Ginetta GT4 SuperCup – Silverstone 2017
With the season drawing to a close, the penultimate race weekend was held at Silverstone over the 16th & 17th September, however, TCR and the drivers were in action from the Thursday as this was the last exclusive test day of the year for the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup. This was then followed by the usual two free practice sessions on the Friday, so it was going to be a long weekend for the drivers and team and they were all keen to build on the good performance at Rockingham.
The team were also joined by a guest driver for the weekend, Fraser Robertson, who would be competing in the Am class along with Ian. Fraser had competed in the championship during the last two season, finishing 4th in the Am class last year, but due to business commitments had not been able to commit to the full season and had decided to compete in this round and potentially the final round at Brands Hatch.
As they all arrived on Thursday the weather was looking like it would play a major role, not only for testing but over the weekend as the forecast, and what was present, was sunshine and showers. The first test session was on a drying track that improved throughout. Ian and Reece started well producing competitive times even in the damp and were getting close to full dry times by the end of the session, putting both towards the top of the timings, with Ian ahead of many Pro’s. Session two gave us the first real drying running, and again Reece and Ian were running well, Ian end P2 in the Am class with the top three being separated by less than 2 tenths of a second. The next session was again damp and gave limited running, but the track was dry again for the beginning of the 4 session. Reece was running well on old rubber, but as the front runners started to put new tyres on he fell down the leader board, but was happy with the pace on used tyres. Ian, and the Am class held off on new tyres, as far as the team could see, and again the top three runners were only separated by a few tenths of a second, with Ian again in P2. The final session was fully wet and the drivers decided not to run.
On the official weekend test day on the Friday, the morning was dry with rain threatened for the afternoon. Reece had decided to miss this test day due to work commitments, so just Ian and Fraser went out. Both cars initially went out on old tyres to see what the conditions were like, and as soon as they were happy that the track was dry came in for new tyres for a qualification simulation run. At the end of the first free practice session, Ian was running 10th overall, beating several Pro’s, and 2nd in class again less than 2 tenths of the championship leader, Jac Constable. Fraser unfortunately was still struggling to get to grips with the new left-hand drive car and was down in 20th place and several seconds off the pace. In the afternoon session, the conditions were very different with a fully wet circuit. The Drivers decided to go out this time but with used wet tyres as oppose to new, just to see what the grip levels were like. Ian struggled initially to find the grip, but following a minor change to the front moved up to P3 in the Am class. Fraser however, was running non-regulation tyres as he hadn’t managed to sort new ones out, and was significantly off the pace.
Saturday morning, the GT4 Supercup were first out, and with early morning rain and a damp overcast morning, there was no way the track was going to be dry so the team prepared for a full wet qualifying, and bolted on new wets for the drivers. For the first few laps all of the drivers were out trying to find where the grip levels were, and trying alternative lines to see where the best grip was. Unfortunately for Reece, as he came around in to Luffields, one of the Am drivers had tried a very wide line as he cut back across the front of Reece, it caused Reece to spin and during his recovery he snapped a drive shaft, putting him out of qualifying and at the back of the Pro grid. Ian was putting reasonable times in just ahead of testing, but several of his competitors had found much better grip and were several tenths quicker and Ian wasn’t able to close the gap finishing in P4 in the Am grid. Fraser meanwhile was running much better than the test session despite only having second hand wets borrowed off a fellow competitor and although ended last in class, was actually much closer on lap times.
The first of three races for the weekend for the GT4 SuperCup was schedule for 14:10 on the Saturday afternoon, just before the BTCC qualifying session. The weather was still overcast, but the track had just about dried, albeit, the inside of the grid was still damp and all three drivers had ended up on the that side of the grid! Due to the change in conditions the race was given 2 green flag laps which gave the drivers an opportunity to run across the damp grid to dry as much as possible before the start.
