch problems to bring his V6 Golf home 11th ahead of the DSG gearbox-equipped Golf R32 of Graham Needham, Michael McInerney's Golf and Richard Kingsnorth's down-on-power TDI Golf.
Journalist Nick Trott joined the retirement list after giving the new Golf GT TSI an encouraging world motorsport debut. Despite having had no opportunity to test the car prior to the meeting, Nick qualified it 15th on the grid and improved by more than a second a lap in the race to climb to 13th position before slithering off and into a gravel trap at Druids on the sixth lap.
The wet race two was even more eventful and exciting, and unfortunately had to be restarted after a first-corner accident eliminated two cars. The Beetles of pole-sitter Lloyd-Roach and Blumson were in collision at Old Hall Corner after the former spun; both cars were damaged and Lloyd-Roach, shaken by the crash, was taken to hospital as a precaution.
After the debris was cleared Needham made a remarkable start from the sixth row of the grid, his four-wheel-drive Golf revelling in the greasy track conditions, to take an early lead ahead of Culley and Fulbrook.
Alas for Graham he was the hapless victim of an out-of-control Culley at the start of lap two. 'I went to try to pass Graham,' said Martyn, 'and then my engine just cut out. I was a passenger from then on.' Culley's car careered into Needham's and they both spun from contention, Culley pulling off shortly after.
And that handed the lead, somewhat earlier than he had gratefully received it in race one, to Joe Fulbrook. The Maidenhead man popped in a succession of fastest laps to boost his lead over Adrian Dziurzynski and, as Dziurzynski faded in the closing laps, Joe romped to a 19-second victory.
'I am a bit surprised to have won so easily,' said Joe, 'but I think everyone else got a bit hot under the collar and tried to go too fast for the conditions too soon. I took it gently to start and stayed out of trouble.'
Dziurzynski slowed dramatically in the late stages, his Golf's gearbox offering him nothing but fourth, but he nonetheless made the finish line five seconds ahead of Wood. 'This more than makes up for the disappointment of not finishing race one,' said Adrian of his best-ever Volkswagen Racing Cup result.
Wood had suffered a difficult opening lap, falling back to sixth, but fought past the cars of Needham and Alex Dziurzynski to take third.
An amazing fourth, and bearing down on Wood, was the TDI-powered Caddy van of Peter Wyhinny, which made the most of the slippery conditions and provided many exciting moments - not the least of which was a bruising encounter with 'Herbie' at Lodge - on its way to the chequered flag. 'Another lap and I think I could have made third,' said a delighted Wyhinny.
Alex Dziurzynski took fifth in his Corrado, ahead of Tony Gilham, whose Golf was caught up in the Lloyd-Roach/Blumson crash and which had had to start the race from pit lane after hasty repairs and a wheel change.
Andrew Smith took seventh on home ground from Chaplin's battered Herbie, Needham's battered Golf, Kurton and McInerney. Nick Trott brought the Golf GT TSI home 12th and was further encouraged by its progress. 'My aim in this race was to get a finish, so there were no heroics,' said Nick. 'But it was enough to convince me that with minimal work on the handling the Golf will be a top-six runner, and that it could be a race winner with further work and the right driver.'
22 APRIL 2007
FULBROOK & TAYLOR ARE THE DONINGTON VICTORS
With race wins for 2007 championship leader Joe Fulbrook and reigning champion Paul Taylor, the third and fourth rounds of the Volkswagen Racing Cup provided not only interesting results but also some exciting action.
Fulbrook drove his Bora Turbo from pole position to chequered flag in the day's opening race to claim his third consecutive victory in the Hankook-backed championship - overcoming challenges from Taylor and Steve Wood to do so - while Taylor got his title defence back on track in race two with an untroubled win in his Golf R32.
Fulbrook may have had things all his own way at Oulton Park a fortnight ago but the Berkshire man and his Warranty Direct-backed Bora were made to work hard every inch of the way in the first of the Donington dices.
