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Pace and strategy but no luck at Silverstone for Century Motorsport

Century Motorsport came to Silverstone last weekend looking to kick their Avon Tyres British GT4 Championship season up a gear after a mixed start to the season so far in the opening three rounds.

With the benefit of completing a pre-event test at Silverstone ahead of the event, both James Birch and Aleksander Schjerpen were able to hit the ground running during both of Saturday morning’s free practice sessions.

Qualifying for Sunday’s 180-minute encounter was decided on the combination of each driver’s fastest times. A solid run from both placed them tenth on a grid of 17 GT4 entries.

Sunday however would present teams with a very different challenge. Similar to Rockingham, the morning warm-up was held on a soaking wet circuit and despite a multitude of varying weather reports; the majority seemed to indicate that the race would be held under wet conditions.

Just as the cars started to make their way to the grid, a fresh downpour of rain made tyre and setup decisions for the team that little bit easier. Aleksander who admits he has a preference for the wet got the race off to a superb start. By lap eight he was now running in fifth just before the race was neutralised two laps later for what would be come a lengthy Safety Car period. Immediately the team took advantage of the Safety Car window for their first driver change of the weekend. James returned to the circuit fully fueled for a long stint, but just as the race looked set to resume, James was called back into the pits in a split second decision to change to slick tyres and place Aleksander back in the car.

Returning to the circuit just as the track returned to green flag conditions, the change proved to be a masterstroke by Les Jones and Nathan Freke on the team’s pitwall. Theoretically the team was now leading GT4 as they had completed their two mandatory pitstops and were on what was becoming the optimum tyre. Aleksander put in another strong stint but unfortunately the team’s run of bad luck was set to strike again. Contact whilst passing a back marker punctured Schjerpen’s front right tyre, forcing him back into the pits to make a change. Aleksander returned to the track in 11th to complete his stint before handing the car over to James Birch for his final stint. Birch however was forced to return to the pits to repair some damage to his bonnet stemming from Aleksander’s earlier puncture. Despite some heavy contact inside the final ten minutes of the race, James managed to secure eighth place at the chequered flag to record a finish and some strong points from what had been quite a dramatic race for the team.

Aleksander Schjerpen – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We came to Silverstone pretty well prepared so we had high hopes at the beginning of the weekend. It was a bit of a struggle with the weather to find the right setup. We qualified 10th in the middle of the pack which was Ok. I was starting the race and had a really good start. We were running fifth at the end of my stint when I went into the pits during the Safety Car. James did a short stint then during the Safety Car before I went back out on slicks just before the race went green again. Unfortunately I touched with another car when I was passing a back marker that destroyed the rest of the race for us. We were running for a podium but I had to go into the pits to fix the bonnet and the puncture. It was a shame really. All in all I had a really good weekend. My times were good and James did a really good job. The strategy was really good so hopefully we can bring that pace to Spa-Francorchamps.

James Birch – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We had a good weekend as a whole really. We came here testing before the event, which made a big difference, as we were able to hit the ground running on Saturday with practice. Qualifying in 10th was probably fair on our pace really but our speed is always improving as a pairing which is good. The session overall was very very close. We played some smart strategy in the race at the start, which was good. We got a bit unlucky during the race with some contact which upset the balance of the car. From there we just tried to bring the car home in eighth which earned us some strong points so it’s not the worst result. Hopefully myself and Aleksander can keep improving and do something good at Spa-Francorchamps!

Nathan Freke – Team Principal:
“The weekend got off to a good start in practice, we got the car dialed in pretty quickly. We started the race in tenth and got off to a great start. Aleksander did a great job climbing up to fifth just before we pitted when the Safety Car came out. Just before the Safety Car came in we made a last minute call to put Aleksander back in the car on slicks which turned out to be a bit of a master stroke really as it gave us the potential to move into second. From there we had some contact, which dropped us down the order a bit, and we ended up finishing eighth. Overall a strong result but not the reward we deserved for some good strategy calls and a good drive from both James and Aleksander.”