The third weekend in July marked the annual trip to Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for those entering the Ginetta GT5 Challenge, in support of the British GT Championship. Century Motorsport drivers, Max Bird and James Kellett, were both looking forward to this round at the scenic track. Bird had never been to Spa before so needed to learn the track whereas Kellett had raced at Spa before and had also won a race there three years ago.
The 20-minute qualifying session got underway in the very dry heat on Friday afternoon. The lap times were all remarkably close in this session, with just over one second separating the top 13 times. Bird qualified in 13th and Kellett qualified in ninth place. Neither driver got a clear lap despite both having sector times worthy of being on the front two rows.
Saturday morning at 11am, race 1 got underway. Due to the extreme length of the track at 4.352 miles, the Ginetta G40s could only squeeze in seven laps to their 25-minute race. This first race saw three of those laps get taken away due to an incident that caused a safety car to be deployed on the second lap, with the race then restarting on the fifth lap, with only three laps remaining until the chequered flag.
Kellett had managed to gain two places in the first lap before the safety car was deployed and Bird also gained two places, one of which was due to the number 68 car having to retire from the race.
There wasn’t much time for the drivers to show their potential with only three laps until the end however they gave it their all and Kellett and Bird managed to battle their way closer to the front, finishing in fifth and ninth respectively.
Race 2 got underway early Sunday morning, with the Century team hoping that a safety car wouldn’t spoil their chances of getting the positions they deserved.
Bird showed excellent pace throughout the race, storming his way from ninth right up to fifth
by the second lap. It was then that the dreaded safety car came out for the next two laps, losing him time, which could have been an extra couple of positions that he could have gained. Further determination saw Bird find third place in the penultimate lap however unfortunately he then got pushed wide which caused him to spin out, having to settle with sixth place at the chequered flag.
Kellett gained two positions off the start, putting him in third, then on lap 2 he spotted a gap to pass the number 60 car and found second place. He remained in second place for the remainder of the race whilst fiercely battling for the lead. On the final corner of the last lap, Kellett powered through, passing the number 89 car that had controlled the entire race after starting on pole and Kellett crossed the line first by a miniscule margin of 0.057s, claiming race victory, along with achieving the fastest lap of the race.
An extra achievement for both Bird and Kellett, was that they were two of only three cars lapping sub 2m50s, over 1-second below the pole qualifying pace.
“Spa was an amazing track and I really enjoyed Eau Rouge. The experience was like no other and my pace was right up there also.”
“I was confident going into Spa but an unfortunate quali put me on the back foot for the races. I knew I had the pace in the car and myself but I struggled in the first race coming through the pack with only 3 laps of racing, another few laps and I would have definitely been even higher up the grid. Race 2 I was starting P5! I had to concentrate on getting a good start as I knew from the first race it could be under safety car with in a couple laps. First lap had gone and I brought myself up to third position, from here I knew I had pace to win, it was just about getting to the front. An exciting race and some good battles saw me come across the line in first place with fastest lap, always best finishing off the weekend with a win! The car was absolutely perfect all weekend and I’m really looking forward to the next round at Knockhill!”
Nathan Freke, Owner of Century Motorsport:
“Not getting a clear lap in qualifying for both drivers and starting out of position compared to their pace was always going to make the races tough, but having a safety car affect both races made their life ten times harder. Both drivers showed their class in moving up the field when they were racing in green flag conditions. James winning the second race was fantastic and it was just a shame that Max lost out on the 3rd place he had fought up to by suffering some contact on the last lap. Once again though we showed the immense pace we have with both drivers by lapping sub 2.50 in the race, way below the qualifying pole time.”