Fulbrook had annexed pole position by a two-tenth margin from Steve Wood in qualifying but neither of the front row men was able to make the most of his advantage come the start of the race.
Instead it was the superior off-the-line traction of Taylor's four-wheel-drive Golf which won the drag race from row two down to Redgate Corner, with Wood slotting past Fulbrook as Joe scrabbled for grip. 'I very nearly lost it completely at the first corner,' said Fulbrook. 'The rear end just went away from me and I was lucky to get it back.'
Undeterred, Smokin' Joe quickly set about making up his lost ground and found a way past Wood's second-placed GTI through Schwantz Curve on the second lap. Two laps later his target was the lead Taylor, Fulbrook and Wood exited Coppice virtually three abreast, with Fulbrook able to outdrag his rivals for top spot down the Dunlop Straight.
Taylor was unable to fight back, the throttle response of his Golf having gone awry. 'I'd push the pedal to the floor and nothing would happen for several seconds,' said Paul, who slipped behind Wood and back to third on the next lap.
Wood, who was playing his points-doubling Joker card, clearly had his sights set on the ultimate prize and, after tailgating Fulbrook for a couple of laps, swept past the Bora through Redgate and quickly established a handy lead.
Joe shattered the lap record in his pursuit and was rewarded on the 12th lap when Wood encountered gear selection problems as they entered McLeans nose to tail. 'I went for third and just couldn't find it,' said Steve. 'From then on I had to leave it in fourth and hope for the best.'
Fulbrook was not slow to seize on his rival's misfortune and nipped ahead, but despite his gearbox woes Wood was able to stay right on Joe's tail and made several passing attempts. 'I found I was able to get alongside him into corners,' said Steve, 'but then because I was stuck in fourth there was no grunt there to take me past.'
Fulbrook held on in front to take his third successive race win by less than two-tenths of a second. 'It was a great race with Steve,' said Joe, 'and it was just a shame that Paul didn't have the pace to join in.'
Despite his throttle problems Taylor hung on to third ('How, I don't know,' he said) ahead of a fierce three-way battle for fourth spot contested by Alex Dziurzynski, Jamie Perry and Oulton Park hero Tony Gilham.
Gilham's new Golf GTI, which still requires development to find its ultimate pace, just pipped Dziurzynski for fourth at the line, Alex's Corrado hampered by an intermittent late-race misfire. Perry's V6 Golf, which had been in the thick of the fight for most of the race, was a few seconds behind for sixth after losing ground with an ignition glitch on the final lap.
The youngest driver in the race, 21-year-old Jamie Turner, scored a personal-best seventh in his Allard Turner-prepared Golf GTI, in which he was deputising for an unwell Mike Kurton. Martyn Culley, who had toiled long hours to repair his Vento since its misadventures at Oulton Park, could manage no better than eighth, his VR6 engine suffering a mysterious lack of power.
Magazine publisher Graham Johnson placed ninth at the wheel of the promising new Golf GT TSI on what was the Caterham racer's saloon and front-drive racing debut. 'There was a lot to learn but the Golf was great,' said Graham. 'The engine is so powerful that it hauled me out of trouble on several occasions.'
Barrie Culley's Vento placed 10th and Michael McInerney shot from 17th on the grid to an excellent 11th at the chequered flag in the Europcar Golf GTI, just ahead of Steve Chaplin's 'Herbie' Beetle and Peter Wyhinny's Caddy TDI.
Darren Blumson's Beetle was a down-on-power 15th behind Andrew Smith's Golf, with Graham Needham surviving a spin in his R32 to take 16th. Richard Kingsnorth, his Golf TDI having found double its Oulton Park power thanks to Superchips' engineers, was 17th after starting from pit lane and Paul Lloyd-Roach, another with engine woes, took 18th.
First-lap incidents marred an otherwise exciting second race. One was triggered by a spin at Redgate by Turner, whose broadsiding Golf was clouted heavily by Wyhinny's Caddy. Several cars took to the grass in avoidance or were damaged in the melee, including those of McInerney and Johnson.
