Ginetta GT5 Challenge – Donington Park 2016

Ginetta GT5 Challenge – Donington Park 2016


The seventh and final round of the 2016 Ginetta GT5 Challenge was with the British GT Championship at the wonderful Donington Park GP Circuit, held over the weekend of 10th & 11th of September. The TCR team with the 3 cars of Ian, Matt and Dan still had a lot to play for with Matt in a 3-way battle for second place in the championship, while Ian was in a 4-way battle for 5th in the championship. The team got together on the Friday for some much needed testing having had a 9 week gap from the last event in July at Spa, and both drivers and cars needed the cobwebs blowing out.

First tasks were to give the cars a good shake down, with Dan’s having made a major re-build after Spa, and Ian’s a complete new rear brake system as the team had discover the compete rear braking system had seized solid sometime during the Spa weekend, potentially explaining why Ian struggled to achieving the pace he had shown in testing during the actual race weekend.

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With the shake down completed in the morning, the afternoon was all about getting onto the pace, and Matt came out flying immediately setting the fastest time of the day and right on the Champion, Ollie Chadwick’s pace. Ian was continually improving running about a second off Matt, with Dan running a further second behind, which was very impressive for his first outing at Donington. At the end of the testing all cars appeared to be set up and ready and set up for a dry meeting, with the only slight complication for Ian and Matt being that they had run out of their new tyre allocation and therefore would have to run the whole weekend on used tyres, where as Dan still had two new tyres to come for the weekend.

Saturday arrived and so did the torrential rain! The team had been anticipating ran, but not quite as hard as they got during the qualifying session. So it was a quick change over to wet tyres and a best guess at the setting for the suspension and brakes and off they went. The conditions were appalling and with 40 cars on track space and visibility were at an absolute premium.

After only 2 laps the red flags came out with too many cars already in the gravel traps, the marshal’s need to clear some of them away for safety reasons. At the restart the rain had eased slightly but visibility was still very limited behind another car, and finding space was proving incredibly difficult. With all three drivers struggling to get clear laps in, they were slipping down the grid as fast as they could climb, ending in disappointing results with Matt in 8th, Ian 13th and Dan 17th, which was certainly not ideal for Matt and Ian with all of their main rivals ahead of them on the grid.

 

Race 1:

The first of three races for the weekend and only one on the Saturday for the GT5 Challenge was schedule for 15:50 in the afternoon. The weather was still very overcast but it had at least stopped raining and the track was looking dry enough for slick tyres. As they formed up on the grid with all three of the drivers out of position in relation to where they have been for most of the year, it was looking like a tough challenge for all of them to get to where they needed for their championship challenge. Matt made the most of the start and was up to 5th by the end of the first lap, Dan made a solid start and held his position for the first tour, meanwhile Ian was having a few problems! As the 5 second board came up and the revs started to rise, Ian’s car started to creep with the clutch just about hanging on Ian had no choice but to keep the revs up and allow the car to creep, resulting in an average start but a 10 second penalty for jumping the start and to make matters worse Ian lost a place dropping him down to 14th by the end of lap one.

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At the front Matt was doing a great job and had worked his way up into 4th place by lap 5. Unfortunately the gap to third place, and his too championship rivals was just too great and although he was continuously closing the gap, he was unable to haul them in before the chequered flag. Still a great result from 8th on the grid and meant he still retained his second place in the championship.

Further back Ian’s race went from bad to worse. Having fought his way back to his original grid position and then gained a couple more places by the end of the second lap. Ian then made a move on the inside of Evan’s into Redgate at the beginning of lap three taking 10th and second in the Am class. Evan’s then fought back following very closely down though the Craner curves making a suicide move down into the Old Hairpin, losing control and causing both himself and Ian to spin losing loads of places. Ian eventually re-joined down in 28th place on the road and still with a 10 second penalty to overcome. With time against him, Ian scythed through the pack as best he could, quickly despatching the GRDC+ runners working his way through the GT5 cars, ending an admirable 16th, but with both of his main championship contenders finishing well ahead of him this result and put a serious dent in is chances of taking 5th place in the championship.

Dan took advantage of Ian’s misfortune and drove a great race, showing some really good pace to finish off 12th overall and runner up in the Am class.

 

Race 2:

Race two of the weekend was on Sunday morning, and what a contrast in weather with blue sky’s and bright sunshine replacing the dull and wet Saturday. With a 9:55 start time there was controlled panic in the garage as the team replaced Ian’s clutch as they had had to return back to the team factory the previous evening in order to get the replacement parts as the Ginetta parts truck didn’t have what they needed. All was well and the team were finished with almost 30 minutes to spare.

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Matt was starting the race much closer to the front this time in 4th position with his championship rivals along side and in front. Dan was starting from 12th, while Ian was back in 16th position. Matt got another good start and was up into third place before Redgate and then as the front two fought and drifted wide, Matt took full advantage and moved into the lead. Further back both Dan and Ian got away well (Ian’s clutch working well and no penalties) and as they approached Redgate for the first time Ian saw an opportunity down the inside and made his way up to 10th place and 1st in the Am class by the end of the first lap. Dan didn’t come out quite as well on the first lap shuffle slipping back to 14th.

