Having shown a significant return to form at the last rounds in Silverstone, Century Motorsport traveled overseas for the Ginetta GT5 Challenge away round at Zandvoort in the Netherlands. Max Bird was set to fly the flag as the sole Century entry for the weekend, with Sami Saarelainen opting to leave this event off his programme for the 2017 season.
As a totally new circuit for the Chichester driver, Friday’s pre-event test was his first opportunity to familiarise himself with the new venue. Quickly getting settled in, it was becoming obvious that Bird’s lack of experience wasn’t going to be a factor towards his ambitions to continue his podium streak.
Saturday morning proved to be a tricky start to the competitive action of the weekend, with Qualifying starting on a wet circuit. However as the conditions dried during the session, inside the final five minutes, Max made the most of a switch to slick tyres to set the seventh fastest time and secure a row four starting slot for the afternoon’s opening race of the weekend.
Aiming to make the most of his dry weather pace, Bird got a superb start in the first of three races, moving up two places by the end of the opening lap. In what would turn out to be a race long battle with Connor O’Brien and Shane Stoney, Max briefly slipped to sixth on lap three before quickly putting that right on the following tour. Keen to stand on the Zandvoort podium, Bird put a big push on during the final laps, his efforts rewarded on the final lap with Lewis Brown falling away, promoting him to fourth overall.
Starting Sunday’s first of two races from the outside of row two, Bird jumped up to third and was once again in battle with Shane Stoney for the final podium spot. The race long battle that saw plenty of position swapping eventually went in favour of Stoney with Max almost half a second behind in fourth.
Following the reverse grid draw for the third and final installment of the weekend’s action, Bird lined up on the outside of row three and keen to have one last shot at adding to his 2017 podium tally. Jumping to fifth on the opening tour, Max continued to work his way up the order and by the half way point in the race, was up to third and closing rapidly on Matt Palmer for second. Sealing the deal on lap five, Bird jumped into second, a position he would secure to the chequered flag, much to the delight of his Century crew on the pitwall.
Max Bird – #44 Century Motorsport Ginetta G40:
“I started off on Friday having not seen the track before, but I was straight on the pace which was promising. We went into qualifying confident, but the wet conditions were not expected and we didn’t have the correct setup on. For most of the session I was off the pace until it dried up and we came in for slicks and from there I managed to secure P7. It then came to racing and I was feeling confident and managed two fourths and then on the second day I came second after a good hard race. I would like to thank the team and my parents for providing me with the opportunity and now I’m looking forward to Knockhill, sitting just one point off fourth in the championship.”
Nathan Freke – Team Principal, Century Motorsport:
“Zandvoort was always going to be a tricky round for Max and the team as we haven’t run the Ginetta G40 there before, but we do have experience of the circuit from British GT rounds in the past. Sami opted to miss this round also, so it was all down to Max and the guys to make the most of every lap in testing to optimise the setup for the weekend. The guys nailed that and Max really impressed throughout the weekend. He worked hard on every lap and was well rewarded, finishing in the top four in all three races, that included second in the final race which was a great way to finish out the weekend. A big well done to Max and the guys for their hard work, now I’m hoping we can continue this turn of form in Knockhill.”
Knockhill, Fife, Scotland – Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th August 2017