Just around the bend, in the Craner Curves, there was further drama as pole-sitter Perry lost it and took Wood with him. 'I could see him going,' said Steve, 'and had time to choose which way I'd go around him. I chose wrong.' Both men's Golfs ended their race in the gravel.
All of which left Taylor, his R32's throttle problems cured, out front and pulling away from Gilham's GTI at a rate of knots. Reigning champion Paul guided his Taylor Heating-backed machine to a relatively untroubled first win of the season. 'My season starts here,' he said. 'It was a great race which I badly wanted to win after the problems I'd had earlier and I'm delighted to have done so.'
Gilham again showed strong pace for the Regal Autosport team but could do nothing about catching Taylor; he was 3.8s behind at the chequered flag.
The battle of the race was for third, disputed by Fulbrook and Alex Dziurzynski almost all the way from the green light. They traded places several times and spent many laps locked in side-by-side combat, never once touching, as they fought for the final place on the podium. 'I lost count how many times we swapped places,' said Alex. 'There was nothing between our cars.'
Dziurzynski's Corrado had to give best to Fulbrook's Bora on the run down the Dunlop Straight on the final lap. 'I had no idea I was racing for third,' said Joe, 'and I didn't really care. I was just enjoying the fight - much more fun than winning a lonely race.'
Martyn Culley fared well given his engine woes to take fifth, with Smith claiming one of his best-ever finishes in sixth. Chaplin held off a determined Johnson to claim seventh, while Tony Harberman made up for the disappointments of race one, which ended for him in a gravel trap, with ninth.
Adrian Dziurzynski, a non-starter earlier in the day, survived a spin to take 10th ahead of Needham, Blumson, McInerney and Kingsnorth.
Barrie Culley was another to retire, his Vento getting tangled in Adrian Dziurzynski's spin, while Lloyd-Roach and Doug Ross's Polo were both unable to make the start after first-race mechanical problems.
3 JUNE 2007
TAYLOR & NEW BOY WALKER TRIUMPH AT SNETTERTON
Six different drivers made it to the podium in two crowd-thrilling rounds of the Volkswagen Racing Cup in association with Hankook at Snetterton, throwing the race for the 2007 championship title wide open.
Paul Taylor, reigning champion and a past master of the Norfolk circuit, claimed his second victory of the year on Saturday, while truck racing star Richard Walker made a winning transition to saloons with a win in his first Racing Cup outing today (Sunday). Joe Fulbrook, a three-time winner already this season, had to settle for second and fourth place finishes, but retained his championship lead.
Steve Wood was the star of Saturday's qualifying, snatching pole from Fulbrook with less than five minutes of the session remaining. Having led the time sheets by almost half a second, Fulbrook was already on his way to parc fermi when his rival bested his effort by just 44 thousandths of a second. There were heroic performances, too, from the Golfs of Jamie Perry and Taylor, whose final flying laps earned them third and fourth places on the grid, demoting the Golf GTI of Tony Gilham to fifth.
There was more woe for Gilham as the cars formed up for the start of Saturday's race: arriving late, he was forced to start from the pit lane. Taylor exploited the extra traction of his car's four-wheel drive to take the lead first time into Riches, ahead of Wood, Fulbrook, Perry and Adrian Dziurzynski.
The order at the front remained static for the first five laps, but with Wood and Fulbrook drawing closer to the leader. Fulbrook briefly held second on lap seven, while further back Perry was coming under close attention from the charging Golf GTI of cup debutant Walker, deputising for Mike Kurton.
Coming into the Russell chicane on lap 11, Taylor and Wood could barely be separated, the cars running side-by-side through the middle of the complex. Wood was ahead across the line, but his lead lasted less than one lap. Once again, Taylor had the better of the fight and went on to post his fourth Snetterton victory in five Cup visits to the track.