Back up front Matt was coming under immense pressure from the Hadfield brothers and Ollie Chadwick, eventually succumbing to an attack at Redgate by Ryan Hadfield on the third lap. Fighting back, Matt made a move on Ryan going into McLean’s. Unfortunately this put Matt on the outside into Coppice and was forced out wide on to the dirt part of the track and dropping him back to fourth, with the chasing pack of 5th down to 10th right on his bumper. On the same lap as the group of 10 cars tussled for position contact at the front sent Ollie into a spin promoting Matt back up into 3 place, and Ian into 9th.

Matt’s adventure continued at the front as he progressed back into second place, only to be dropped down to 4th again before fighting back into third on the final lap. Meanwhile, just behind him Ian was having a fantastic race and had set the fastest lap, only being beaten on the second to last lap by the recovering champion Ollie Chadwick. Ian had made his way up to 8th position and was all over the battle ahead but couldn’t find a way past. With a final roll of the dice Ian saw an opportunity down the inside at the last corner and made a clean apex to take 7th place but was then out dragged to the line losing 7th place by 14 hundredth’s of a second and only 3 seconds shy of a podium place, and taking the Am class win. Unfortunately both Ian’s championship rivals finished ahead of him, slipping him further behind on points.

A little further back Dan’s poor first lap got even worse on the second tour as a small mistake sent him wide and off track, dropping him down to 38th place. He fought back valiantly recovering to 22nd overall by the end of the race.

 

Race 3:

The third and final race of the weekend was at 15:15pm on the Sunday afternoon and again we were welcomed to the track by warm and dry weather. With the reverse grid being selected at 9th place this meant that Ian would be starting on the front row in second place with Matt down in 6th (due to Ryan Hadfield having a 5 place penalty for causing Ollie Chadwick to spin) and Dan in 11th position.

Ian was along side Steven Wells on the front row and as the lights went out Ian got a flying start pulling clear of the pack into Redgate for the first time and Ian led the pack throughout most of the first lap. As they entered the Fogerty Esses for the first time, Ian dropped a wheel off the kerb losing momentum on the closing pack and as they entered the Melbourne hairpin it was side by side for the leading pack (see main picture). Matt had enjoyed a tremendous start as well and was right up with Ian by the end of the first lap. Further back Dan was having a great race, picking people off and working his way back into the mid teens.

They entered lap two with Ian in second place and Matt in forth, but a poor exit from the old hairpin and a badly under-steering car dropped Ian to third. Then as the pack entered the Melbourne hairpin again, two and three abreast, Ian and Matt both lost out dropping to 4th and 5th respectively. Things then took a turn for the worst for the TCR team-mates on lap 3, with Ian again fighting under-steer into the Old hairpin, but this time catching a rut just off the kerb sending the car into a huge spin dropping him from 4th overall and the Am lead right down to 15th position. Matt had a very narrow escape missing Ian’s rear bumper by millimetres and managed to carry on only losing a couple of places.

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Ian went on to enjoy a great battle with Dan and a couple of the other Am competitors and finished the race in 12th position with Dan right behind him in 13th, but unfortunately this result destroyed Ian’s chances of 5th place in the championship and he ended up finishing as Am Champion and 7th overall.

Matt went on to fight a tremendous race finishing 3rd on the road, only to be handed a 10 second penalty for a jump-start and being demoted to 6th. However, due to a 15 point penalty being imposed on Ryan Hadfield for his collision with Ollie Chadwick, 6th place was sufficient for Matt to retain second place in the championship and therefore becoming the Vice Champion at the age of 16 and in his first year of trying, an absolute brilliant achievement.

“We tried didn’t we – it would have been nice to win it three years on the trot but we’ve done a cracking job with Matt to finish runner-up”, said TCR team boss Lee Brookes, “We gave it our best shot and Matt did a fantastic job all season, we’re really chuffed with what he’s achieved and he’s stepped-up his game massively. He’s only going to get quicker.

“Ian and Dan had a great race in the last one, the whole team is strong and those two guys have come on in leaps and bounds during the season. It’s been a good season in the Challenge and we’ll have to see what next year brings now!”

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That’s it for another year, with TCR yet again showing their strength in depth and a brilliant place to learn how to race Ginetta’s. A huge thank you has to go out to the team for all of their efforts and for keeping the drivers at the front of the grid. To Lee and Kenny for all of their leadership and technical excellence, to Stuart for looking after Ian’s car, Shaun for running Matt’s (not bad result for his first year as a full blown mechanic) and to Craig for running Dan’s car, and to everyone else at TCR who has joined in to make this year such a success. And finally to all of the friends and family who have come along to support all of the drivers in rain and sun shine and for putting up with all their grumpy mood swings as thing didn’t quite go to plan!!

 

Ginetta GT5 Challenge Driver Standings (after Rd16)
2nd Matt Chapman, 456pts; Vice Champion
7th Ian Robinson, 276pts; Am Class Champion
15th Dan Collinson, 115pts 4th in Am Class.

Ginetta GT5 Challenge Team Standings
2nd Team TCR, 747pts.

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