ProAm2 Champion 2015
Porsche Carrera Cup GB
For John McCullagh, the phrase ‘life begins at fifty’ definitely rings true.
A successful rally driver in his younger days at the peak of the popularity of the sport, John competed from 1986 to 1991, contesting the British Open Rally Championship and finishing second in the title race.
After taking a motorsport sabbatical of almost 20 years to develop a successful career in business, John returned to competitive sport in 2011, competing in the Porsche GB Club Motor Racing Championship.
At the age of 50 John was crowned Porsche Club of Great Britain Racing Champion, prompting the decision the following year to move up into the fiercely competitive Porsche Carrera Cup GB.
John certainly made his mark in the competition. After leading the class throughout the season, he went on to win the 2015 ProAm2 Championship at the final session at Brands Hatch.
Born and bred on Teesside, John McCullagh’s first steps into motorsport were in rallying. He joined Normanby Motor Club to marshal on events, before competing on a number of road rallies and then making his stage rally debut in an Escort RS2000 at RAF Lindholme in Lincolnshire in 1984. Co-driven by Mike Corner, John also did a few events in a Triumph TR7, before his big break came in the Vauxhall Nova Challenge in 1985, where he finished fourth.
The next two seasons were mainly spent rallying a Group A Nova, contesting rounds of the British Rally Championship in the same car and class as Colin McRae. Towards the end of 1987 he contested the Cork 20 International Rally in a MG Maestro EFI (co-driven by Tony Pond’s navigator, Rob Arthur) – missing out on a class win after hitting a rock and losing time with a puncture. Later the same year, John made his FIA World Rally Championship in the Austin Rover prize drive, but retired from the 1987 Lombard RAC Rally after breaking a hub in Hafren forest.
A switch to Group N machinery followed, firstly a Mazda 323 4WD – in which he contested Rallye Deutschland (ERC) and the famous 1000 Lakes Rally (WRC) in Finland in 1988, while 1989 was spent contesting selected British National rallies in an Escort RS and Escort G3. The highlight of the year was finishing 25th overall, 5th PWRC and 2nd in class N3 on the RAC Rally – with only a puncture costing him class victory in a Vauxhall Astra GTE.
That success brought him to the attention of Daihatsu who offered John a works drive in a Charade GTti for the 1990 BRC season and the RAC Rally. After a year the Japanese firm withdrew from motorsport, so in 1991, at the age of 27, John found himself ‘retired’ from rallying.
For the next 20 years, John concentrated on building up a highly successful business and settled into a busy family life. Eventually, John treated himself to a road-going Porsche 993 Carrera 4S in 2010. There were still no thoughts of a return to motorsport – however, the car was looked after by Dave Raper at Car-Tech & Care, who also prepared the Porsche Club Championship race cars of Mark McAleer and Brian Robinson. Within three weeks, John’s road-going 993 was replaced by a race-prepared 968 Club Sport! He became a member of Porsche Club and joined the 2011 Porsche Club Championship trail a couple of races into the season at Thruxton.
John raced in the 2012 Championship with the same car, again run by Dave Raper, developing the set up, and then for 2013 he swapped his first 968 for one previously driven by Miles Masarati. Working with Chris Birkbeck, an old rally friend from the Vauxhall Nova Challenge days, they fine-tuned the car and John’s circuit racing style to become Porsche Club Champion at the end of the season, with 14 class poles, 17 class wins and 14 fastest laps.
The 2014 season saw John behind the wheel of a Boxster, this time run by Hartech as part of the team with Tom Bradshaw’s 996. It was a step up, and John took time to get used to the car – although the season did have its rewards, with a number of top three finishes and a great drive from the back of the grid at Rockingham to finish fourth – setting Fastest Lap en route.
A Cayman was lined up for 2015 – until a Carrera Cup drive appeared at short notice and a last minute decision was made to abandon the Cayman project and race a Pro-Am2 911 GT3 Cup car run by Teesside-based Redline Racing.
It was the biggest leap of John’s second motorsport career – the Boxster and 968 were fundamentally road cars, albeit great cars and modified for competition, but the 911 GT3 Cup was a different beast altogether – a pure bred, full-on race car.
The 2015 season did not start well at Brands. An incident overtaking a backmarker led to a DNF in the first race, but John made up for it with a class win in the second, despite coming from the back of the field after an incident at Paddock Hill Bend. The season unfolded with highs and lows, the low point being Knockhill where a fantastic test session was undone by cold tyres, poor form and a big accident which started at Turn 1 and ended at Turn 2.
The season turned out to be a huge success, with many a great battles with title rivals Nerijus Dagilis, Iain Dockerill and Peter Jennings. On his home circuit of Croft, and in front of many friends and family, he bagged two pole positions, two fastest laps, two class wins and ‘Driver of the Weekend’ to take a lead in the Pro-Am2 Championship. It was a lead he never lost, becoming Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am2 champion at the end of the season by a clear 16 point margin.
Times for Pro-Am2 Free Practice and Qualifying at Brands Hatch for the opening round of the 2016 season proved that John was ready to move up to Pro-Am1, which he did on the morning of the first race! It’s a big step, as it puts the 52-year old head-to-head against the most talented up-and-coming fearless young drivers in Porsche Carrera Cup GB. It was a bold move, but one encouraged by his five Redline Racing team-mates (Dan Cammish, Charlie Eastwood, Tom Oliphant, Lewis Plato and Barrie Baxter) and management, it was a challenge he was more than ready for.
