Free Practice one delivered obvious signs that the team were looking good for a more positive weekend, as James Birch and Aleksander Schjerpen topped the time sheets at the end of the session.
A power steering issue abruptly halted their second Free Practice session early in play, but allowed the team plenty of time to ensure everything was in top shape for Saturday afternoon’s qualifying.
Both Schjerpen and Birch looked amongst the best of the GT4 runners throughout the session. With just a few tenths separating the top runners, James and Aleksander both set the third fastest time in their respective groups to secure their place on the second row of the grid for Sunday’s two-hour encounter.
Schjerpen got Sunday’s race off to a superb start. A brilliant move into Paddock Hill bend promoted the Norwegian up to second in GT4 just before a lengthy Safety Car period. The track returned to green without any warning, and it was Aleksander who seemed to make the best getaway while many around him were caught napping. With lots of GT3 cars in the mix, Schjerpen was hoping to use this to his advantage to take the GT4 lead. However his impressive charge was hindered when the car developed yet another power steering issue, despite a completely new system having been installed the previous day. With the encouragement of his team, Schjerpen muscled his Ginetta around to make it to the pitstop window at the 60-minute mark, handing the car over to James Birch.
Having checked over the issue and found no obvious signs of weakness, Birch returned to the circuit, but shortly returned to allow the team further time to repair the issue. The team of mechanics and engineers pulled off a rapid replacement of the car’s steering system, allowing James to return to the track inside the final 25-minutes of the race.
James Birch – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It’s been another up and down weekend for us really. I think the last two or three rounds we’ve shown our turn of pace. From the start of this weekend we were the quickest in Free Practice one. Qualifying third on combined times was good considering we didn’t get our qualifying simulation in Free Practice two. In the race we were really confident knowing we had the pace to get a podium. Credit to Aleksander, he did a good job during his stint and my own pace was good during my stint but unfortunately we had an issue with the power steering. Unfortunately that happens in motorsport. The team did a really great job to turn it around to get me back out to put some laps in at the end. It was there for us to win this weekend. I look forward to the next round where hopefully we can get a little bit of luck as we have everything else needed to win.”
Aleksander Schjerpen – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“All in all we had very good speed this weekend, both James and I got up to speed pretty quick in FP1. We had a great qualifying where we finished up P3. I had a great start to the race and I was able to fight for the top step. The car was brilliant, the guys in the team did a great job the whole weekend, they’re just amazing working so hard to get the car just right. The speed was there and this really could have been a podium for us so hopefully we can bring the same speed and pace to Snetterton and hope for more luck there.”
Nathan Freke – Team Principal:
“The weekend started very well setting the fastest time in Free Practice one. In the second session we had a power steering issue, which we quickly resolved ahead of qualifying. Aleksander went out first and did a great job setting the third fastest time in his group. James did the same within his group, which put us third on the grid for the race. It was a textbook start by Aleksander in the race getting up to second and fighting for the lead. After a lengthy safety car Aleksander reported the power steering issue but managed to make it to the pitstop window. Nothing obvious showed up during the stop so James went out but couldn’t continue, so the guys did a cracking job to replace the system to get him back out at the end for some laps. We definitely had the pace to be on the podium at the very least today and certainly challenge for the win. We’ll bounce back for Snetterton where hopefully we can make it to the end on the podium!”