Century Motorsport made the trip to Oulton Park for the opening weekend of the 2013 British GT Championship. Having finished 2nd in the championship in 2012, Zoe Wenham returned to Century Motorsport for 2013 and teaming up with 2012 Ginetta GT Supercup front runner Declan Jones, the pair were one of the favorites to go one step better in 2013.
Right from the off in free practice on Saturday morning the pair were making their mark within the class with Zoe running third fastest and Declan setting the track on fire with a time just under one second clear of his nearest rival. During free practice 2, Declan extended that margin to 1.3 seconds clear of second placed pairing Rick Parfitt Jnr & Ryan Ratcliffe. Zoe had also improved her time as she acclimatized to the newer left hand drive Ginetta G50 GT4.
Zoe was chosen to drive in Saturday afternoon’s qualifying one session, which would decide the starting positions for Monday’s race one. During the 30 minute session Zoe set a good pace with consistent running rewarding her with third on the grid for Monday mornings opening race. After a quick driver change it was Declan Jones’ turn behind the wheel for Qualifying two. Declan had shown very impressive pace during the morning’s free practice sessions and this was set to continue into qualifying. Immediately setting fastest time in GT4, Declan went on to further increase his advantage and by the end of the session secured pole position by a staggering 2.9 seconds ahead of the Aston Martin pairing of Steven Chaplin and Tom Wilson.
Oulton Park took its customary break from on-track action on Sunday so drivers had to wait until Monday for race one to get under way. Having qualified third, Zoe Wenham was first in the car for the days opening race. After a brief safety car period at the start of the race, Wenham got a good start to hold third into the first corner. Now setting herself into a consistent pace, Zoe comfortably controlled her third position clearly showing her experience from the 2012 season. The pit window opened 25 minutes into the race and Zoe pitted to hand driving duties over to Declan Jones for the second part of the race. Again, Declan showed that his pace from Saturday was set to continue, instantly putting in a number of very impressive lap times and was instantly up to second in GT4. Class leaders Partfitt Jnr and Ratcliff were then issued a stop/go penalty for leaving their driver-change pitstop to quickly which handed the class lead over to Declan Jones. However Jones wanted to prove that he didn’t need to be gifted the lead and continued his staggering pace. When the chequered flag dropped after 1 hour of racing Declan was 24 seconds clear of second placed pairing of Parfitt Jnr and Ratcliffe.
Qualifying on pole for race two, Declan Jones started the race aiming to make it a double victory weekend for Century Motorsport. A superb start to the race enabled Jones to start building a lead right from the off, a lead which was 2.1 seconds at the end of the opening lap. As has he had done all weekend, Declan put in a sequence of blistering lap times and enjoyed a lead of over 22 seconds by the time he pitted to hand over to Zoe Wenham. Despite a slightly slow driver change, Zoe returned to the track in second and went about closing the gap to new GT4 leader Alex Osborne. However with just 15 minutes remaining on the clock Osborne encountered a problem with his Ginetta G50 handing the GT4 lead back to Zoe Wenham who had built a strong advantage over her nearest rival Rick Parfitt Jnr. Inside the final ten minutes of the race the Safety Car was deployed to aid the recovery of Colin White’s heavily burning Ginetta G55 GT3. Despite the race looking very much like it would under Safety Car conditions, the race resumed with just two minutes on the clock for a final shoot out. Wenham was now receiving some very close attention from second placed Rick Parfitt Jnr. However once again, her experience from 2012 allowed her to control her lead and secure their second win of the weekend in GT4.
Speaking after the race, Zoe expressed her relief at holding on to the lead: “I was really expecting that race to end under the safety car so I was a little caught out when I saw the green flag with cold tyres. Rick put me under a lot of pressure in those last few laps but fortunately I was able to hold him off and achieve the perfect ending to a great weekend.”
Declan Jones was equally pleased with Zoe’s efforts in that final shoot out: “Zoe did a great job to bring the car home for our second win. On those final laps she hit every apex and did a great job defending the lead. Overall it’s been a great weekend and I’m really looking forward to Rockingham.
Team Principal Nathan Freke was thrilled with his new pairing and looking forward to a strong season in GT4: “Completely faultless job by both the team and our drivers. It’s been a fantastic achievement by everyone involved to go fastest in both practice sessions, pole and the double victory. What a perfect way to start the season!”
The British GT Championship continues at Rockingham on Sunday 5th May.