Century Motorsport experienced the joy and despair of motorsport in equal measure during an enthralling final round of the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Donington Park, a heart-breaking late retirement whilst leading for the #43 Ginetta opening the way for the #42 machine to take the win and with it the British GT4 Teams Championship honours to Century.
Both Tom Oliphant and Rick Parfitt in the #42 G55 GT4 and Aleksander Schjerpen and Morten Dons in the #43 model got the weekend off to a positive start with some strong running in Saturday’s two free practice sessions, with the focus on fine-tuning their set-ups ahead of qualifying.
A step up in performance from both driver partnerships in qualifying produced positive results for both. Oliphant and Parfitt both set their quickest times of the day to get fourth on the grid as the top Ginetta GT4, while Schjerpen and Dons took sixth on the grid after pulling a huge improvement in pace out of the bag.
Rick and Aleksander started the race behind the wheel of their respective Ginetta’s, and both maintained their starting positions in the first few laps of the race before a retirement for the class leading Lotus Evora promoted them up a place.
With the team knowing that the two Aston Martin’s at the head of the pack had pitstop penalties to take, Parfitt focused on staying on their tails and maintaining his tyres for the large majority of his stint, until a couple of opportunities before the pit window allowed him to superbly scythe his way through into the lead.
Oliphant took over the car in the lead, however a pit limiter problem cost him nearly twenty seconds on his out-lap, dropping him to third. The new leaders were their team-mates, with a brilliant, consistent stint from Schjerpen seeing him dive into the pits in a clear fourth, before a perfect pit-stop from the team allowed Dons to take to the track at the head of the class.
The Dane produced a brilliant drive to increase his lead at the front to a peak of over seven seconds, edging away further every time the cars behind looked like they might make inroads into his advantage, however a repeat of a wishbone failure that took a podium from them last time out at Brands Hatch cruelly robbed them of what was an almost certain maiden British GT4 victory.
Their downfall opened the door to a potential win for Oliphant, who had overcome his earlier drama to be right in the thick of a thrilling battle with the two Astons, and a fuel issue for the Beechdean edition allowed him to go on the offensive with five minutes to go.
Clearly the faster car, Oliphant hassled the leader and a brave move around the outside into Coppice pressured his rival into a spin. This gave him a clear run to the line for a hard-earned and richly-deserved first win of the season for the #42 car. The victory gives Oliphant and Parfitt fourth in the final GT4 standings, with Dons and Schjerpen close behind in fifth.
Tom Oliphant – #42 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“Rick did an amazing job in the first stint, he stuck with the Astons, drove smart and managed to get in front of them somehow – fighting with them myself for the best part of the hour, I know it’s hard!”
“When we went back out, bad luck struck again and I thought our race was over, but luckily the team told me a solution on the radio. We battled away from there and I kept pushing and pushing. Their tyres went off and I knew that was my chance. It’s a brilliant way to end the season and the team thoroughly deserve it, they’ve been brilliant all year.”
Rick Parfitt Jnr – #42 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It was all going to plan in my stint, the strategy was to sit behind the Astons and to only make a move if it presented itself. It did and I took second, and it did and I took first, which is a real confidence booster for me. From then on after Tom’s issue it was probably one of the most stressful thirty, forty minutes of my career.”
“Tom drove brilliantly though, and it was a really hard-fought and thoroughly deserved win, as we both had to come from behind to take the lead in our stints. It’s really emotional, it’s been a season of massive heartbreak and everyone in the pitlane knows we deserved a win.”
Aleksander Schjerpen – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We found a very good set-up on the car this weekend, both Morten and I were happy with the car and with qualifying sixth. The car was brilliant in the race, I was really able to push, and the team did a great job in the pitstop.”
“We came out in first place and Morten was pulling away, he wasn’t having to defend at all, so it’s a big disappointment to have to retire from the lead. It’s a shame not to get that result to end the year, but this season has exceeded all expectations and we’ll come back stronger from this.”
Morten Dons – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We spent practice and qualifying working on finding a race set-up and it paid off. We once again showed that we can move up the field in the race from our grid position, Aleksander showed great pace and handed over a very good race car to me.”
“I got straight on the pace and kept the gap to the cars behind, advanced it a little bit, but then as we experienced at Brands the wheel started coming off angle and at the end it was impossible to turn left. It was a quite safe, quite sure first place, and it’s a big disappointment, but I’ll look back at this race as the one in which me and Aleksander showed that we belong at the front.”
Nathan Freke – Team Principal, Century Motorsport:
“Rick drove an absolutely blinding stint, he kept pressure on the Astons all the way knowing that they had pitstop penalties, but top credit to him for bringing it into the pits in the lead. Aleksander did a great too, he lost a place at the start which cost us a bit of time but once he cleared the car he was matching the pace of the leaders.”
“Pitstops came and went, they both went very smoothly, but for some strange reason Tom’s car wouldn’t come out of second gear and lost him around twenty seconds. Morten came out in the lead, and drove a storming stint. He gapped the guys behind, pulled away at times and it looked like he was on for a great win but we had to retire it with exactly the same wishbone failure as Brands.”
“It’s gutting and I’m devastated for both of them, they drove out of their skins. On the other side of the garage, Tom had a great battle with the Astons and came through to win it. All year luck has been against them, so I’m elated for them to get that elusive victory.”