Well, what a start its been to the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge! Five races in and I’m lying second in the standings, just six-points off the lead having finished each race on the podium to date. And the bonus is that Alpaca, a Yorkshire-based company that has experts to help grow businesses, has come on board as a sponsor.
The season began at Thruxton in early May and it was a really good start to the season for me. Finishing second and third and to be lying second in the championship heading to the most recent Brands Hatch races was really encouraging. Maybe I could have qualified better, which would have put me higher up on the grid, but considering it was the first GT5 meeting of the year, I was very happy.
In Race 1, we took a gamble. The track was wet but we opted for ‘slicks’ hoping the track would dry out quickly. Thankfully that’s what happened which benefitted my Elite team-mate John Bennett and myself whereas the pole-sitter started on wets which cost him.
My start wasn’t great and conditions were tricky early on, the track was very greasy, and maybe I was over cautious. I completed lap one in seventh place but the track came to me as it dried allowing the tyres to get up to temperature.
There was a Safety Car for three laps but once that went in, I started to move up and was up to fourth by lap seven and then second behind John two laps later. I challenged John for the lead for a few laps but a spinner prevented my best overtaking opportunity. At the chequered flag, I was almost six-seconds clear of the third-placed car.
It was a case of working my way to the front again in Race 2, starting seventh, this time on a completely dry track. We had a Safety Car period on the opening lap for four laps and it was again a case of getting my head down to move up the leaderboard when the race went green again. It was incredibly close racing, frantic dicing and slipstreaming which Thruxton is renowned for. To begin my rear tyres lacked temperature but once the rears came in, it was game on. The car handled brilliantly allowing me to press on and make up places. I’d been aiming for a top-three and to finish third, after some very close but respectful dicing and overtaking, I was very pleased.
In the two-week gap between Thruxton and Brands, I stayed in Bath. I was schooling on-line and getting in the gym. My race experience of the Brands GP circuit was just 26-laps from three Junior races last August where I managed to post an eighth-place in Race 2 so it was good to fit in a test there a week or so before the actual race meeting. Wet and dry conditions, good pace in both, so I headed to Brands in a good place and motivated.
I qualified fourth for Races 1 and 2 which I was very happy about – on ‘old’ tyres. This represented my best qualifying of the season. In Race 1 on Saturday, I made a good start off the line but then locked-up going into Druids on the opening lap, causing me to run wide, but managed to stay fourth. I got into third and was fighting for second but unfortunately had to be content with third place.
“Race 2 on Sunday was really fun, with some good battles sending it up the inside of Connor Grady at Sheene’s and managed to stave off Josh Steed while at the same time reduced the gap to John [Bennett] who was leading. There was a chance of me challenging for the win but backmarkers, caught in the wrong places on the track, caused me to lose time.
I was a little slow coming off Clark Curve, due to backmarkers again, allowing Steed to have a lunge at me going into Paddock Hill Bend on the last lap. But I managed a cutback at Druids, held it around the outside of Graham Hill Bend side-by-side, and then completed the move back into second on the outside at Surtees which brought a big smile to my face.
I’d actually suffered a right rear puncture on the last lap which I didn’t know anything about until I had a massive slide at Stirling’s. It was a thoroughly enjoyable fight – totally fair and respectful by both of us.
I was alongside John [Bennett] on the front row for Race 3. I was caught out at the start as the 5secs board was shown twice. I was ready the first time, with the revs just right as the lights came on but the second time, about 30secs later, the Ginetta bogged down at the start which was a shame as I was hoping to fight for the win.
I dropped to fourth but fought back to second before a Safety Car period when John unfortunately had a big off at Hawthorns as a brief rain shower made the track very slippery. The race resumed with just one-lap to go and I tried my hardest to overtake Steed but he held on for the win with me in second. I feel I could have got ahead with another lap but …
So next stop is Silverstone over 26-27 June and I really cannot wait. I’m already counting the days down. If you’re heading there come and say hello and I’ll show you around my Ginetta. Safe travels guys.