Having had a mixed bag of results at the last round in Spa-Francorchamps, the British GT Championship’s return to Snetterton for the penultimate weekend of the year was a welcome one. The venue has been kind to Century Motorsport over the last three seasons with at least one podium finish each year.
Sitting inside the top three of both the Teams and Drivers Championships, a good weekend in Snetterton would be key to taking the fight down to the wire at the final round in Donington Park.
How the weekend went for #73:
Nathan Freke and Anna Walewska in the University of Bolton and Westons entered Ginetta G55 got their weekend off to a mixed start on Saturday morning during free practice. Keeping themselves inside the top 10, a slight off for Anna at the end of Free Practice One gave her part-University Student staffed team of mechanics some early repair work to get the crew back out for the second session.
Working hard to find a suitable balance on their car for qualifying, Anna was out on track first on Saturday afternoon to place her Ginetta tenth on the grid for Sunday’s first of two single hour races. Handing the car over to Freke for the second part of the session, he managed to secure ninth on the grid for race two, but crucially, both drivers felt their lack of pace was due to a strange braking issue that they hadn’t been able to solve during the morning’s running.
The warm and sunny conditions carried over from Saturday into Sunday, providing an ideal scene for the day’s two races. As the lights went out on race one, Anna made a superb start to the race, avoiding most of the bumping and pushing in what she described as a ‘Touring Car start’ at the first corner. At the end of the second lap she had already climbed one place to ninth and set about getting into a consistent groove. Despite slipping behind Aaron Mason’s Ginetta on lap six, Anna remained in touch with the main pack as the pitstop window opened at the 25 minute mark.
Diving into the pits, a busy pitlane prevented them from capitalising on a smooth pitstop and dropped them slightly down the order as Nathan Freke took to the track for his stint. After just one lap on track, Freke was now lighting up the timing screens, instantly setting one of the fastest GT4 lap times as he hunted down Bradley Ellis for ninth. Closing the gap by almost one second in one lap alone, Freke shot past the Ellis Ginetta on lap 25 to move into ninth. There he would remain after 60 minutes of racing with both drivers complimenting the overnight work by the team to resolve their braking woes.
This time it was Nathan’s turn to start the race for the second and final race of the weekend. Hoping he could propel the University of Bolton and Westons Ginetta quickly up the order during his stint, Nathan initially got a strong start into the first corner. After a fraught opening lap of the race, Freke’s Ginetta sustained damage which effected the cars performance and handling, with Nathan now clearly struggling to match his pace from earlier in the weekend. Pitting the car just before the pitstop window closed, Anna climbed on board aiming to hustle the car home and secure as many championship points as possible. Given the now severe handling issues from the earlier contact, Anna put together a very good stint to finish the race 13th in class.
How the race went for #40:
Having finished on the podium at Snetterton for the last two years, Aleksander Schjerpen was hoping he and Sean Byrne could continue that trend coming into the penultimate weekend of the year. Unfortunately the pair would suffer some cruel luck on the opening lap of Free Practice One with their engine letting go coming out of Bomb Hole corner.
From there, the Century mechanics set about the mammoth task of swapping the engine out, and unbelievably just two and half hours later, Sean pulled out of the garage to start the final 22 minutes of Free Practice two – testament to the efforts of everyone in the garage.
With just enough time for the pair to get some introductory laps each, Qualifying looked set to be a real test as they worked on the balance of their VA Tech Ginetta. Sean got Qualifying started for the opening 10-minute session and put in a superb performance to place himself ninth on the grid for the first race of the weekend. Taking over the car for the second part of qualifying, Aleksander Schjerpen was hoping he could put himself in a place to move up the order in race two. However compromised laps during the early part of the session meant it would be a last lap shoot out for the Norwegian. However with a car off at the end of the Bentley Straight, the red flags were shown just before Schjerpen could complete his lap, leaving him down in 17th place for the second race of the weekend.
