Tony Gilham, the 2007 Volkswagen Racing Cup Champion, proved that he’s lost none of his old race-winning skills by claiming victory in Saturday’s round, nipping points leader James Walker to the win by less than a second after seven hard-fought laps around Spa.
Just as close and tense as Friday’s race, the Spa finale saw three different men out in front and multiple changes of the lead.
Stewart Lines led the way initially in his KPM-prepared Golf, the Sutton Coldfield man out-dragging pole-sitter Peter Wyhinny’s SEAT Leon off the line to lead into La Source. Wyhinny clung to Lines’s tailgate on the opening lap but was demoted to fourth on lap two by both Walker and Gilham, who started P4 and P5 respectively.
Walker and Gilham saw to Lines on lap three to establish a 1–2, with BTCC man Tony making full use of the awesome Eau Rouge to pass his rival for the lead next time around. James battled back to the front only to be passed once more by Gilham, again through Eau Rouge. Tony, who was playing his points-doubling Joker card, was 0.878s clear of his rival at the flag.
“A fabulous race,” said Walker. “Great first couple of laps with everyone really battling hard. Then I managed to get away, got Stewart, who drove awesomely, and then Tony ended up coming through – I knew he would do. He’s got great pace, and I didn’t want to race him too hard because I’m thinking of the championship. He got me at Eau Rouge twice, which was a bit exciting. All in all, it’s been a great weekend.”
Added Gilham: “I felt I could possibly have got the win in race one but for being held up a bit, so I wanted to finish the second race on a high. It’s good to get the win and good to be back in the championship. It was a tough race. There’s room for two through Eau Rouge, so long as you are both committed and both sensible. We got through there twice side-by-side, and that’s quite an achievement in itself.”
Lines was in close attendance to collect his maiden Volkswagen Racing Cup podium finish. “I’m delighted,” said Stewart. “I’ve had such a bad year up to now. I let James and Tony through but hung on to them and, to be fair, I learned a lot from watching them.”
Stewart was joined in the closing laps by race one winner Mike Neuhoff, who started from P6. “I got caught up behind the battle for fourth between Peter Wyhinny and Tom Wilson for too long,” said Golf man Mike. “By the time I had made it past them the top three were too far up the road. Another couple of laps and it might have been a different story.”
Wilson’s Golf GTI battled past Wyhinny’s SEAT Leon for fifth on the third of the seven laps, the Wiltshireman collecting his sixth top-five result of the eight-race season, with Wyhinny in close attendance for another top-six finish.
Seventh looked to be going in the direction of Golf GTI man Simon Andrews after the Hampshire-based disabled driver got the better of a long fight with the similar car of Richard Morgan. Alas, fuel starvation struck Simon on the final lap: “It was fine going down the hills, but going up them it started to splutter.” His seventh became ninth as Morgan and Rob Daniels in the Addison Lee Scirocco took advantage.
Golf drivers Mark Howard and Philip Morris were next up, the latter savoring every moment of his maiden Spa races and profiting too, doubling his points by playing his Joker card.
Jonathan Wilson scored his best result of the year with 12th in the Complete Racing Scirocco, ahead of Simon Tomlinson’s Golf. David Fairbrother was 14th after a pit stop, ahead of a limping Joe Fulbrook, whose Bora’s mechanical woes reappeared after race one; former champion Joe had been on for a good finish, too, having charged from the back to seventh on the opening lap.
Race two capped a weekend to forget for Aaron Mason, the Yorkshireman succumbing to engine failure on the opening lap. He was joined in retirement by several, notably Gilham Racing men Andy Wilmot (power steering failure), Nikhil Chopra (driveshaft) and Richard Kingsnorth (lap one spin). Wilmot had been on for a top 10 finish and Chopra was 13th going into the final lap. Tony Harberman’s strong Spa run was ended after three laps with gearbox problems.
The APR Volkswagen Racing Cup enjoys additional support from Ceva, ECM, Eibach, Hankook, Milltek Sport and Paragon. After a brief summer break the championship resumes at Snetterton in Norfolk on 5 August.
APR Volkswagen Racing Cup
Spa-Francorchamps Round 8
- Tony Gilham – Gilham Racing Golf GTI – 20m 09.071s / 90.71mph
- James Walker – KPM Scirocco R +0.878s
- Stewart Lines – KPM Golf GTI +1.996s
- Mike Neuhoff – KPM Golf GTI +2.807s
- Tom Wilson – Complete Racing Golf GTI +14.713s
- Peter Wyhinny – KPM SEAT Leon +16.081s
- Richard Morgan – Golf GTI +28.079s
- Rob Daniels – Scirocco R +30.593s
- Simon Andrews – Golf GTI +30.677s
- Mark Howard – SlideSports Golf GTI +38.614s
- APR Volkswagen Racing Cup