Wood fell away with bodywork rubbing on a rear tyre and was passed by Fulbrook on lap 13, before coming together with Adrian Dziurzynski at the Bomb Hole on the final tour. Wood held on for third, but Dziurzynski's damaged Golf was overhauled by Walker for fourth. Perry was a lonely sixth, with Gilham's Golf GTI bearing the scars of a hard battle to seventh, the driver coping with a broken suspension arm throughout the race. Steve Chaplin prospered in a tough mid-field melee to bring his "Herbie" liveried Beetle home in eighth, ahead of Michael McInerney, with Alex Dziurzynski rounding off the top 10.
'It was a great but hard race and half way through I doubted whether I would be able to hold Steve off,' said Taylor. 'Mine was not the fastest car out there, and Steve really rose to the challenge, but I was probably the hardest to pass. The car was well suited to the circuit, but in the pit lane after the race the clutch exploded, which means a gearbox change before we start again tomorrow.'
Fulbrook commented: 'Any of us in the top three could have won today. I sat back thinking that Paul and Steve would slow each other down with their dice, giving me the chance to come through and do the double on them, but I just couldn't do it. But my car was superb and handling brilliantly, so I've big hopes for the next round.'
Saturday's results delivered pole position to Perry for round six, Jamie lining up alongside Adrian Dziurzynski. But Taylor again made a blinding start, moving from sixth on the grid to lead the field out of Sear corner. He was not to have it his own way, however, as Dziurzynski and Wood were through on lap two, before making contact in the chicane. Taylor was once more in front, with Wood holding second. Dziurzynski's damaged Golf was destined for a steady slide down the order.
Wood made it to the front at the Esses on lap six, but his lead lasted but one lap, Walker besting him by just four thousandths of a second the next time through. A titanic battle looked in store as Wood regained the initiative on lap eight, only to be sidelined from the action by a broken gear linkage.
Taylor looked strong for a podium finish until his car stuck in third gear with two laps to run, leaving Gilham to gain a well-earned second from a fraught weekend, ahead of Perry and Fulbrook. Martin Culley's fifth was a fine reward after a series of technical problems that prompted a change to his father's Barrie's Vento VR6 and a start from the back of the grid. Alex Dziurzynski prevailed in a prolonged dice for sixth with the Caddy TDI of Peter Wyhinny, with Taylor, Andrew Smith and Darren Blumson completing the top 10.
A delighted Richard Walker said: 'The car was just brilliant. I've actually never raced a front-wheel-drive car before, but my road car is a Golf and I'm a huge fan. When I saw that Steve had broken down, I realised that the win could be mine and it just went perfectly.'
Second-placed Gilham said: 'It was good to come away with this result after Saturday's problems, but it could so easily have been a disaster. Twice the car went into limp-home mode on the back straight early in the race, and I had to bump-start it to get full power back.'
Perry said: 'We went for new tyres as we knew they would come good later in the race and it worked just brilliantly. On the last two or three laps I was even able to get some four-wheel drift and reel in the heavier boys.'
15 JULY 2007
BRANDS WINS FOR WALKER & PERRY
The two drama-filled Brands Hatch rounds of the Volkswagen Racing Cup in association with Hankook provided not only crowd-pleasing thrills but also some superb race action and a new championship leader.
Richard Walker collected his second win of the season at the wheel of his Golf GTI, with Jamie Perry taking the honours in the second race to step on to the podium's top step for the first time. Tony Gilham meanwhile collected a major points haul to move ahead of Joe Fulbrook for the championship lead.
Saturday's Brands race may have been the shortest in the championship's history but it was also one of the most exciting and action-packed, with the top four separated by less than a second at the finish line.
The scheduled 20-minute race length had to be shortened after a first-corner accident wiped out six cars and caused a lengthy stoppage while the debris was cleared. The incident was triggered when the fast-starting Golf of Adrian Dziurzynski tried to overtake pole-sitter Gilham's GTI around the outside of the notorious Paddock Hill Bend and spun broadside across the pack.
