Former Ginetta GT4 Supercup Champions Century Motorsport kicked off their 2017 title-bid with a new look driver line-up that featured the ultra-competitive duo of Ben Green and Century stalwart Declan Jones.
Hoping their blend of speed and youth would pay dividends, it looked like Nathan Freke had chosen wisely during the off season with his pair of drivers well inside the top ten right from the off during Friday’s opening free practice session.
With just half a second separating the top seven drivers in Saturday morning’s first qualifying session of the year, it was Ben Green who lead the way for Century Motorsport in fourth, with Jones just behind in sixth to put himself on the outside of row three for race one.
As the lights went out for race one, Ben Green was a man on a mission towards the front, slotting himself into second at the end of the opening tour. Declan Jones wasn’t so lucky at the start however. A gearbox issue dropped him to tenth and with a big task ahead to move back up the order. At the head of the field Green wasn’t content with second and was on a charge to hunt down race leader George Gamble. But with Carl Boardley filling his mirrors, Ben put on a masterclass in sensible driving to ensure he maintained his runner-up spot to the flag, earning his first championship points of the year. Declan Jones recovered to eighth after his earlier woes.
Maintaining their race one finishing positions for the start of race two, Green lined up on the outside of the front row with Jones on the same side of row four. However bad luck was set to strike upon the team for the first of two spells before the race even started when Ben was forced to pull his car off the grid with a drive-shaft issue. After a brief delay to recover his car, the race got underway just before 6pm with Declan Jones launching his car up to sixth at the end of the opening lap. Keen to make the most of his early progress, Declan was now in a hot battle for position with Reece Somerfield and Tom Hibbert. Initially leading the trio in fourth, Hibbert fought his way past on a couple of occasions before the team’s second bout of bad luck would strike in the final laps as Jones found himself being spun into the pitwall, necessitating an immediate red flag to stop the race due to his vulnerable position.
Keen to turn race two into a distant memory, the Century mechanics had worked their magic overnight to return both cars to full health ahead of the third and final race of the weekend on Sunday afternoon. Starting from 10th and 11th on the grid, Jones and Green were hoping to work their way up the order promptly from the off. Initially that plan was coming together perfectly with the pair up to eighth and ninth respectively. The first of two Safety Car periods briefly halted their progress before Green flag racing resumed on lap nine. Just five laps later the race was back under the control of the Safety Car, this time to recover Ben’s stricken Ginetta G55 on the main straight, having been caught up in an incident between Carl Boardley and Callum Pointon. Now as the sole Century driver on track, Declan Jones was up to fifth as the race resumed on lap twenty. A superb run over the final laps was further rewarded when Jack Mitchell dropped down the order, promoting Jones to a weekend best result of fourth overall.
Declan Jones – #14 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It was a real up and down weekend, but we finished it very strong. I kept my nose clean in the last race, which I needed to do just to collect some points after what happened on Saturday. We just need to keep focussed now and keep pushing – onwards and upwards to Donington in two weeks. At the end of the day it is a long year and we want to do well in the Championship – that is the ultimate aim. Today it looked really good on TV and that’s what we want. A big thank-you to the Century-Whitley Neill Gin team for all their hard work, especially after having to re-build the car. The team was fantastic over the weekend.”
Ben Green – #22 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“I had my highest ever finish in my first race of the 2017 season. We showed good pace and were due to start the following race the highest up the grid I would have ever started. However my luck changed at the beginning of race two, when my driveshaft sheered on the way to the grid. In race three I started in 11th and I made my way through the grid up to 5th position. I then got caught up in an incident in front of me. It was unavoidable as I moved away from the out of control car as it came across the track. I ended up in the tyre wall on the start finish straight. This was a shame as I felt I was on the way to another podium finish from 11th position. I’m really looking forward to the next round as we showed our pace in qualifying and race one. We got unlucky in races two and three, as I’m sure we would have had a solid result in both races. Big thanks to the team and support around me in our first race weekend in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup 2017.”
Nathan Freke – Team Principal, Century Motorsport:
“I guess you could say this has been an up and down weekend for us. But at this stage its important to focus on the positives from what is the very first weekend of a long season. No question, Ben and Declan have both impressed massively this weekend, and I think we’ve got two guys who can easily race at the front all season and challenge for the title. We’ve seen this weekend more than ever that lady luck plays an important part, so here’s hoping she’ll be on our side going forward to make up for the results we missed. The team worked hard this week behind the scenes to make it all happen, so I owe a massive word of thanks to them for their commitment.”
Donington Park, Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th April 2017.