Richard Plant secured a points paying position in race two of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Brands Hatch, ending of a largely unfortunate weekend for the 21-year-old on a positive note.
Troway-based Plant had previously enjoyed the best weekend of his career at Brands Hatch after taking three pole positions and three race victories on his way to winning the Formula Palmer Audi title in 2009, but luck deserted him during the penultimate round of the Carrera Cup season.
His misfortune began as early as Friday where he initially ran quickest overall on used tyres during testing. A red flag halted his run on new rubber and he was then held up by a backmarker during his quickest laps in qualifying on Saturday. The end result was only ninth and tenth places on the grid for the two races.
The Multiplex-backed racer then looked set to claim a top five finish after a fantastic display in race one, until a late race puncture sent him tumbling down the order.
Plant, one of only three drivers to score points in every race this season, shot past Kieran Vernon as the lights went out to start the first contest. Plant’s team-mate Sam Tordoff then went defensive into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time and the scene was set for an early scrap for seventh place in the 17-lap race.
Plant continued to pressure Tordoff and when fourth placed Jonas Gelzinis ran wide at Surtees around the mid-distance stage of the contest, Plant took his opportunity. Tordoff checked up behind the returning Gelzinis at the exit of Surtees and Plant blasted by both of them on the run up to Hawthorn Bend. Sixth place then became fifth when Rockingham double race winner Euan Hankey went off, ending his race in the gravel at Druids.
By this point Plant was all over the back of SAS/Redline Racing’s championship contender Michael Meadows. It was an intriguing battle of different styles, skills and set-ups between the two talented drivers, but drama struck just as it looked to be building into a fascinating finale.
As Plant ran through Paddock Hill Bend with two laps to go, the top rookie slowed and it immediately became clear he had picked up a puncture. Plant fell down the order as he crawled back to the pits for a new tyre and he eventually returned to the action to claim 16th place at the finish. It was a cruel blow for Plant after another eye-catching display in his maiden Carrera Cup season.
Keen to forget his weekend so far, Plant got his head down from tenth on the grid in race two. He became embroiled in a three-way battle for eighth place in the early running with fellow young chargers Ben Hetherington and Kieran Vernon, and when leader Nick Tandy pulled off with a mechanical problem it became a scrap for seventh.
Plant’s championship rival Gelzinis was next to endure mechanical issues with his car, and when the Lithuanian driver pulled over at the exit of Graham Hill Bend, Plant seemed content with eighth place. The GWPrice-backed driver suffered with a lack of grip towards the end of the race and with concerns over his puncture from yesterday, he decided to bring the car home in a solid points paying position.
Stephen Jelley won the race, setting up a fascinating three-way battle for the championship at the season finale at Silverstone in two weeks time.
The SAS/Redline duo of Michael Meadows and James Sutton are the other drivers in the championship hunt, whilst Plant’s target is clear - consolidating fifth place in the standings and earn bragging rights as the 2011 Carrera Cup top rookie.
Richard Plant said: “It was just one of those weekends to forget I suppose. It was all looking quite good early on Friday but then things went against us in qualifying. I managed to put that out of my mind to produce one of my best drives in race one, only for the result to be taken away from us with a puncture. It can knock your confidence a little so I was keen to bring home some points on Sunday, which thankfully we did. It’s all set up for an exciting final weekend at Silverstone.”
The final two races of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB series take place on the October 14/15 at Silverstone.