Car upon car cannoned into the melee, several spinning off into the gravel trap and instant retirement. Among the unlucky were erstwhile championship leader Joe Fulbrook, reigning champion Paul Taylor, Paul Lloyd-Roach, Darren Blumson and Martyn Culley. Gilham and Dziurzynski were able to continue with light damage. The only injury was to Culley, who strained his shoulder in the impact.
Auto Express journalist Owen Mildenhall also came a cropper in the Golf GT TSI - a bitter disappointment after he had recorded the car's best-ever qualifying position, seventh. 'It was carnage,' said Owen. 'I came around the corner to find a wall of cars in front of me. There was no time to brake.'
With the clock ticking away towards the Brands Hatch evening noise curfew the survivors were given a mere three laps in which to dispute victory, setting the scene for a battle royal. Snetterton victor Walker made the most of the opportunity, his Golf GTI bolting away from second on the grid to lead into Paddock, hotly pursued by the V6 Golf of Perry, Gilham and Steve Wood's GTI.
The leading quartet lapped the Grand Prix track bumper to bumper, Walker vigorously defending his slender lead from a determined Perry. 'I knew it was a short race, so I defended harder than I might have otherwise,' said Richard.
His resolution paid off, the Nottinghamshire veteran and his City Plumbing Supplies-backed Golf crossing the line a whisker ahead to record his and the Allard Turner Motor Racing team's second consecutive victory. 'It's just as well it was a short race,' added Walker, 'because mine was not the fastest car out there. I'm very pleased: a win's a win'
It was not however Perry who shadowed Walker at the chequered flag: he had been bumped back to fourth on the final lap by Gilham and Wood, Steve following Tony through when Jamie left the door ajar. 'Had I realised it was the last lap I would have defended harder,' conceded Perry. Eight-tenths of a second covered the top four at the line.
Steve Chaplin and Alex Dziurzynski held fifth and sixth throughout the race, with Michael McInerney's Europcar Golf relieving Andrew Smith's Golf VR6 of seventh at mid-distance. The Golfs of John Quartermaine and Adrian Dziurzynski rounded out the top 10, with Paul Wyhinny's Beetle 11th and Graham Needham's R32 Golf coming home 12th.
Sunday's sprint provided three times the race distance and plenty more thrills as the Golfs of Walker, Gilham, Perry and Wood once again made all the running.
It was Chaplin's 'Herbie'-liveried Beetle which made the initial running, slotting ahead of the field from its front row start slot as the pole-sitting Corrado of Alex Dziurzynski failed to capitalise on its advantage.
Herbie's tenure of the lead lasted only three corners - Perry's Golf then moved ahead to take up the running. By lap's end Chaplin had slipped to third as Wood moved up to second and set about harrying Perry for the lead.
But Jamie was not to be denied, pulling a couple of seconds clear of his pursuer following the completion of a two-lap safety car interlude necessary for the removal of a stranded car. Perry's Keith Garages-backed Golf crossed the line 2.4s clear to record a popular debut win.
'The car was awesome this weekend,' said Jamie. 'It was a hard job keeping Steve at bay at first and my tyres were past their best towards the end but it was still enough. All credit to the Force 10 Motorsport team who have developed this car into a race winner.'
Wood held on to second all the way to the final lap, but the Gloucester man was struggling against incorrect tyre pressures and gear selection problems. 'I couldn't keep Richard and Tony behind me any longer,' said Steve. Wood then tangled with the Golf of Adrian Dziurzynski, the latter spinning off while Wood continued on to fourth.
Walker was delighted with his second place: 'A first and a second is a lot more than I expected from this weekend,' said former truck racer Richard. 'I'm more used to driving a five-and-a-half tonner around here, so it's a great result.'
Gilham, who was suffering a lack of turbo boost, was similarly pleased with his podium double. 'Under the circumstances it's been a good weekend overall,' said the new championship leader.
Fulbrook made up for his Saturday disappointment with fifth ahead of McInerney, Taylor, Alex Dziurzynski, Needham and Smith, with Mildenhall at last getting a proper race in the Golf GT TSI and bringing it home 11th. 'I'm pleased to have finished,' said Owen, 'but frustrated that it wasn't a longer race and that I couldn't have made more progress up the order.'