As the lights went out Reece and Ian both made reasonable starts keeping with the cars ahead, although slightly struggling with those from behind on the outside. As they worked their way through the first corner Reece was on the back of the main pack and had worked his way past Higgins. Ian had caught Alex Taylor ahead, but had Dan Kirby coming around his outside stopping any further progress, while Fraser was bringing up the rear. As they came around to the second corner, Ian was trapped between Taylor ahead and Kirby to the left and as they went into the braking zone was pushed onto the grass and wet kerbing, hindering braking and resulting in a heavy shunt into the back of Taylor causing him to spin. Ian was fortunate not to be collected by any of the following cars and managed to maintain his position behind Kirby.
Meanwhile up front Reece was keeping good pace with the front runners and by lap 5 had made his way past Perez and up into 10th position. Reece continued to run strongly throughout the rest of the race but wasn’t able to make any further progress finishing in 10th position.
Just behind Reece, Ian’s race was taking a turn for the worst. As he started to apply pressure on Kirby in order to regain the position, with a good exit on to the Wellington straight from Ian, Dan had to defend and as they went into Brooklands, Dan was struggling for grip trying to keep a tight line, then as he turned back into Luffields he started to slide leaving Ian with nowhere to go. Luckily they only made light contact, but it still slowed them down enough to let most of the Am field through dropping Ian back to 7th in the class.
The combined damage from both impacts had weakened the structure of the front bumper and aero on Ian’s car causing significant vibration under braking, but it didn’t appear to be effecting the handling so Ian pushed on, quickly recovering 6th place before getting into a great 4-way battle with Dave Brookes, Alex Taylor and Paul Taylor, with the cars frequently 2 and 3 abreast, but generally very clean. By lap 5 the fight between the two Taylors and Ian had allowed Brookes to pull away, leaving Ian in a Taylor sandwich! On Lap 7 Alex finally made a mistake, letting Ian through, but at the same time had allowed Paul to get a run-on Ian, allowing him to pass into Brooklands, leaving Ian in 6th. However, 2 laps later Ian was able to get past Paul breaking away and started to chase down Brookes who now had a several second advantage. Over the next 4 laps Ian put in his quickest laps of the race and closed the 3 second gap and made it past Brookes as they headed into Brooklands for the 14th time, moving Ian up to 4th.
Jack Minshaw was ahead in 3rd, but with a 5 second gap with only a couple of laps remaining. Ian managed to close the gap by over a second a lap bringing it under 3 seconds, which ended up giving Ian 3rd place as Jack had received a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits, giving Ian a great start to the weekend.
Race two of the weekend was meant to be at 17:10 on the Saturday evening only leaving the one race on Sunday, however, the weather had other plans. At around 16:00 the heavens opened and we were given a spectacular lightening display and torrential rain, that went on for over 90 minutes. The Renault Clio race that was due to run before us had been stranded on the grid for over an hour while the officials debated what to do. In the end they allowed the Clio race to run at around 17:40pm but cancelled the GT4 race until 9am on the Sunday morning. The weather was still overcast and the track damp, with the continuous threat of rain, however, the track looked like
it would dry quickly if it didn’t rain and there was a lot of discussion over tyres and set-up and in the end the team opted to go with Wet tyres but with a dry set-up to give the best balance as the track dried. As we got to the assembly area most of the teams appeared to have opted for wet tyres, although around 6 cars looked like they were going to risk the slicks. After the two green flag laps, most of the cars on slicks were regretting their decision as the track was worse than expected.
Both Reece and Ian got good clean starts maintaining their respective positions of 10th and 3rd in class, With everyone around them appearing to behave themselves in the tricky conditions. Then as they came around to the very fast Copse corner for the second time, contact up ahead saw Carl Broadley spin out, luckily missing everybody, but ended up stalled in a dangerous position so out came the safety car.
After 5 laps behind the safety car they were back racing, but with Reece and Ian complaining of bad handling cars. Now up into 9th Reece was struggling to keep with the Pro pack and was slowing dropping back into the Am leaders fight. While just behind, Ian was trying his best to fend off Jack Minshaw, Dave Brookes and Alex Taylor, and couldn’t do anything about Colin White and Jac Constable who were pulling away ahead. Then on lap 12 contact between Taylor and Brookes sent Brookes into a spin and swopped their positions, and just ahead Jac Constable had mechanical problems bringing him to a halt along the start and finish straight and bringing out a second safety car, while promoting Ian to 2nd.
