Richardson Racing successfully wrapped up the inaugural Porsche Sprint Challenge Southern Europe title despite a challenging end to the three-round season at Catalunya.
The Corby-based team headed to the home of the Spanish Grand Prix on the crest of a wave after another storming showing from Dutch racer Robert De Haan in the previous meeting in Portimao had seen him score two pole positions and pick up a double race win – whilst also setting two fastest laps and setting a new lap record.
It meant Rob headed into the final having scored a maximum haul of points, and he was the man to beat from the weekend’s opening practice session at the wheel of the #46 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Having topped the times in three of the four test sessions – and set the fastest time overall – Rob improved his pace in the single free practice session where he went even quicker to set the first sub 1:49s lap of the weekend.
Beating title rival Benjamin Paque to pole position for race one despite getting caught up in traffic, Rob then produced an astonishing lap in Q2 to secure a second pole of the weekend, and ensure a 100% qualifying record across the six-race campaign.
Eager to extend his winning run to five when the lights went out in race one, Rob instead suffered a disappointing retirement after contact on the opening lap saw him caught up in an incident at turn one that saw the action halted. Despite that, Rob retained his championship lead, even though Paque secured the race win.
With his focus on finishing ahead of the Belgian driver in race two, Rob led the field away at the start before slipping to second behind Alessandro Ghiretti going through turn one – electing not to get caught up in a battle against someone not involved in the title fight.
From there, a mature drive from the Rob saw him bring his car to the finish in second spot to secure the points needed to wrap up the championship title.
The final weekend of the campaign saw Rob joined in the two-car line-up by Mark Radcliffe, although he would compete in the Club Division for amateur racers rather than in the headline Sport Division.
Despite being out of the Porsche for six months after a part campaign in the 2022 Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Mark showed top-five pace in testing, where he improved his best lap by three seconds across the four on-track sessions.
After another top-five showing in free practice, Mark set his fastest time of the weekend in Q1 to snare sixth on the grid for race one before repeating the same result in qualifying for race two.
Holding station at the start of race one, Mark ran in a solid sixth throughout before making up a place on the final lap to secure P5, and he would go one better in race two after a race-long battle with Zac Meakin that saw him emerge ahead of his fellow Briton on-track.
Robert De Haan, #46 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, said:
“It would have been nice to end the season with another win as we showed we had the pace in qualifying, but luck wasn’t on my side in race one. In race two, I was focused on making sure I stayed out of trouble to score the points I needed and I’m delighted to win the title.
“It’s a great result for me to secure my first Porsche title, and I have to thank everyone for their hard work and support as it’s been incredible. The team gave me a fantastic car, and to score six poles, four wins and five podiums – and set a number of lap records – is an amazing record that I’m very proud of.
“This is a great way to start 2023 and I hope there is a lot more success to come.”
Andrew Richardson, team manager, said:
“We’re delighted to secure the inaugural Porsche Sprint Challenge Southern Europe, and it’s a worthy reward for Rob who has been the class of the field throughout the season. To be so quick and consistent across the three meetings has been hugely impressive, particularly when you consider he hadn’t raced the Porsche before.
“Credit also to Mark for the way he performed this weekend on his return to action, and to Josh Rowledge for his results during the first two rounds. This has been a real team effort and a positive way for us to kick off our 2023 programme, and we now need to carry the momentum forwards into the remainder of the season.”