13 AUGUST 2007
DOUBLE TOP FOR GILHAM AT SILVERSTONE
Championship leader Tony Gilham claimed his first wins of the Volkswagen Racing Cup season, taking the honours in both of the exciting Silverstone races at the wheel of his Golf GTI. The Kent-based driver became the fifth different winner in the Hankook-backed championship.
Early-season leader Joe Fulbrook scored well at Silverstone also, as did Steve Wood, to set the scene for a gripping three-way shoot-out for the championship crown at Rockingham next month.
The first Silverstone race provided a breathtaking race-long three-car duel between Gilham, Richard Walker's Golf GTI and the always entertaining Vento VR6 of Martyn Culley.
But at the start it was reigning champion Paul Taylor who was the man on the move, the Hertfordshire driver lighting up his four-wheel-drive Golf R32 to charge from fifth on the grid, between the front row cars of Fulbrook and Culley, to snatch the lead on the run down to the first corner, Copse.
If anything it was too good a start: Taylor arrived at Copse travelling much too quickly to make the corner and slid off the track, losing valuable moments as he tried to keep the Golf pointing in the right direction.
Wood profited from the confusion caused by Taylor's mistake. 'I made a blinding start,' said the Gloucestershire Golf GTI pilot, 'and went round Copse well ahead.' Alas second time around Wood got Copse all wrong and slid wide, slipping to fourth behind the cars which were to dispute victory for the duration.
Gilham, Walker and Culley circulated nose to tail for seven laps until Culley managed to sneak past Walker for second and, as Richard fought back, Gilham seized his chance to pull out a breathing space. Within three laps Tony was three seconds clear and easing towards his first win of the year in his Regal Autosport/GIAC-prepared machine. 'I'm happy with that,' said Gilham. 'I was under big pressure from Richard and Martyn but then as they started to fight I was able to creep away a bit.'
Nottingham-based Walker started to suffer an intermittent misfire on the straights which dashed his hopes of regaining second from Culley. 'I got hung out to dry at the start,' said Martyn, 'and found myself back in fifth. From then on it was a case of getting my head down and going for it.'
Walker held on for third to make a return to the Silverstone podium, which he last visited in the 1980s as winner of the British Truck Grand Prix.
Pole-sitter Fulbrook was another to lose ground in the first corner melee, slipping back to seventh and out of touch with the leading runners. The Berkshire driver battled over fourth place with Wood and Jamie Perry's V6 Golf, but had to settle for fifth at the chequered flag. Perry's progress was hampered by power steering failure.
Taylor recovered from his first-corner spin but struggled to keep pace with the others and could manage no better than seventh, ahead of Peter's Wyhinny's Caddy TDI, Steve Chaplin's 'Herbie' Beetle and Alex Dziurzynski's Corrado.
Motoring journalist Jason Barlow enjoyed his first outing in the new Golf Sport with its 1.4-litre TSI turbo and supercharged power unit; Jason placed 14th.
Among the disappointed non-finishers were the Beetles of Paul Lloyd-Roach and Steve Dorrell, which made contact after PLR's engine cut out, Graham Needham, who went off in his Golf R32 DSG through a puncture, and Michael McInerney, whose Europcar Golf suffered a broken engine mount.
His opening race victory meant a third-row grid slot for race two, but that did not deter Gilham, who charged on to pole position man and early leader Perry's tail on the opening lap. Tony then got ahead of Jamie - still without power steering in his V6 Golf - at Abbey on lap two to take the lead.
Walker was not going to let Gilham run away with things, however. He got past his ATMR team-mate Wood on the second lap and then liberated second spot from Perry next time around and, within three laps, was right on the leader's tail.
