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Hugo Cooks Up Storm, Enduro Win Enduro In GT Cup Opener
Apr 01 2023

Hugo Cooks Up Storm, Enduro Win Enduro In GT Cup Opener

Hugo Cook made an electric start to his maiden full season in the GT Cup Championship, sharing victories with Enduro Motorsport in a wild 2023 season opener at Donington Park on Saturday (1 April).


18-year-old Audi R8 GT3 driver Cook started the opening race of the weekend from pole position at the National layout of the Leicester circuit, and duly backed up the qualifying heroics of co-driver Sasha Kakad by sprinting to victory in the first 25-minute contest of the season.

Cook was then part of an intense five-car battle for success in the Endurance Race later in the afternoon, which went in favour of Enduro Motorsport thanks to a superb final stint by Marcus Clutton in the McLaren 720s.

GTO wins were shared between Paul Bailey (Brabham BT62) and Tecserve/Triple M Motorsport's Mercedes, the latter after a dramatic charge to second place in the Endurance Race race by Sennan Fielding. A GTC double was taken by AF Corse, with wins in GTH going the way of Makehappenracing and the returning Feathers Motorsport.



The weekend began with a rapid 15-minute qualifying battle, with GT3, GTO and GTC cars grouped together on track for the first of two timed sessions, GTH then following up.

Cook's early efforts were strong enough to put the J&S Racing Audi at the helm of the timesheets, but pole position would be confirmed when he pumped in a lap of 1m03.304s to take bragging rights from Enduro Motorsport's Morgan Tillbrook by 0.7s. James Wallis was third for Track Focused's new GT3 Mercedes.

The GTO battle was decided late on as the returning National Motorsport Academy grabbed top spot in the group in the dying seconds with its Mosler MT900, beating away the attentions of Bailey's Brabham BT62. AF Corse started their GTC season in style with Dan De Zille putting the Ferrari 488 Challenge on pole.

GTH enjoyed a session that ebbed and flowed throughout, with the final change going to way of Makehappenracing's Chris Hart, who put the Mercedes at the head of the group from RAM Racing and Feathers Motorsport - James Guess having led for the latter for much of the session.


Sprint Race

Attentions turned to the first race of the 2023 season - a 25-minute Sprint for honours. Cook took the reins of the pole-sitting J&S Racing Audi, and proceeded to make an early escape with a rapid Wallis in hot pursuit after moving up to second place on the opening lap.

A late safety car period after final corner contact with a lapped car unfortunately eliminated third-placed Lucky Khera (Racelab), meant Cook had his lead wiped out momentarily, resulting in a late dash to the chequered flag. The youngster duly hung on, beating Track Focused's Wallis and Enduro Motorsport's Tillbrook as GT3 cars locked out the podium.

In GTO there was last-lap drama as Bailey left his best moment until last by pouncing on the group-leading Mosler heading into the final chicane, snatching the victory for Kendall Developments and the team's Brabham GT62. Grahame Tilley recovered well in the early stages of the race, charging to the group's final podium spot in the Tecserve Mercedes AMG GT3 Evo.

GTC was dominated by the AF Corse Ferrari and Dan De Zille, with GTH spoils going to Hart in the Makehappenracing Mercedes. The remaining podium spots in the group were fiercely fought over, with Max Hart second for Brookspeed ahead of Feathers Motorsport's Guess.


Pitstop Race

What followed would be a sensational 50-minute encounter later in the day. From pole position, Kakad lost the advantage to Tillbrook's McLaren heading down into Craner Curves, a place he would hold until a flying Wallis usurped the Enduro Motorsport man at Redgate.

Mandatory pit stops soon took place, albeit under a cloud as red flags were waved to stop the race following a big accident for last year's champion Simon Orange in his Orange Racing with JMH Auto McLaren GT3.

Leader Wallis was next to fall, slowing to a stop at Redgate with wheel nut issues the culprit. On the restart, Clutton took the lead ahead of a charging Euan Hankey - taking over from Tillbrook and Khera - to set up a thrilling finish to the race.

Now in Tilley's Mercedes, Fielding was the star as he chased and overcame Cook's Audi in a Mika Hakkinen-esque overtake through lapped traffic for third spot, swiftly passing the Hankey McLaren to confirm second place and the GTO win. Ahead, the Enduro car was uncatchable, Clutton and Tillbrook taking their first win of the year by over six seconds.

Dan and Graham De Zille completed a clean sweep of the day in GTC for AF Corse, with Topcats Racing and Woodrow Motorsport's Lamborghinis in hot pursuit. GTH was a topsy-turvy affair that started with Makehappenracing leading, only to drop to seventh as Tom Canning brought Feathers Motorsport a return victory ahead of RAM Racing's Mercedes and Makehappenracing's sister car - Phil Keen charging to third in the group ahead of Gordie Mutch in the Paddock Motorsport McLaren 570s.


#32 Hugo Cook

"I was a bit disappointed in that last race because I think we had the pace to at least challenge Marcus, but can’t really complain - we’ve got good points, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings. The Pit Stop race was crazy, I’ve never been involved in a race that cold so the tyre pressures are well down so you had to work them, work them, work them. At the end I think we did have the pace, but we just lack a bit of acceleration out of corners, so I’d be right behind the McLaren and then it goes through onto a straight and you can’t keep up. I’ll take the points!”


#4 Sennan Fielding

“Every time I’m racing with Grahame it always seems to be a bit of fun! It’s been a good start to the weekend, Grahame had a podium in the Sprint and it’s been really enjoyable. The team were focusing on GTO in the Pit Stop race and we knew leading that was the main aim and keeping Ross behind in the Brabham was going to be a challenging task, especially because it’s so cold out here that tyre temps dropped right down. I think we were all trying to generate as much heat as possible and we were sliding all over. I could see Ross having a handful behind which played into my hands a bit, but he was still behind non-stop!”


#28 Paul Bailey

"The Sprint was amazing; the Mosler is a super-quick car and he defended coming down Exhibition Straight and I thought ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do here’. I just gassed it, flat-out and braked the latest I’ve ever braked and I managed to get through the chicane first and that was it - I’d won. It was super close, but it was clean racing. At no point did we hit each other, or push each other aside and that’s what it should be moving forward.”


#19 Dan De Zille

"Not a bad return from retirement is it? It was a really good day, I didn’t quite follow how it all turned out but they strapped me in the car and sent me off and I decided to drive as fast as I can, for as long as I can and we’ll see how it goes. It was a matter in the Pit Stop race of looking in the mirrors and seeing a pair of headlights and wondering ‘is that coming for me, or someone else?’ It was really good fun!"


#82 Tom Canning

"Really good start to the season. James did a good job in qualifying to set himself up for the Sprint Race and then from there he did a good job in the Sprint and it feeds one into the other so getting a good start to the day is really important. We started well and we’ve managed to carry that momentum through to the Sprint and Pit Stop races. It was about finishing the job James started."

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