"The results from the weekend tell me I might get to be ok at this racing malarkey" Nick Phelps
It was a brand new grid for Valluga this weekend, as the team joined the GT Cup Championship for the first time in 2021.
Behind the wheel of the GT4 Clubsport, Amateur Sprint Challenge Driver, Carl Cavers, partnered up with Pro Carrera Cup Driver, Lewis Plato, to join the GTH class, whilst Nick Phelps took to the 991.2 GT3 Cup in the GTB class.
With several weeks of testing before the big day, the first practice session went well for all drivers. Nick found himself classified 2nd in class, with nearly 3 seconds between him and 3rd, whilst the am/pro duo completed the session 11th in class.
All three drivers maintained a strong pace going into qualifying, with Carl and Lewis pushing ahead by 3 positions to start the race from 8th in class. Nick managed to cut 2 seconds off his practice time, holding onto his earlier position to start race 1 from 2nd in class.
A 25-minute sprint format made up the first race, and proved fortunate for the team overall. Nick was successful in maintaining his position throughout the race, finishing 2nd in class and claiming his first piece of silverware from the championship. A fantastic performance was also put in by Lewis and Carl, who thrust themselves up the overall grid by 14 positions, and completed the race a very respectable 4th in class.
An endurance race lasting 50 minutes was up next for our drivers, who all started out well. The race soon heated up as more and more laps were counted, and both cars were overtaken. Despite this, the drivers remained high up on the grid, holding a 4th and 5th position in their respective classes to finish Saturday's action.
Sunday arrived, and qualifying proved successful for Nick who set a time putting him 1st in class. Carl and Lewis also gave a good performance, putting them in a strong position going into the 2nd sprint race of the weekend.
Race 3 was a great watch, as Nick fought to keep his qualifying position, and the duo forced themselves into the top 3 of their class, putting both in line for a trophy.
Carl and Lewis looked set to claim their first piece of silverware from the weekend, but a 5-second penalty for exceeding track limits stripped the opportunity away and they finished 5th in class. Nick was also overtaken last-minute pushing him into 2nd, but a 2nd in class finish meant another trophy to add to the collection.
Unfortunately, the success of the weekend didn't carry over into the final race of Round 1. A piece of debris damaged the coolant line for the GT4 gearbox, and it was decided that with a long season ahead, it was not worth risking the car by keeping it going at the same pace. It was bad luck for Nick too, who found himself written out of the 2nd Endurance race after contact with another car.
It was only right that we caught up with all the drivers to hear their thoughts on round 1:
"Looking back we can take a lot of positives from the weekend" said Lewis Plato. Speaking highly of his co-driver he went on to say, "Carl was driving fast lap times straight out the box in qualifying on Saturday and continued to do so across the entire weekend. He drove well in all the races and had some fantastic overtakes. It's great to see the pace we have as a team, and that we can be battling at the front."
Agreeing with his partner, Carl reflected, "for a first weekend in GT Cup things couldn't have been better with the car. We were competitive right from the off".
Catching up with Nick about what motivated him to join the grid, he said "I always wanted to know if I was quick enough to race, so with the help of Valluga to guide me throughout, we decided to enter the GT Cup Series in order to find out".
Reflecting on his experience after the weekend, Nick explained he had never felt so alive, "Saturday was a baptism of fire where I got to see what I'd let myself in for, however Sunday was entirely different as I went in fully focused. The results from the weekend tell me I might actually get to be ok at this racing malarkey!". We look forward to seeing how all three of our drivers get on as the team head to Brands Hatch for Round 2 at the start of May. Good luck team!