The fight to the chequered flag was enthralling, wily Walker nosing ahead out of Luffield on the eighth lap, only to be repulsed, and then attacking again on the run down to Bridge on the final lap. 'I tried to dive inside him,' said Richard, 'and maybe I braked a bit too late.' There was contact and Walker's progress was impeded slightly, Gilham going on to cross the line three seconds clear. 'It was a very exciting race,' added Walker. 'I think mine was the quicker car but Tony drove an excellent defensive race.'
Gilham was more than pleased with his day's work: 'We've been working towards a win all season. It's been a long time coming but it's all the sweeter for that.'
Fulbrook went off track on the opening lap in avoidance of the enthusiastic Wood in the Complex on lap one, which saw the Bora man slip to fifth, just ahead of Culley. Joe and Martyn battled for several laps before reeling in Wood to make it a three-way battle for third.
Gearbox problems started to hamper Culley's progress and only Fulbrook was able to find a way past. Wood hung on to fourth, with Culley losing fifth to Perry two laps from the end.
Taylor endured a lonely run to seventh, with Peter Wyhinny claiming eighth in the Caddy, just ahead of Darren Blumson, who was enjoying his best outing in the Sidlow Beetle since Oulton Park in April. Martyn Culley's dad, Barrie, brought his Vento home 10th ahead of Needham's R32 and Dorrell's Beetle. Barlow recovered from an early spin to claim 15th at the line.
There was cruel luck for Dziurzynski, whose gearbox failed within sight of the flag to rob him of a certain ninth place, and also for Lloyd-Roach, the misfire which had plagued his Beetle returning to stop him on the last lap.
With only the two Rockingham races remaining, Gilham now enjoys an on-paper lead of 28 points over Fulbrook. But having scored in every round Tony faces having to drop his worst single score (30) from his total as drivers may count only their best 11 scores from the 12 races. Fulbrook and Wood have each failed to finish one race and won't have to discard.
29 SEPTEMBER 2007
GILHAM CLAIMS RACING CUP TITLE AT ROCKINGHAM
Tony Gilham is the 2007 Volkswagen Racing Cup Champion. The 27-year-old from Swanley, Kent, put the crown beyond the mathematical reach of any of his rivals at Rockingham in the penultimate round of the 12-race series.
Gilham clinched the Hankook-backed championship despite a down-on-power Golf GTI with which he could achieve no better than fifth place at the Northamptonshire Motor Speedway. But after the early demise with mechanical problems of his closest points challenger, Joe Fulbrook, fifth was more than enough to do the job.
'I'm delighted of course,' said Tony, 'but it's a shame for Joe and for me that it ended like this - I was looking forward to a good battle with him. He was unlucky and I was very lucky, because my turbo had gone and I couldn't keep pace with the frontrunners. I'm sure Joe would have gone past me too.'
Nonetheless Gilham's Regal Autosport / GIAC Golf GTI made the finish to maintain his perfect finishing record - he is the only driver in the field to have scored in all races. 'We have scored in every race, and that's what wins championships,' added Tony. 'We've had bad luck along the way, like starting three races from the pit lane, but the Golf has been consistently quick and reliable.' The highlights of Gilham's season were his twin wins at Silverstone in August.
Fittingly it was 2006 champion Paul Taylor who took today's race win at Rockingham, the Hertfordshire driver taking the lead on an eventful opening lap after the 3.2-litre Beetle of pole position man Darren Blumson and the V6 Golf of Jamie Perry made contact at the Deene hairpin. Taylor was delayed by the fracas, which allowed Martyn Culley's Vento VR6 to nip through for the lead.
But Culley came a cropper three corners later, ploughing off into the gravel at Gracelands and rolling three times. 'I think something went at the rear of the car,' said an uninjured Martyn, 'and the next thing I knew I was into the gravel and over.'
Thus Taylor's Golf R32 inherited a lead it was not to lose despite early pressure from the 'Herbie'-liveried Beetle of Steve Chaplin. Later on the Gloucestershire driver held off his county neighbour and Allard Turner Motor Racing team-mate Steve Wood's Golf GTI to secure second place, his maiden podium finish. Both Taylor and Chaplin were playing their points-doubling 'Joker' cards.
