Ginetta GT4 SuperCup – Donington Park 2017
The Easter weekend of the 15th & 16th April saw the second round of the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup and the continuing learning curve for Ian, Reece and TCR. Following the baptism of fire and steep learning curve of the first meeting at Brands Hatch all were determined to build on the good signs of pace shown at the end of the Brands weekend and get the cars up in their respective classes.
Ian’s car was benefiting from the fitment of a new Engine for the weekend following an unexpected failure earlier in the year during testing and having had to complete the Brands meeting on a loan engine from GInetta. Reece’s car meanwhile was pretty much as it was from Brands with just a thorough check over to ensure everything was in order.
With the official test day being on the Thursday before Good Friday, this was going to be a long weekend at the circuit and the weather was looking a little cold and changeable. On the Thursday morning though we were greeted by blue skies, although still very cold. First session out and both Ian and Reece were running with reasonable pace, but not at the front of their respective classes, so work was still needed. Both cars had been struggling with juddering brakes as they tried to bed in some old pads on skimmed disks, and two safety cars and limited running had not enabled this to be completed.
In order to minimise the time lost in the final test session the team decided to put new pads into both cars, but sent them out on the old tyres. The first half of the session went well for the team, with Reece running in the top 6 of the Pro class, while Ian was up to second in the Am class. Despite the improved pace, both cars were struggling a little with rear end grip through the fast sections, so the team pitted the made a couple of adjustments, but stuck with the old tyres. The new changes didn’t make any improvements in times and in the meantime all of our competitors had bolted on new tyres and had gone even quicker dropping both drivers to the back end of their respective classes, but a lot of encouragement was to be taken from the early pace with all the other teams running representative tyres, so we would have to wait to see what Ian and Reece could produce with new rubber on Saturday morning.
After a wet, cold and generally overcast Good Friday, Saturday arrived a little brighter and forecast to be dry throughout the day. The qualifying session started at 11:50am, so there had been plenty of other cars on track before the Ginetta’s giving them a nice dry track. With the brake judder not completely cured by the new pads, the team decided to put new disks on both cars to ensure nothing was left to chance. So the first few laps had to be patient and bring the new tyres and brakes up to temperature.
After about 5 laps, just as the tyres and brakes were up to temperature the session was stopped with a car in the gravel. After a short delay the session was re-started and both Reece and Ian were able to get straight on to setting a fast time, Reece set the first time, putting him up to forth in class, improving by just under a second from the test session, Ian’s second flying lap then put him second in class some 1.3 seconds quicker than he had gone in testing and only 0.3 seconds off Am class pole. Unfortunately neither car was able to go any quicker, although able to run consistently at the faster pace, and as the session went on a number of others found their pace, dropping Reece down to 8th and Ian 3rd in their respective classes, but the grid was close with less than 2 seconds covering the top 17 cars, and less the 0.5 seconds covering the top 5 Am class cars, so Ian was very much in the fight for a podium finish.
The first of three races for the weekend and the only one on the Saturday for the GT4 SuperCup was schedule for 17:40 in the afternoon. The weather was still overcast but it had not rained as yet so the track remained dry for slick tyres. As the drivers formed up on the grid both drivers feeling like they had a genuine chance of fighting for silverware. Reece made a positive start, moving up to 8th through the first couple of corners. Ian made another good start pulling past the pole man and up behind Graham Tilley, who had qualified second, but unfortunately Colin White had made another tremendous start and got past both Ian and Graham going into Redgate for the first time. This gave Ian the chance to move inside Graham, while Jac constable had recovered his bad start from Pole and came down the inside of Ian creating a three way fight coming out of the first corner, which was asking for trouble, and as both Jac and Graham tried to move to the centre of the track for the next corner, they both hit Ian, causing the other two to hit each other sending Graham into the gravel and Jac getting a puncture. Ian suffered some steering damage and lost a couple of places, but with Jac running wide through the old hairpin with the puncture, Ian was still running in third and after a few corners of understanding how the damaged car was handling started to chase down, Alex Taylor in second place. Further ahead Reece was running well and had made up a few more places and was running 6th, right on the back of the lead pack, when an accident left a couple of cars in the gravel at Redgate bringing out the safety car.
Reece’s luck went from bad to worse under the safety car as we headed down the Craner curves his wheel bolts snapped causing his front wheel to fall off and taking him out of the race. After 3 laps behind the safety car the lights went out and we were off again, and Ian learnt yet another lesson about racing these new cars! Having tried to preserve the tyres as much as possible, Ian hadn’t retained enough heat in them causing the car to badly under steer through the first couple of laps costing him two places. Once the tyres were up to temperature Ian clearly had the pace on the cars in front but was struggling to get past them, but managed to move up to forth, but then while trying to take third ran wide allowing Andy Wilmot to move back ahead, which is where they remained to the end of the race, giving Ian a 5th place finish.
Race two of the weekend was on the Sunday morning with a 10:40 planned start time. The weather was very overcast but the forecast rain hadn’t emerged yet so it was on with the slick tyres for this one. Despite Reece’s none finish in the last race, he wasn’t that far down the grid, starting in 10th place as all of the Pro drivers are put in front of the Am’s at the beginning of the race, but Ian was a little further back in 16th overall and 5th in Class. Reece made a solid start holding his position and chasing the main pack ahead. On the third lap the two cars ahead of Reece, Perez & Green, tangled allowing Reece to move ahead into 8th place, then the following lap one of the front runners, Carl Broadley made a mistake through the old hairpin and spun, promoting Reece up to 7th place and closing down George Gamble ahead. Two laps later the Leader, Callum Pointon (Ian’s old team mate from 2015) spun while under pressure from Tom Roche as they entered Redgate, quickly recovering and only losing a couple of places, Callum then compounded the error by running wide and spinning at the old hairpin dropping him to the back of the field, and promoting Reece up to 6th place.