At the restart both Reece and Ian reported that their cars had completely gone off, especially through the fast first corner of Copse, leaving the two of them sitting ducks, with Reece falling behind the Am leader Colin White, and Ian losing out to Jack and then Alex on laps 16 and then 17. The Damage to Brookes car from his contact with Taylor proved to be more significant than expected and he dropped away. Up front, on lap 17 contact between Pointon and Baker ended up with Baker dropping to the back of the pack but continuing, promoting Reece to 8th in class. By Lap 19 Minshaw and Taylor had caught Reece and the 3-way fight was beginning to hold them up, providing Ian’s only real chance of catching them if they were to tangle, but although Minshaw and Taylor swopped places several times, they kept it clean and the positions remained as they were with Taylor taking second and Minshaw third, followed by a struggling Ian in 4th, while Reece hung on for 8th position, with a post-race penalty promoting him to 7th a little later.
The reverse grid for race 3 had thrown Ian a favour as 4 was pulled out of the hat giving him pole position and the outside line at the start. The weather forecast was saying no more rain for the day and the track was drying nicely. However, as the Touring cars went out for their first race there was a quick shower halfway through their race and then again just before the Clio race dampening the circuit. As we approached our revised start time of 13:40 the track appeared to be dry enough for slicks, giving Reece and Ian confidence they could fight for a podium position, although this was probably going to be a big ask for Reece starting in 7th.
As the race got underway, they held the red lights for a long time and both Ian and Reece suffered from a slipping clutch, causing them to have to drop their rev’s resulting in poor get a way’s.
At the end of the first lap Reece was down to 8th place, but a good run through Copse and a move into Becketts on lap 2 got back into 7th place, followed by a mistake from Pointon moved him up to 6th. Further back Ian had not been so fortunate, with Jack Minshaw and Colin White getting through at the first corner, although White ran wide allowing Ian back as they went into Beckett’s, but Colin had the better drive out onto the straight and was able to get to the inside before Brooklands, leaving Ian to fend off Paul Taylor and Jac Constable.
On lap 5, a mistake by Green, just ahead of Reece, allowed several of them through and promoted Reece to 5th. Further back Ian caught the kerb heavy on the braking into Beckett’s sending him wide and allowing Constable the chance to get down his outside into Brooklands and therefore the inside at Luffields, demoting him to 4th and with a couple of scrappy laps dropped him a couple of seconds off the leading group. Ian then picked up his pace and was able to keep with the leading group, eating a little into Jack Minshaw’s time who had now dropped to 3rd, although the two drivers were pretty much matching each other lap by lap, and they ended in these positions just a few seconds apart.
By lap 12 Reece’s tyres had started to go off and he was coming under increased pressure from Jones and Pointon, with Jones making his way past on Lap 14. Reece continued to absorb the pressure and was helped by the recovering Green starting to attack Pointon, giving him a little respite. Reece managed to hold on to 6th position until the end of the race giving him one of his best results of the year.
Overall a good weekend for the team with both Reece and Ian picking up a good haul of points and some more silverware for Ian. Fraser seemed to enjoy his return to the championship, despite the poor results and is looking to return at Brands, but with a different car.
We now have the season decider at Brands Hatch GP circuit in two weeks’ time with all to play for at the top of both the Pro and Am categories, although none of the TCR drivers are in with a chance of top honours. Ian, has a strong grip on 4th place in the Am class at the moment and has an outside chance of taking third, but it would require 3 podium finishes and Jack Minshaw suffering a very poor weekend for that to happen!
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup Driver Standings:
9th Reece Somerfield, 258pts
4th Ian Robinson, 374pts
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup next rounds:
30th Sept/1st Oct Brands Hatch GP