2002 Michelin Porsche Cup Round 2, Oulton Park, April 20th/21st Consistent Rice leads title race. Nigel Rice, runner-up in the 2001 Michelin Porsche Cup, took the lead in this year's championship after becoming the only driver to finish on the...
2002 Michelin Porsche Cup
Round 2, Oulton Park, April 20th/21st
Consistent Rice leads title race.
Nigel Rice, runner-up in the 2001 Michelin Porsche Cup, took the lead in this year's championship after becoming the only driver to finish on the podium in every race. In round two at Oulton Park last weekend Rice claimed third in the Saturday Sprint race and then a comfortable second in Sunday's Feature event. Although the outright win still eludes him, consistent results and a rare knack for avoiding trouble has ensured that the Parr Motorsport driver now leads the points table from two-times race winner Mark Sumpter. "Four races, four podiums and no bumps," said Rice afterwards with a broad smile. "Mine's probably the only car out there without a scratch!"
Carl Breeze in run of bad luck.
The first four races have indeed seen an extraordinary level of contact, with a third of the field regularly failing to last the distance. The two Oulton Park events were no exception, with Carl Breeze unlucky enough to miss the flag on both occasions. "I've just been dogged by the most cruel bad luck," said the 2001 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award finalist. Breeze is one of the five runners-up in last year's Award invited to take a turn in the #5 Parr Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 this season.
The car, backed by Porsche Cars GB and leading magazine Autosport, was certainly plagued by ill fortune all weekend, with gearbox problems denying Breeze a good qualifying opportunity. In the first race he made a brilliant start and moved up from sixteenth to eighth inside two laps. This set him running just behind team-mate Mark Hazell, but when Adrian Slater was tipped into a spin at Cascades Hazell backed off suddenly. The two cars made heavy contact and Breeze's Porsche rapidly became engulfed in steam as his forward radiator took the impact. He pulled off moments later. Next day, in the Feature event, he was closing on Graham Hellier's car (again at Cascades) when the latter's engine erupted, spewing oil across Carl's windscreen and sending him spinning off across the grass. Although able to continue for a time his car sustained suspension damage and he retired just before the end.
Parr's third driver, Mark Hazell, can take heart from the progress he made over the weekend, despite failing to take the chequered flag in the 18-lap Feature. After a lay-off lasting several years this is a high-level return for Hazell, and he has rediscovered his latent skills remarkably quickly. He relaxed too soon in qualifying, however, and after lying seventh for most of the session was pipped for three places in the dying minutes. Starting tenth, he finished sixth in the Sprint race, but was on a real charge in difficult conditions in the Feature before a passing attempt for third ended in disaster at the Knickerbrook chicane. Throughout all this Nigel Rice continued in serene isolation, having got away from the pack early in the race to enjoy an untroubled run in second place from mid-way through the first lap to the flag. "To lead the championship is something we're very pleased about," admitted Paul Robe, Parr's team manager, "but to do so without any damage at all is amazing!" His success on Sunday followed on from a battling third in the previous day's 12-lap Sprint, when the outcome remained in doubt all the way to the close. With any one of the top three still in with a shout, Rice was still fighting hard as the trio crossed the line just half a second apart.
The Michelin Porsche Cup returns at Thruxton in two weeks' time.