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Happy ending at Donington for Sam

THERE was plenty for Ashbourne driver Sam Randon to celebrate at the end of the GT Cup season. Randon and Team Hard co-driver Ben Clayden won the GT Cup Championship (GTB class) and were second in the overall championship.

Story by Asbourne News Telegraph
Pictures by Ian Cutting Photography

There was also an unexpected bonus as the GT Cup organisers arranged a special Sprint Championship award, with Randon claiming the runners-up prize based on his individual sprint race results over the season.

Furthermore, Team Hard won the overall team championship.

DSC_2476In the final round at Donington Park, the pairing won all four races, qualifying in pole each time as well as clocking the fastest lap times.
What is so sweet for us, and it feels like a win, is taking second in the overall championship,” said Randon.

Lady luck was finally on our side, someone was looking down on us.

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“It’s great for the team to have first and second overall. It’s such a perfect end to the year.

DSC_3011Working with Ben has been amazing, it has been a strong pairing from the start, especially considering his experience – or lack of – so it’s brilliant to come away with so much success.

There are so many people to thank. Firstly Team Hard boss Tony Gilham for giving me this opportunity to drive such an amazing car and the Team Hard boys who ran our Porsche for us during the season.

“And, of course, we’re grateful to our sponsors who stuck with us through the pandemic – Velocity IT Interim & Consulting, DM Integration, No42 Kegworth House, Greystone Consulting, AVIT Media, Catena Business Networking and The Flag Micropub in Donington.”

DSC_1595Heavy rain marred Saturday’s racing but Randon led the way in qualifying at the wheel of the Team Hard Porsche. However, it was only by a small margin due to a gear change problem which was rectified in time for the race.

Randon led the class from lights to flag and, such was his dominance, he stayed in touch with the faster GTO and GT3 cars, avoiding a spinning Ferrari in the early laps. He also bagged an extra point for the fastest lap.

DSC_2183The pouring rain delayed the start of the pit stop race but once the safety car pulled in, Randon drew on his karting experience to find the grip away from the racing line. More powerful cars struggled to get the power down and either dropped  back or spun out of the lead as Randon claimed the overall lead.

The driver change didn’t go according to plan but Clayden thrives in the wet, despite his inexperience. He kept out of trouble in treacherous conditions and brought the Porsche home a lap ahead of Marcos Mantis (of Gilbert/Lunn).

123139919_4612138068856300_8160165739534764083_oOn Sunday, Sam made sure of the GTB class championship with pole position in qualifying. But the bid for glory in the overall championship was damaged by race regulations as the team discovered that a broken fan belt issue during a previous round at Brands Hatch meant they were denied a 20-point bonus.

Randon said: “It was a badly written regulation intended to discourage championship competitors dropping out of the final two rounds but resulted in the unintended consequence of doubly penalising our DNS (did not start) at Brands Hatch.
So we started the weekend on the back foot with the odds stacked against us.”

122872338_4612136795523094_7409248210691502807_oUndeterred, Randon won the race, leading from start to finish. And they climbed up to second in the overall championship with another class win in the endurance win, leapfrogging the GTH McLaren of Ruston/Whitehouse, which withdrew due to electrical problems.

Randon added: “We’ve had so much bad luck recently with the fan belt issue at Brands Hatch and the impact it had on our championship points.
“This now feels right and shows that lady luck can spread the love a little!
“We had four straight wins this weekend which makes it sound  straightforward but it was far from easy.

“We’ve all been on a crazy rollercoaster ride of emotions.”


Randon Picks Up More Trophies But It’s Not Enough

IT WAS both a successful and a frustrating weekend for Sam Randon and team-mate Ben Clayden in the Team Hard Porsche at Brands Hatch.

Story by Asbourne News Telegraph
Pictures by Ian Cutting Photography

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When he got on the track, Randon proved his speed and racecraft again by leading his class and often mixing it with the faster GTO and GT3 cars. But the weekend could have gone so much better, as the team missed the first sprint race on Saturday after the car threw an alternator belt on the track in qualifying and quickly overheated.

DSC_1741Randon had already done enough for pole position in class but a spare could not be sourced in time and the team’s attempts to improvise were rejected by the car, so they could not start.

This was just a disastrous start to the weekend and effectively finished our overall championship aspirations,” said Randon.

DSC_1681However, he shelved his frustrations and went out with renewed determination for the afternoon’s endurance race with the correct part now sourced, although, with no points from the first race, he was consigned to the back of the grid.

In the first two corners alone he made up six places and was 10th of 22 by the end of the first lap. He passed three more cars n lap two and then the heavens opened, causing a pit stop to change to wet tyres, but only after the safety car had been deployed because another car had slid off in the conditions.

DSC_0692I was lining up the Marcos of Gilbert/Lunn when suddenly my windscreen was covered in moisture. I assumed their car was leaking water,” said Randon.

But we soon realised it was quite significant rain and the team called me in. The sharp shower had already caught someone out.

After a quick change, Randon was back out in second place overall, still behind the Marcos. He likes the rain and soon took the lead, building a large advantage in the GTB class before handing over to Clayden, who was able to protect the lead and bring the Porsche home in fifth overall with the class win.

