John McCullagh recorded his best race performances of 2016 at Brands Hatch (2 October) and became the only driver to post a points-scoring finish in all 16 rounds of the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am1 category, when the 52-year old North Yorkshire driver completed a great season in style in his Inlec.com-backed 911 GT3.
Having moved up to the Pro-Am1 category for 2016, last year’s Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am2 champion also achieved his aim of halving the gap between himself and the Pro category drivers. Twelve months ago John was four seconds a lap off the best Pro time around the challenging 2.43 mile Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit – and after a confidence building season, he has reduced that gap to just one second.
Having led the Pro-Am1 class after a dream start and round one race win, John remained a contender for the title throughout the Porsche Carrera Cup GB – which this year 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 John 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.
In front of a huge Sunday race day crowd, John started from the inside of Row 10 as Round 15 got underway with a rolling start. He quickly overtook the Pro-Am2 cars that had qualified ahead of him and never put a foot wrong during the 17 lap race, finishing 6th in Pro-Am1 (and 15th overall).
John made an excellent standing start from the outside of Row 9, as the final round of the 2016 series got underway. There was nothing to separate him and Pro-Am1 rivals Euan McKay and Sean Hudspeth as they raced nose to tail, until John dropped a wheel off the track at the restart, following a Safety Car period. A fantastic final two laps saw John regain the position, and in a race where he set his fastest lap of the entire weekend (1:29.815), John took the final chequered flag of 2016 to finish 7th in class (16th overall) and 4th in the Pro-Am1 drivers’ championship; just five points away from 3rd and nine points behind 2nd.
John McCullagh said: “Performance-wise, Brands Hatch was by far my best race weekend of the season, so it’s great to finish the year off on a high. The racing last weekend at Brands proves what an incredibly high standard the Porsche Carrera Cup GB is, and my pace has given me the confidence to believe that I can do a lot more and push myself even harder. This year has been an amazing learning curve, and my speed and results have shown moving up from Pro-Am2 was the right thing to do – and finishing every race has really helped me get the most out of my first season in Pro-Am1.
“At the beginning of this season my aim was to halve the gap between myself and the Pros. At Brands Hatch last year the gap was about four seconds over the Grand Prix Circuit and this year it was one second – so mission accomplished! Now the aim is to halve the gap again next year!”