Fulbrook, the 2008 and 2009 Racing Cup Champion, dominated qualifying with a pole position time almost half a second clear of closest rival Walker in his Golf Mk V GTI.
Round one was very much a lights-to-flag victory for Maidenhead driver Joe, albeit under sustained pressure from the chasing pack of Walker, reigning champion Steve Chaplin in his Beetle RSI and the Golf of Peter Felix.
The first race of the new season delivered some superbly close action at the front but nobody had an answer for Fulbrook. That said, his win was by no means easy, with just half a second the margin to James Walker at the checkered flag.
Fulbrook held the inside line for Old Hall to repel the fast-starting Walker while behind the front-row duo Chaplin maintained third ahead of Felix, championship returnee Steve Wood and Kieran Griffin.
Wood managed to get ahead of Felix at the hairpin but at Old Hall on lap two the Derby racer hit back. Running wide on the exit, he looked set to lose out to Wood again but into Cascades Felix had the line covered.
Griffin capitalized on the battle ahead to get his own good run to Island Bend and when the cars re-emerged Wood had been barreled back to seventh with Griffin up to fifth and Richard Walker sixth – Walker Sr. having scythed his way through from 13th on the grid.
He then passed Griffin for fifth at Old Hall on lap three to make the possibility of a sensational podium finish very realistic indeed. Back at the front, Fulbrook continued to stay ahead of the younger Walker, with Chaplin in third only a second adrift of the lead.
The gap between the top five widened and then closed up again on multiple occasions, but each time the order remained static. Then, on lap 10, Richard Walker looked to have made a breakthrough at the chicane but Felix held firm. He tried his hand again at the chicane on the 11th and final lap, but the lateness of his braking resulted only in a lock-up and an excursion down the slip road. Felix held on untroubled in fourth, finishing six-tenths shy of the podium.
“To be fair, I think James was quicker into Cascades than me which made things quite tricky,” commented race-winner Fulbrook. “We all had the pace up there at the front, it certainly wasn’t easy but it was quite enjoyable.”
Walker Jr. added: “I couldn’t really attack Joe like I wanted to but it’s great to be on the podium in the first race.”
Griffin finished the race sixth, just ahead of Wood, with Mike Kurton steering his Scirocco to eighth, the SEAT Cupra R of Jamie Corstophine taking ninth and Tim Snaylam’s Golf rounding out the top 10.
There were strong showings for championship newcomers Thomas Wilson, who placed 12th in his Golf; Richard Morgan, another Golf man, in 16th; Mark Howard – who had been due to debut the new Mk VI Golf GTI, but who raced a Jetta instead, to 19th; and Beetle driver Cameron Thompson, 20th.
1 – Joe Fulbrook – Maidenhead – Bora 1.8T – 21m 26.307s / 82.87mph
2 – James Walker – Normanton – Golf Mk5 GTI +0.525s
3 – Steve Chaplin – Maisemore – Beetle 3.2 RSI +1.173s
4 – Peter Felix – Derby – Golf Mk5 GTI +2.284s
5 – Richard Walker – Tuxford – Golf Mk5 GTI +3.942s
6 – Kieran Griffin – Essendon – Scirocco 2.0 R +12.106s
7 – Steve Wood – Ashleworth – Golf Mk5 GTi +12.282s
8 – Mike Kurton – Corse Lawn – Scirocco 2.0 R +28.281s
9 – Jamie Corstophine – Teddington – SEAT 2.0 Cupra R +30.130s
10 – Tim Snaylam – Bolton – Golf Mk5 GTi +38.142s
Fastest lap: Richard Walker 1m 55.169s / 84.14mph Record