DSC_0270It was a great end to a frustrating day. I got my elbows out and achieved the class lead from dead last. I was happy with that,” said Randon.

It was sunny and dry for the next day’s racing and Randon excelled in the sprint race, qualifying in class pole, posting the fastest lap in class (both of which add an extra championship point), winning his class and finishing fourth overall.

I’d hit a kerb hard at Graham Hill bend early in the race and put my steering out, so the car was understeering badly, but I had a clear track and kept my nose clean,” said Randon.

DSC_8754The team lined up in that fifth place on the grid for the second endurance race, with Randon again driving first from the rolling start. He was soon mixing it with the faster GTO and GT3 class cars at the front, running in second place overall for a few corners until the others’ raw horsepower took over.

He was 40 seconds ahead in class at halfway but a bad accident on the Paddock Hill bend brought out the safety car and the advantage disappeared.

It’s always a risk when you build up a lead like that,” he said.

DSC_0625I’d used the best of the tyres to give Ben a safety cushion to defend after the pit stops but with a further pit lane success penalty (due to winning the previous day) to overcome, we knew it was game over already.

Rookie Clayden made a valiant attempt at damage limitation but the they finished fourth in class after the 50-minute race.

It was a frustrating end to the weekend, a safety car squashed my 40-second class lead and our pit stop (success) penalty ruined any chances of a trophy,” said Randon.

We walked away with second place championship points and a car in one piece, which is the main thing!

Randon and Clayden are second in the overall championship but 31 points behind the leaders and only 1.5 points ahead of the third-placed team. The GTB class win looks assured, with a lead of 29 points, as they head to Donington Park on the weekend of October 24-25 for the final round. x


Donington woe for Randon & Clayden

SAM Randon and rookie codriver Ben Clayden found the going tough in rounds nine to 12 of the GT Cup Championship at Donington Park

Story by Asbourne News Telegraph

Pictures by Ian Cutting Photography

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The pair were racing their Team Hard Porsche 911 GT3 on the rarely used full grand prix circuit at Donington and went into the meeting as Championship leaders, as well as being GTB class leaders. But the duo slipped from the top of the standings and they are now 12 points behind their Team Hard sister car, although still top of the GTB class. Persistent brake issues caused an unsettling loss of confidence in the car, something which Ashbourne racer Randon could overcome by drawing on his 15-year racing experience. However, it was harder for Clayden, in his first season of racing.

DSC_8728It’s one to forget,” said Randon.

You have to cope with the lows to appreciate the highs.

But this weekend has really hurt our championship aspirations.”

On the first day at Donington, Clayden drove for the majority of the day,119527692_4403235559746553_8954954095904084878_o picking up a third place in his sprint race and qualifying 11th for the endurance event. By the time Randon got behind the wheel at the halfway mark, and the success time penalties from the previous round at Silverstone were applied, they were unable to overcome the gap and finished a rather deflated third in class.

119598067_4403245923078850_3444926747773812997_oOn the second day, Randon drove with new brakes and tyres. Pole position in the GTB class was a good start and the sprint race started well, running sixth overall and leading the GTB class. But at the halfway mark, a slow starting car in the GT3 class made what Randon described as a karting lunge at the fast Coppice corner and took them both off. Randon still managed to pick up some points by finishing albeit a couple of laps down.

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For the pit endurance race, Randon started and had built a one-minute lead119511062_4403238206412955_3748547483192850789_o over the nearest GTB competition when he handed over to Clayden. However, the brakes were starting to fade again and at the Melbourne Hairpin, Clayden spun the car and was hit by a following BMW on the last lap.

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The team were fortunate to keep their P2 classification and now prepare for the next round at Brands Hatch on October 10-11.


A storm shortened race – but Sam Leads Championship

SAM Randon and rookie partner Ben Clayden raced their Team Hard Porsche 911 to more success at storm-ravaged Silverstone on Sunday and the pair now lead both their class and the overall championship heading to Donington Park next month.

Story by Asbourne News Telegraph

Pictures by IHI Automotive Photography

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Clayden has started only five car races in his life but he is holding his own in the 175mph Porsche, the rear-engined beast that Ashbourne racer Randon is clearly relishing getting to know.

Silverstone is classed as an “elite sporting venue” which, under Covid-19 restrictions, meant no spectators and therefore no on-track commentary, all of which the drivers found an eerie experience.

IHI-CE-4659Drivers have a qualifying session each day, followed by an individual sprint race and a joint one-hour endurance race with mandatory pit stop and driver switch.

Clayden had the Saturday sprint slot and took a brilliant second place in the GTB class. He also took first go and the rolling start in Saturday’s wet endurance race, starting from row three on the grid and handing over to Randon at halfway, the team having to battle a “success penalty” of 20 seconds as a result of winning round four at Snetterton.

IHI-CE-3714The main thing is, I’m super proud of Ben. It’s only his third ever race weekend and the pace he’s achieving in the Porsche is just fantastic. It’s not an easy car to drive.”

