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Century Motorsport’s race debut for BMWs at British GT Season Opener

Easter bank holiday weekend marked the first race for Century Motorsport’s brand new pair of BMW M4 GT4s. Many had fairly high expectations of these cars and there was a great deal of interest in general leading up to the event, especially after both cars managed to get the two fastest laps in GT4 at British GT Championship Media Day on 8t March.

Both cars showed very good pace on Saturday during the qualifying sessions. In car 43, Jack Mitchell and Ricky Collard (BMW Junior Driver who stepped in as a super-sub in place of Aleksander Schjerpen who couldn’t make this weekend) both qualified in fourth, which later turned into a third position due to technical infringement by another competitor. In car 42, Ben Tuck qualified in fifth place (which then moved up to fourth) and Ben Green, after getting held up in traffic, qualified in 16th place (which then moved up to 15th).

Due to it being Easter weekend, there was no track action on Sunday so the drivers spent some time practicing driver changes whilst the team practiced pit stops along with ensuring both cars were race-ready.

Monday morning started off very wet and was only looking to get wetter throughout the day so there was a bit of uncertainty as to how the day was going to pan out. Race one kicked off and the track was quite wet at this point but the race went on and the team achieved some incredible results.

Collard and Tuck started the race and Mitchell and Green went out for the second stint. The race ended with car 42 in second place and car 43 in fourth place however unfortunately, car 42 had their podium taken away from them due to a pit stop which was found to be half a second too quick, leading to a 30s penalty, dropping their position down to seventh. This then meant that car 43, Mitchell and Collard, moved up to third position.

The weather was getting worse as the afternoon went on and as the cars went out for the second race, there was a feeling of anxiousness amongst the team and driver’s families, wondering if the safety car was going to leave
the track. After a long thirteen minutes, the message came across on the radios that the race was abandoned on
the grounds of safety due to the adverse weather conditions.

This was gutting for the team and the drivers after the earlier mishap. It would have been great for car 42 to claim back that podium, however safety is of paramount importance in a situation like this and at least the drivers and the cars made it back to the garage safely and in one piece.

Tuck: 

“Going into this weekend we were concentrating on managing expectations around a track we thought we might struggle at. However once we had worked on the set up of the car and heading into qualifying with new tyres, the car was transformed.

We were also unsure of what our pace would be like in the wet conditions for Monday’s races due to lack of testing, but again the car felt great and after my mistake at turn 2, the pace of the car was very surprising and I had loads of confidence to be able to push hard and make up the places that I had lost. It was an awesome feeling finishing P2 in the race with Ben Green. Unfortunately a pit stop penalty after the race put us back to P7 but we now know we have the pace in any conditions to be fighting at the front.

BMW Motorsport have done an amazing job with the M4 GT4 and Century have done brilliantly to find both wet and dry set ups that work for mine and Ben’s driving style.”

Green:

“I really enjoyed driving Century Motorsports new BMW M4 GT4 at Oulton Park. It was the first time I had driven the new car at this track and we knew we would be up against it. In qualifying we found a lot of pace by putting on new tyres and we carried this pace into the race, even though the weather changed a lot over the weekend. 

In the wet race we had good pace and Ben drove a great first stint. I took over and we came out of the pits at the front end. I managed the gap to the competition and brought the car home in a well-deserved 2nd place. It was a shame to receive the penalty for the pit stop being 0.5 seconds too short, as this was a marginal misjudgement but this is the top end of British motorsport and everything must be pushed to the limit. 

I’m really looking forward to the next round at Rockingham as I feel the track suits our car and we should have great pace there!”

Mitchell:

“Really happy with my first weekend in the BMW M4 GT4, with limited running in the car and to be able to qualify 3rd  in the pro qualifying group was a big achievement for me. Our race didn’t go as planned, Ricky did an amazing job to keep the car in 3rd right behind the leaders. At the driver change we sadly lost a place to one of the other cars and due to a bit of damage in the first stint by another car we was unable to push forward like we wanted to. I was happy with my performance and the team’s performance and that’s put me in a good position and mind-set ready for Rockingham.”

Collard:

“What an incredible start to 2018. It’s been a pleasure racing for Century Motorsport and BMW in the new BMW M4 GT4. The speed and reliability has been impeccable with both cars running competitively on their first race weekend. As a team we’ve worked really well over the last week and I’m sure Century and BMW will continue to improve and will be a real force to be reckoned with in the 2018 season!”

Nathan Freke, Owner of Century Motorsport:

“The weekend on the whole was a success. When you break it down and look back at it all, we have exceeded our expectations. The cars are very competitive in both conditions and we have a fantastic group of young drivers.

The pit stop penalty really put a dampener on the Monday, it’s a situation we never want to have, but we will look forwards now to the Rockingham race where we will be ready to fight and look to come back with a good points haul and some silverware.”

The next round of British GT will be held at Rockingham on 28th– 29thApril. This will be the more traditional 2-hour race. Let’s hope the team get to bring home some silverware for both cars!

 

Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography