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JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
Suzuka International Racing Course. 24 September 2019
March 14, 2015

 

Life without Puschke begins...
After the highs and elation of a championship winning season for team driver Philipp Puschke last season, it was a case of new beginnings for PB Racing in Melbourne. Issues for Maurice Brackhahn sidelined the German in the days leading up to the season opener, leaving the team scrambling for a replacement in time for the event. Brackhahn remained sidelined for the second round in Bahrain with hardware gremlins continuing to blight the German driver.

The solution to the absence of Brackhahn came in the form of Balint Hammer. The Hungarian speedster had already shown great pace in the build-up to the Formula Challenge events and was drafted in by team owner, Tom Parker, to substitute for the missing German.

Circumstances left the team with a brand new line-up for the first two races with Irishman Philip Cullen preparing himself for a comeback after two seasons blighted by problems that had restricted his ability to take to the racing circuit.

Round One - Melbourne

Philip Cullen
Qualifying: 16th
Feature Race: 4th
Sprint Race: 16th


Balint Hammer
Qualifying: 5th
Feature Race: 14th
Sprint Race: DNS


Changeable conditions led to mixed feelings after qualifying. Hammer timed his run prefectly to see him six tenths off the pole time of team owner, Tom Parker. Despite getting out early, Cullen was unable to take advantage on his first run and was left on the back foot, leaving him a disappointing 16th after getting caught out by another rain shower as the session ended.

The weather continued to play havoc on the field in the Feature Race. Both drivers opted to come in on the second lap to change for the wet weather tyres. Once the field had cycled through these early pit-stops, Cullen emerged well inside the top-ten. The Irishman continued to move forward and was a comfortable fourth by the time the second set of stops came around.

Despite being passed by Tom van der Voort shortly afterwards, Cullen regained fourth after the Dutchman went off late in the race in his battle with Jason Muscat. The Irish driver finished just 2.6 seconds off the lead, securing the fastest lap of the race on his way to a memorable return to the Supercup.

Balint made his Supercup debut and was caught out by the conditions and declared himself upset with the amount of mistakes he made during the event. The Hungarian however did secure a points finish on his first race at Supercup level. Connection issues however limited him to just the Feature race and Balint did not start the Sprint Race.

The Sprint Race was a forgetable one for the team. Starting sixth from the reverse grid, a poor start put Cullen back into the field. An over ambitious move to stay on the inside through turn four ended badly and with a spin for the Irishman. A hard charge back up through the field left him in 12th with a lap to go, but an error through the fast chicane on the exit of turn 12 saw Cullen careen into the wall with heavy damage.

He managed to complete the final few tours, but not before surrendering a points position. Cullen apologised to the team after the race, declaring himself 'greedy in trying to snatch another position' as he made his way back up through the field.

Round Two - Bahrain

Philip Cullen
Qualifying: 9th
Feature Race: 5th
Sprint Race: 24th

Balint Hammer
Qualifying: 11th
Feature Race: 22nd
Sprint Race: 10th


Qualifying produced a field whereby the gap from pole all the way down to 25th position was just 1.1 seconds. Both PB drivers qualified around the fringes of the top ten, but both were promoted two spots following post-race penalties to two of the drivers ahead from Melbourne.

Another so-so start from Cullen mired the Irishman back in the field, near team-mate Hammer. Both PB cars lacked the ability in the draft like their competitors around them. Hammer was unlucky to see his progress halted in the heat of battle on the exit of turn 10. A spin demoting Hammer down the field. An additional pit stop to his rivals didn't help the Hungarian's chances which eventually saw him come in 22nd position.

Cullen starred yet again in the Feature race. His poor start notwithstanding, he remained in close proximity of the top ten throughout the early stages. The ability to run several laps longer on the option tyres worked to his advantage and saw him jump a gaggle of cars and leaving him in eight position.

As the race reached its climax, the Irish veteran nipped past both Kevin Siggy and Emanuel Gaczella to take sixth position. Brake issues for team owner Tom Parker in the Simcraft Racing car allowed Cullen to take another spot prior to the flag.

The Sprint Race continued a 'feast or famine' affair for Cullen. Yet again lap one was the undoing. His continued issues getting the car off the line left him within the pack and unable to avoid the spinning Riko Kappet of Walk Racing. A rear puncture compounded issues for him which left him almost a lap down by the time repairs were done. Cullen soldiered on regardless and eventually finished the race 24th out of 30.

While Cullen struggled, Hammer picked up the slack to take tenth place, an improvement of twelve positions from his starting position. The Hungarian felt there was more left and could easily of taken a top five if not for having the straight line speed that saw him harried on the straights throughout the race.

Results from the first two race see the team occupy eight position in the teams' championship on 32 points. The team no doubt will be reflecting on those lost opportunities for points that have been missed as they prepare for the first event on the European mainland. Despite the issues, the team is full of optimism from the pace that has been shown so far and feel that podiums are a realistic target before the season is finished.


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