A clearly on-form Sean Byrne made a good start on Sunday morning for the first of two 60-minute races. By the second lap Byrne was now in eighth and starting to put in some consistently fast lap times. By lap ten, Byrne had slipped to ninth as the pitstop window opened. As one of the lucky ones to find a gap in the traffic on pitroad, Aleksander returned to the track in record time as he set off in hot pursuit of the main pack.
However all was not well in his #40 Ginetta, initially calling in that he had a puncture after suffering a wild spin into Brundle, Schjerpen had now slipped down the order as he struggled with poor rear handling. From that point onwards, Schjerpen nursed his car to the finish crossing the line in 12th.
Starting the second and final race of the weekend from the back of the grid, Aleksander got a good start to remain with the main pack. As the race progressed, Schjerpen worked his way up to 15th at the pitstop window. With the rapid Sean Byrne now in the car, he picked up where Aleksander left off to move the crew further up the order. Another superb stint saw the British GT newcomer move up five places to finish the race in tenth position.
Anna Walewska – #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We’ve had a challenging weekend here in Snetterton, but to be honest the team have done such a good job to get both cars back on circuit. In Free Practice One we had some damage on my car and an engine let go on my teammates car so hats off to them. The first race was good and we picked up some valuable points, which was good from a one-hour race. The second race was tricky, Nathan picked up some unfair damage on the opening lap. He radioed through that the car was hard to drive so I knew what I was getting myself into. Despite this we managed to stay in 13th place and coming out of the last corner on the last lap I pushed as hard as I could to try and pass the Aston for 12th but I was just a couple of inches short at the line. I’m looking forward to Donington now to finish the season. I’ve gone well there last year and so have the team so hopefully we can finish the season on a high.”
Nathan Freke – #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It’s certainly not the weekend we had hoped for compared to our last couple of visits to Snetterton. Anna and I struggled with a braking issue on Saturday that hampered our progress. On Sunday we were back on form and able to push on. Anna drove well again this weekend particularly in race two after all the damage that we received on the opening lap as the car was really hard to drive from that point onwards. Now we will just focus our attention on Donington, another track that the team has done well at in the past and I got a brilliant podium there last year in a one-off race with Ian Stinton, so hopefully we can give the University of Bolton and Westons an end of season race to remember.”
Sean Byrne – #40 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“The weekend started out quite badly with the blown engine on the first lap of Free Practice One. The boys did a great job to get us back out for the end of Free Practice Two so from there we had nothing to loose really so we just went for it. Race one was ok but race two was much more enjoyable. I got into the car after Aleksander and chased people down which I really enjoyed. Not the best results we’ve had this year but it was still probably one of the most enjoyable weekends. I’m looking forward to Donington next, apparently the Ginetta’s go well around there so hopefully we can carry on this good fun into the next round.”
Aleksander Schjerpen – #40 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It’s been a challenging weekend really. It didn’t start off too good with a blown engine in Free Practice One. But the Century guys did an incredible job to get us out for the end of Free Practice Two, which was really great. We struggled a little bit in qualifying to find a good balance after not getting much running in Free Practice. In the races on Sunday Sean did a brilliant job all day. I struggled a bit in the first race but in the second race we managed to work hard and finish 10th which was ok. Now I’m really looking forward to Donington. It has been kind to us in the past and the Ginetta goes very well there so I think Donington is going to be a good one and finish the season on a high.”
Les Jones – Team Manager, Century Motorsport:
“It’s certainly been a busy weekend for the team particularly after Free Practice One. The boys and girls in the garage worked hard and it was great to see both cars make it out for Free Practice Two. We had hoped to be on the podium this weekend but it just didn’t happen despite fantastic drives from Sean all weekend and Anna in the second race after the damage on the opening lap. Donington was good last year so hopefully that’s all our bad luck out of the way now.”
Donington Park, Derby, UK – Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th September 2016.