Porsche Carrera Cup GB: Ellinas Takes Title
In the end it all came down to the final race of the 2018 Porsche Carrera Cup GB season. Championship title rivals Tio Ellinas and Dino Zamparelli went into Round 16, the last race of the season, tied on points establishing a ‘winner takes all’ race to the flag. It was former Formula One test driver Ellinas who came out on top – despite having won only one race to GT Porsche contributor Zamparelli’s season tally of four – confirming that consistency and to some extent, being in the right place at the right time, is often vital in motorsport.
Zamparelli’s title bid looked on course during the early stages of the weekend’s two races. He arrived at Brands Hatch with a narrow eight point advantage over Ellinas and a larger points gap back to Tom Wrigley. Zamparelli quickly took the lead of Round Fifteen – the milestone 300th Carrera Cup GB race since the championship’s inception in 2003 – with Ellinas partially recovering from a less than ideal qualifying session to sit in P4 as the cars entered Druids. On lap 4 race leader Zamparelli spun on fluid dropped by another car leaving him sat at the back of the pack struggling to restart his engine. Two subsequent safety car periods did little to assist Zamparelli’s recovery, it was Lewis Plato who took a confident victory from Ellinas with the consistent Wrigley in third. Plato’s victory raised the win count of Nick Tandy’s JTR squad to ten – making it the fourth winningest team in the championship’s history in this, only its second year of racing in the series.
The result from race one left Zamparelli and Ellinas tied on championship points going into the final race – a reverse grid affair where on this occasion the top six overall race finishers from Round Fifteen were reversed to form the starting grid for Round Sixteen making the starting order; Caine, Jackson, Gamble, Wrigley, Ellinas and Plato. Zamparelli was faced with chasing down Ellinas from 13th on the grid – a difficult yet not impossible task.
Off the start line from the front row Tom Jackson and guest driver Michael Caine ran side by side into the first corner, the pair making contact with Jackson managing to stay ahead, Wrigley and championship hopeful Ellinas slotted into P2 and P3. Zamparelli was quickly up to seventh place when a safety car period neutralised the race. Once racing restarted Wrigley passed Jackson for the overall lead of the race, Plato and Ellinas, then later Porsche GB Junior Dan Harper and Zamparelli following Plato through. Zamparelli could now see title rival Ellinas just ahead on the track but he had racy Junior Harper in-between himself and the Cypriot.
Knowing that he needed to catch and pass Ellinas in order to secure the championship, Zamparelli pushed to close on Harper but could do nothing about getting by, he was therefore forced to watch his title hopes fade away as the laps ticked by. Having pulled away at the front, Wrigley took the checkered flag to secure his fourth victory of an impressive 2018 season. Plato finished second with Ellinas third – Zamparelli crossed the line in fifth – the result was enough to secure Tio Ellinas the 2018 Porsche Carrera Cup GB overall championship by just two points.
It is the second time in as many seasons (at the same circuit) that Zamparelli has been beaten to the championship during the final race of the season. It has to be said that his dominant performances in 2018 very much established him as a title favourite, however Ellinas strung together a consistent season finishing on the podium 13 times from 16 races. Though Zamparelli’s Redline Racing team are regarded as more established than the Slidesports Engineering squad running Ellinas, the nature of the Porsche one-make series, with its grid of identical 485hp second-generation 991 GT3 Cup cars, ensures that the drivers are the largest influencing factor in determining the ultimate pecking order. Zamparelli will feel that this should have been his year…