The 2016 British GT Championship moved to Silverstone last weekend for the biggest meeting of the year both in terms of grid numbers and race distance. Joined by the European GT4 Championship, 51 cars would take to the grid for Sunday’s three-hour test in what is easily the toughest race of the season.
Having challenged for a podium at every weekend so far this year with at least one of their two cars, Century Motorsport were aiming to make an overdue return to the top three finishing positions this weekend.
Appearing to struggle on Saturday looking at the time sheets, both of the Century Ginetta’s were looking to play the longer game, with rain forecast for Sunday’s race, the team hoped this would even out the field against some of their more powerful rivals in terms of straight-line speed, and a blend of consistency and strategy would enable them to move up the order over the 180-minute race.
On Sunday morning, the rain had arrived from the early morning, soaking the British Grand Prix host venue. With standing water now on parts of the track, the race was started under the Safety Car for the opening two laps, in an effort to launch the 51-car field safely into racing.
How the race went for car #73:
With three mandatory three-minute pitstops required as per the GT4 regulations for the event, the Century pitwall were hoping that the wet conditions would allow some Safety Car pitstops to soften the blow. With the race starting under the Safety Car, initially the team was going to box the starting Walewska, but opted to cancel as the race went green one lap earlier than anticipated.
After 35 minutes on track, Walewska finally pitted to hand the Westons backed Ginetta over to Nathan Freke for his first racing laps. However shortly into his stint, the Safety Car was now back on track, and the pitwall strategists brought Freke into the pits again, placing Walewska back in the car for her second stint. When racing resumed just past the one-hour mark, Anna put in a very solid run as the track was now starting to dry out. Doing her best to remain on track as long as she could, she was eventually called into the pits just before the two-hour mark, as the team felt the track was now ready for slick racing tyres.
A fired up Freke returned to the track ready for an action packed ride over the final hour of the race. Now in contention for a podium based on those in front still needing to make their third mandatory pitstop, Freke was also lapping quicker than those in front, and closing in rapidly. By lap 58 of the final 69, Nathan had climbed up to third in GT4, and two laps later would be promoted to second as the Fox Motorsport Ginetta dived into the pits for their final stop.
Controlling his position to the end, Freke crossed the line to huge cheers from his Century Motorsport team to secure their second official podium of the season in what had been an action packed and dramatic race.
How the race went for car #40:
Hoping to emulate the ever-changing strategy of their #73 teammates, Sean Byrne was called into the pits on lap two, but when the Safety Car period ended a lap early, this request was cancelled but a radio problem in their car caused Byrne to miss the message to remain on track as he dived into the pitlane under now green flag conditions.
Aleksander Schjerpen jumped into the car for his first stint in the race, which was now just over one competitive lap old. Hoping future Safety Car windows would aid their recovery from the back, Schjerpen was steadily moving back up the order, when he returned to the pits for their second stop of the day, crucially however, back under Safety Car conditions.
Byrne returned to the hot seat of the #40 Ginetta currently in P14 just behind teammate Anna Walewska. Opting to run for the longest stint to try and get themselves in a position to be ready for slicks, Byrne completed a 69 minute run before pitting just inside the final hour. With Schjerpen now at the wheel, it was a slick tyre run to the end, and hot on the heels of teammate Freke early on, Schjerpen was rocketing up the order. At the end of his stint, Aleksander brought his #40 Ginetta G55 across the line in fifth position, a fantastic result after coming from the back of the field early on.
Anna Walewska – #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“The team did a really good job this weekend, especially with the strategy and calling the tyres as the conditions changed, which allowed us to jump a number of positions. Nathan again did a fantastic job, and I think we deserved that one so lets hope we can keep doing it.”
Nathan Freke – #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“A champagne shower was one soaking I didn’t mind getting today! Overall it’s been a good weekend. Obviously on Saturday we struggled for pace a little, probably more so because those around us have stronger straight-line speed, but we knew our race setup was good and the changeable weather would help too. The guys on the pitwall did a great job and we seemed to nail our pitstops. Anna continues to be a really good co-driver, dealing with some really tricky conditions this weekend and making sure we remained in the hunt.”
Sean Byrne – #40 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It’s been a good weekend. We probably could have done better in Qualifying, but Aleksander and I said this morning if we could keep our nose clean and not make any mistakes during the race we thought we could get a good result. Finishing fifth was good and we’re really pleased with that. Oulton was short, but this weekend was much better and a good way to come back. Looking ahead to Spa, I’ve never been there before but everyone says it’s really good so I’m looking forward to that. We’re testing there before hand so we should be in good shape.”
Aleksander Schjerpen – #40 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We are really happy to finish today’s race P5. It was an interesting race really, the conditions were very changeable. We started on Wets and finished on Slicks! The team did a really good job, giving us a really good car, a great strategy and brilliant pitstops, so a big thanks to Century Motorsport for another good day.”
Les Jones – Team Manager, Century Motorsport:
“I think this has been another really good weekend for Century Motorsport. Silverstone is always the hardest event on the calendar, not only because it’s the longest race, but because it attracts extra entries and the weather has been a factor for the last couple of years. Our race pace was where we really came into our own, and the strategy worked out well, certainly for Anna and Nathan, but perhaps Sean and Aleksander were a little unlucky that the Safety Car didn’t stay out longer at the start. Two top five finishes from a race like that, one of those being a podium is a job well done by everyone for me.”
Spa-Francorchamps – Belgium, Friday 8th & Saturday 9th July 2016.