The next day, Randon qualified on pole for the sprint race by more than a second but the race did not start well, a first lap spin dropping him down the order.
We made what turned out to be a bad decision with the tyres and I lost the back end through the Aintree kink,” said Randon.
But, with the engine in the rear, the Porsche spun in a very helpful way and left me pointing in the right direction so I was able to recover quickly without losing too many places.”

_DSC3852Another stroke of luck saw the safety car back the pack right up so any gap caused by the spin was negated. When the race restarted, Randon was able to attack the cars in front and, ultimately, reclaim the lead.
I made that Sprint Race hard for myself, in all honesty,” said Randon.
I made a couple of mistakes and lost a lot of ground with the spin but, fortunately, we were able to catch it back up.

The result was another win for Team Hard and it was on to the endurance race with the skies threatening.

_DSC0108Randon was ready for the rolling start with all teams fitting slick tyres but the heavens opened before the car had even dropped off the air jacks. Rain tends to work in Randon’s favour – but not when it is as strong as this,causing flash floods across the Midlands.

Soon, Silverstone was undriveable and the race was red-flagged just before the halfway mark in the 60-minute race but not before an accident at the fast Maggots corner due to aquaplaning.

I normally like the rain but when it becomes standing water it’s just undriveable. The car was aquaplaning down the pit straight, it was scary and the right thing to do to stop the race,” said Randon.

_DSC0039-2We were declared class winners and third overall in the shortened race but, to be honest, we were more concerned about the driver in the accident. Thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt.

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When all the sums were done, Team Hard had strengthened their grip on the GTB class and they still lead overall by a small margin. “The overall championship is the new target, though a lot of factors outside of our control can come into play,” added Randon.

Ben CLayden and Sam Randon

The next round is at Donington Park on the rarely-used Grand Prix layout on September 11-12.Untitled-1

New year, new car, new look!!

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New year, new car, new look!! A rebrand was well over due and we are loving this new, fresh look. What do you think?!

This is the first of many new ideas we have planned, keep an eye out for more!!

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Sam wins out of the blocks with GT Cup win

Story by Ashbourne News Telegraph
Photographs: Ian Cutting Photography unless indicated otherwise

SAM RANDON stepped straight into a 175mph Porsche he had not driven before and delivered class wins for Team Hard when the GT Cup season made belated start at Snetterton last week.

DSC_2611The Ashbourne driver teamed with newcomer Ben Clayden to pilot the distinctive pink and green 911, which generates 460bhp and, with its engine mounted in the rear, a vehicle which offers different challenges to a driver. Drivers must adapt their style to manage the weight distribution and balance of the car throughout a lap.

GT Cup is a national format based on International GT racing, most famously Le Mans. It is an endurance format with two drivers swapping at the halfway mark. Multiple classes of cars with difference power and speed all race together with race-within-a- race classes all fighting for their own honours.

The GT Cup format gives each driver an individual sprint race too. Partnering with Clayden, Randon is now seen as the experienced head and part of his role this season is to coach and support Clayden’s driving to help him get faster.

107998386_4096663807070398_368486643491748058_oRandon took to the car almost immediately on the very technical and very long Snetterton 300 lap. It rewards the experienced driver. Early in qualifying, Randon set a time three seconds quicker than his nearest rival in class and was mixing it with the faster GTC class, reaching P5 on the grid for his sprint race and the afternoon’s endurance race.

In the sprint race, Randon led from lights to flag, racing instead with the faster GTC and GT3 class cars and finishing with a class win and a superb fourth place overall. The Sunday endurance race in the afternoon saw Randon taking the rolling start, from Clayden’s qualifying slot of P11.

109559037_4096663457070433_6659950636389310318_oBut Randon charged out of the blocks and was up to fourth place by the end of the first lap. He then battled another Porsche in the GTC class, eventually winning the encounter with a bold, controlled manoeuvre around the outside at Palmer corner. He built up a 40-second lead over the second car in class before a safety car incident compressed the field, wiping out any advantage they had. Randon was even leading the race for a short spell before dropping back.

We had a fuel pump issue raise its head just as I was coming in to hand over to Ben,” said Randon.

In his first GT Cup weekend, rookie Clayden battled the fuel issue throughout his stint still putting in impressive lap times to keep the competition behind him.

Ben has amazing pace considering his short racing career,” said Randon.

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It’s a great pairing and the coaching aspect adds a new element to my role in the team.”
The car was just mega. It’s a heavier car than the Ginetta I am used to but with much more power. But it is so sorted and balanced it is just a pleasure to drive. I’m hooked!

Team Hard boss Tony Gilham said: “Sam continues to excel in everything we put him in. A really mature drive.”

It was important to get back on track this weekend and support the recovery of our sport. The organisers did a great job keeping us all safe. When I was in the car, it felt like life was back to normal.”

DSC_1934With Randon and Clayden leading the class and the overall championship, the GT Cup moves onto Silverstone in August while the team – officially known as Team Hard with 24-7 Motorsport – work hard to build up a budget for the rest of the season.

We’d love to speak to any  companies looking to perhaps reward their employees with a day at the races.” added Randon.

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Man and machine in perfect harmony

Back with a bang after the pandemic …

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