Reece was unable to make any more progress and finished the race in 6th place just behind George Gamble. However, due to exceeding the track limits, George was later penalised and Reece was promoted to 5th place.
Further back Ian made another strong start, passing Taylor and Wilmot by the first corner. However, just behind him Brooks had made a great start and took a dive down the inside into Redgate, Ian saw it coming and managed to get the cut back, the two made contact, but no damage and they both carried on with Ian now up to 3rd in class.
Two laps later Ian had worked his way past Dan Kirby and was up to 2nd chasing down Colin White in the lead. However, just behind Jac Constable was recovering from a poor start and as they started their 9th lap, Jac made a very late lunge down the inside into Redgate demoting Ian to 3rd. The two of them stayed together chasing down Colin up in the lead, but soon found the recovering two Pro’s of Perez and Higgins who were in their own battle and lapping slower than the two Am’s. After a couple of laps Jac made it past Higgins and Ian started to line up a run to get past him on the main straight, but as they entered Coppice Ian went in too fast and touched a wheel out onto the grass causing the car to drift off into the gravel trap. Ian kept his foot in and managed to pull the car back out of the gravel but couldn’t hold the spin as he came back on track, dropping him back to 6th in class and despite putting in some very strong lap time to the end of the race, Ian was unable to catch Taylor who was running 5th ahead.
The third and final race of the weekend was scheduled for 16:40pm on the Sunday afternoon, just before the final Touring car race, and it was looking like the weather was going to remain dry for the race. However, due to a serious accident in the F4 single seater race, where a driver had been trapped in the car the whole schedule was now running behind, and due to the live TV coverage, the Touring Cars had to run as close as possible to the original timetable, with everyone else fitting in around them, which meant the GT4 Ginetta race was being pushed back to the last race of the day and a scheduled start time of 7pm!!!
With the reverse grid again being selected at 5th place this meant Reece would yet again be starting in pole position, giving him a great opportunity to take some well-needed points from the weekend. Reece decided to give it his all and gambled on two new tyres to give him the best opportunity of winning the race. Unfortunately this ended up being for nothing as the weather changed for the worst as the evening draw in and by the time the final touring car race started we were in torrential rain and no chance of running slicks. With Ian finishing the previous race in 6th, yet again he had missed out on any benefit the reverse grid could have provided.
Reece got a clean start and held the lead into the first corner and was able to get up to speed at the front, cleanly holding off the chasing pack, but as everyone got to grips with the treacherous conditions it was Reece who ended up struggling the most with a very loose back end making it very difficult to pick up the power coming out of the corners. After 2 laps the cracks began to show and it was Hibbert who made it past first, followed by Green, who went on to win the race in the end, on the following lap.
A lap later and it was Pointon and Jones making their way past before Roche and Higgins worked their way past over the next few laps. Reece then started to get to grips with the handling and fought back making it back past Higgins before the end of the race and finishing 7th in the Pro class.
Further back Ian had another solid start but only held his position as he got to grips with the conditions. A couple of laps in and Ian was feeling confident with the grip he had and started to push to make up places. A couple of laps in and Kirby up ahead made a mistake, dropping himself to the back of the pack and promoting Ian in to 5th place. Ian then forced his way past Brooks and set about getting past Taylor who kindly obliged by spinning at the old hairpin and letting Ian up to 3rd and Colin White in sight ahead. Ian was able to show his pace and had closed in on Colin within a lap and started to work a way past. Colin, who is the current Am champion and one of t
he most experienced racers in the field wasn’t going to give up his second place that easily and went very defensive, which enabled the chasing pack behind Ian to close in on their battle as well.
Ian tried several moves at different corners but couldn’t find a way past, and then to make things worse, as Ian had been attacking Colin, Jack Minshaw had been able to catch them and managed to get up the inside as they came out of Redgate and headed for the Craner curves, forcing Ian to let him through. However, this was short lived as Jack them made a mistake and spun at the old hairpin letting Ian back onto the back of Colin. Ian tried multiple attacks on Colin but couldn’t find away past. Then on the last lap as they came up to Coppice for the final time, Ian had decided to take the traditional racing line and hope to get a run on Colin into the final chicane. This paid off as Colin went into Coppice too hot and drifted wide, allowing Ian down the inside and the two travelled down the straight side by side, but crucially with Ian on the Inside. As they braked for the final chicane, Colin tried to out brake Ian, but Ian held firm making sure he parked the car firmly but fairly on the apex, with nowhere for Colin to go, allowing him to power off the corner to the chequered flag, taking second place and his first podium of the championship.
This had certainly been a stronger weekend for the TCR team with both cars showing they had the pace to be fighting at the front of their respective classes. Reece seemed to suffer from the worst of the bad luck, especially with the wheel bolts snapping in Race 1, while Ian continued his steep learning curve with the car, missing out on potential podiums in both races 1 & 2, but was able to bring it all together for a great second place in the final race in some horrendous conditions. The team has a 5-week break now as they miss out the Thruxton round of the BTCC, and are back with them at Oulton on 20th/21st May.
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup Driver Standings:
10th Reece Somerfield, 86pts
6th Ian Robinson, 108pts
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup next rounds:
20th/21st May Oulton Park
10th/11th June Croft
29th/30th July Snetterton 300
26th/27th Aug Rockingham
16th/17th Sept Silverstone National
30th Sept/1st Oct Brands Hatch GP