Donington: GruppeM Racing race report

Record-breaking FIA debut for GruppeM Racing Regular British GT contenders GruppeM Racing made an impressive international debut yesterday (Sunday June 27th) at Donington Park in Round 6 of the FIA GT Championship. The team's podium finish was...

Record-breaking FIA debut for GruppeM Racing

Regular British GT contenders GruppeM Racing made an impressive international debut yesterday (Sunday June 27th) at Donington Park in Round 6 of the FIA GT Championship. The team's podium finish was not only a remarkable achievement in itself, but also established a number of records for seventeen-year-old Jonathan Cocker, who currently leads the British GT Championship with co-driver Tim Sugden.

His age, combined with claiming third at the chequered flag, firmly established Cocker's name in the record books. Simply by taking part he became the youngest driver yet to compete in the FIA GT Championship, but he then secured that hold on posterity by underlining his presence with a podium. "It's fantastic!" he said, evidently a little bewildered by all the attention. "I'm so pleased. There's nothing more I could ask for." Team owner at GruppeM Racing, Kenny Chen, was equally ecstatic. "Jonny is the youngest driver ever in the FIA GT Championship, and certainly the youngest on the podium, and in his first FIA GT race as well. That's something to be very proud of."

Aside from Cocker's personal achievement, the significance of the team's performance as a whole should not be overlooked. "I feel rewarded," admitted Kenny Chen. "All the effort now seems worthwhile. The team has worked so hard to achieve this, yet nobody believed we could do it! They said top five or six, perhaps, would be doing well, yet we finished our first FIA GT race on the podium." Together with a number of other entrants, GruppeM Racing had been encouraged to take part by the SRO in order to highlight the quality of the British domestic championship. "It was felt that we had the potential to fight at international level," explained Mr. Chen. "Not only could we demonstrate that a new team can still come here and run well against the top factory teams, but it also shows that the British GT teams are almost as strong as many of the international teams."

With Tim Sugden in America fulfilling ALMS duties, his place alongside Cocker at Donington Park was taken by Tim Mullen. Although no stranger to success in the FIA GT Championship, having scored several podiums in the NGT category last season with Veloqx Motorsport, Mullen had never previously driven a Porsche. He adapted quickly, however, and his experience proved invaluable as the team worked towards adapting the car's set-up from 'British GT at Castle Combe' to 'FIA GT at Donington'. "The guys are still learning the car," explained Mullen, "but they're developing it all the time, and to have ended up on an FIA podium at the first attempt is pretty impressive."

In the three-hour race Mullen took the rolling start and, from fifth in class on the grid, worked his way up to third in NGT by the end of the opening stint. Cocker then completed a faultless middle period, maintaining his hold on third and extending the car's advantage over fellow BGT competitor, Nathan Kinch, in fourth. With exactly two hours completed, the youngster handed the Porsche back to Mullen, who enjoyed a trouble-free run to the end. "I'm very happy now," smiled Kenny Chen. "We've shown what we can do, and this has been the best possible rehearsal for Spa." The same squad of drivers, including Tim Sugden, will be reunited next month for GruppeM's participation in the Spa 24 Hours. "I'm really looking forward to Spa now," said Cocker. "It'll be a bit like this race, I guess, but then a whole lot more!"

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Tim Sugden , Nathan Kinch , Tim Mullen , Jonathan Cocker