It was Taylor's third race win of the year: 'It's been an up and down season,' he said, 'and it's great to have cured our problems and end it on a high note. It bodes well for next year for us.'
Wood's third was his sixth podium finish of the year and a boost in his bid to wrest championship second from Fulbrook - a battle which will go down to the wire in Rockingham's final round tomorrow.
Alex Dziurzynski's Corrado battled past Gilham early on to secure fourth, with new champion Gilham just managing to keep ahead of sixth-placed Richard Walker's Golf - another car damaged in the opening lap dramas.
Andrew Smith's Golf VR6 claimed seventh ahead of Michael McInerney's Europcar Golf GTI and Paul's Wyhinny's Beetle, with Perry recovering to 10th spot. Barrie Culley's Vento and Richard Aucock's Golf TSI rounded out the top 12.
30 SEPTEMBER 2007
WALKER SNATCHES THE FINAL RACING CUP WIN
With the Volkswagen Racing Cup title decided in Tony Gilham's favour, Rockingham's final round provided a superbly exciting and fitting finale to what has proved a remarkably open and competitive season.
Alas for Gilham he did not get the opportunity to celebrate his championship win with a race victory, instead the appreciative Northamptonshire crowd were treated to a tooth-and-nail fight between the Golfs of Richard Walker and Paul Taylor, former truck racer Walker using all his guile to pip his rival to the chequered flag.
Walker's GTI started from the pole but it was the four-wheel-drive R32 of Taylor which romped into the lead at the lights from the third row of the grid. Walker was relentless in his pursuit, the Nottinghamshire man breaking the circuit lap record in his Allard Turner Motor Racing-prepared machine as he chased.
With Taylor's tyres fading towards the end, Walker seized his opportunity on the penultimate lap on the approach to the Tarzan hairpin, slicing up the inside to take the lead and go on to a one-second victory. It was Walker's third race win of the year. 'We had a bad day yesterday,' said Richard, 'and this more than makes up for it. It wasn't straightforward - I had braking problems mid-race and I thought it was all over - but I made a charge and luckily it paid off. I'm very happy.'
Taylor, the 2006 champion and Saturday's Rockingham victor, was fulsome in his praise for Walker: 'Richard drove very well, a superb race. My tyres were going off and he had the measure of me.'
Darren Blumson scooped third place, the Reigate racer trying out his new 3.2-litre Beetle for size in preparation for a full assault on the Racing Cup title in 2008. Its performance from 13th on the grid bodes well for him.
Alex Dziurzynski and his Corrado got the better of a muscular battle with Steve Wood's Golf GTI for fourth, Wood happy enough with fifth place, which was enough to secure him championship runner-up spot at the expense of Bora driver Joe Fulbrook, whose hopes were dashed by an eighth-lap collision with a tyre wall.
Steve Chaplin's 'Herbie' Beetle headed home Gilham to take sixth, Tony's Regal Autosport Golf still suffering from the turbocharger problems which had beset it on Saturday. Jamie Perry faded from a safe-looking fourth almost within sight of the flag, his Golf V6 suffering an intermittent electrical or fuel problem; he placed eighth.
Paul Lloyd-Roach snatched a good last-race result from what has proved a trying season by finishing ninth in his Beetle, ahead of the Caddy TDI of Peter Wyhinny, the Golf TSI in the hands of Richard Aucock, Doug Ross's Polo and Barrie Culley's Vento VR6.
Joining Fulbrook on the sidelines were Andrew Smith, whose Golf's power steering packed up, Michael McInerney's Golf with a burnt clutch, Adrian Dziurzynski's Golf and the Beetle of Paul Wyhinny, which was punted into a tyre wall on the opening lap.
Despite his Rockingham woes, Kent-based Gilham ends the season a worthy champion with two wins under his belt and a 42-point advantage over his closest rival, Wood. Fulbrook, who like Walker won three times, takes third overall.