The 2016 season proved to be a huge success, with John becoming the only driver to post a points-scoring finish in all 16 rounds of the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am1 category. He led the Pro-Am1 class after a dream start and round one race win, and John remained a contender for the title throughout the season – which took in races on the British Touring Car Championship support package and at the British round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. He arrived at Brands Hatch tied for second in the series, but a wet Qualifying session, where he struggled to find traction with his rear-wheel drive 460bhp 911 GT3, meant that he would start both races from the second half of the grid – and in a series where all the cars are identical and drivers make very few mistakes, overtaking was going to be a big challenge.
The final 2016 race weekend proved to be his best yet. Twelve months before, John had been four seconds a lap off the best Pro time around the challenging 2.43 mile Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit – and he’d set himself a target of halving that gap. Despite mid-grid starting positions in both races and off-line overtaking manoeuvres, John not just halved the four second gap – but reduced it to one second! That has given him the confidence to push himself even hard in 2017.
Once again John has proven that age is no barrier to success and that life really does begin at 50. Mixing it with the young drivers keeps him mentally fit, and thanks to mountain biking and the Porsche ‘Get Race Fit Days’ he remains in excellent physical shape too.
John is tremendously grateful to his sponsors, who have joined him on his second motorsport journey, and would like to thank Inlec (a leading test equipment hire and calibration business), Ever-cal (a company that provides a mobile calibration service), Elastolam (bearings for offshore wind turbines manufacturers), MEK (vehicle vinyl wrapping application) and MSS (engineering and engineering recruitment). Porsche Colchester and Porsche Aberdeen have also provided support at selected rounds of the series.
Motorsport CV1986 - 2016
4th Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am1 class (Redline Racing run Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
7th class, 16th overall, Round 16 (Brands Hatch)
6th class, 15th overall, Round 15 (Brands Hatch)
5th class, 14th overall, Round 14 (Silverstone)
5th class, 15th overall, Round 13 (Silverstone)
4th class, 13th overall, Round 12 (Knockhill)
5th class, 14th overall, Round 11 (Knockhill)
4th class, 13th overall, Round 10 (Snetterton)
6th class, 18th overall, Round 9 (Snetterton)
3rd class, 12th overall, Round 8 (Croft)
4th class, 17th overall, Round 7 (Croft)
4th class, 12th overall, Round 6 (Oulton Park)
4th class, 12th overall, Round 5 (Oulton Park)
1st class, 10th overall, Round 4 (Silverstone)
5th class, 14th overall, Round 3 (Silverstone)
6th class, 15th overall, Round 2 (Brands Hatch)
1st class, 9th overall, Round 1 (Brands Hatch)
Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Pro-Am2 class CHAMPION (Redline Racing run Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
1st class, 16th overall, Round 16 (Brands Hatch)
3rd class, 16th overall, Round 15 (Brands Hatch)
1st class, 15th overall, Round 14 (Silverstone)
2nd class, 16th overall, Round 13 (Silverstone)
4th class, 17th overall, Round 12 (Knockhill)
DNF, Round 11 (Knockhill)
1st class, 14th overall, Round 10 (Snetterton)
2nd class, 13th overall, Round 9 (Snetterton)
1st class, Fastest Lap, 15th overall, Round 8 (Croft)
1st class, Fastest Lap, 15th overall, Round 7 (Croft)
DNF, Round 6 (Oulton Park)
2nd class, 15th overall, Round 5 (Oulton Park)
7th class, 23rd overall, Round 4 (Spa Francorchamps)
3rd class, 18th overall, Round 3 (Spa Francorchamps)
1st class, 10th overall, Round 2 (Brands Hatch)
DNF, Round 1 (Brands Hatch)
Porsche Club Championship (Hartech run Boxster)
Some top three finishes and 4th at Rockingham (Fastest Lap), having started from the back of the grid
British GT Championship race at Brands Hatch (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS)
Porsche Club CHAMPION (Dave Raper run 968 Club Sport)
14 class poles, 17 class wins and 14 Fastest Laps
Porsche Club Championship (Dave Raper run 968 Club Sport)
Porsche Club Championship (Dave Raper run 968 Club Sport)
Race debut, Thruxton
First race win, Rockingham
Stopped competing in motorsport – and didn’t return until 20 years later!
Works-supported Daihatsu driver
British Rally Championship (Daihatsu Charade GTi)
RAC Rally (Daihatsu Charade GT TI)
Selected UK National rallies (Ford Escort RS)
2nd class N3, 5th PWRC and 25th overall, RAC Rally (Vauxhall Astra GTE)
Selected UK and overseas rallies, including the 1000 Lakes Rally (WRC) and the ADAC Rallye Deutschland (ERC) in a Mazda 323 4WD
UK National Rallies (Vauxhall Nova)
World Rally Championship debut, RAC Rally (MG Maestro EFI)
Selected rounds of the British and Irish Tarmac Championships (Vauxhall Nova)
4th, Vauxhall Nova Challenge
European Rally Championship debut, Barum Rally (Vauxhall Nova)
Cumbria Rally (Triumph TR7 V8)
Stage rally debut, RAF Lindholme (Escort RS2000)
Motorsport debut, local road rallies (Escort RS2000)