Century Motorsport travelled to Donington Park last weekend for the final round of the 2016 British GT Championship. Another circuit where the team has many fond memories, most notably Nathan Freke and Ian Stinton’s podium in a one-off GT4 outing last season, the team were hoping that this year’s visit would add another happy chapter to the Century history books.
How the weekend went for #73:
Saturday’s free practice was hampered with wet weather and red flags during the two sessions. Lighting up the timing screens in both sessions however was the #73 University of Bolton and Westons Ginetta of Nathan Freke and Anna Walewska. The pair were hoping this would be a sign of things to come for qualifying, as they would have to serve a five-place grid penalty carried over from the last round at Snetterton.
As ever qualifying was a typically hard fought shootout. Anna felt her best lap was compromised during the session, her best time putting her 13th in the AM class. The Pro session top ten was split by just one second, Nathan’s time just six tenths shy of the pace sitting Beechdean Aston Martin. On combined times, the pair would place their G55 11th overall in GT4.
A trouble free morning warm-up set the scene for a good day on Sunday with glorious blue skies lighting up the picturesque Derby circuit. Starting from 16th on the grid, was courtesy of their five-place grid drop from Snetterton. Getting a good start to the two hours of Donington Park just after 1pm, Anna had already jumped three places on the opening tour as the Safety Car was deployed to deal with a first corner incident.
When racing resumed on lap four, she was now locked onto Aaron Mason’s Ginetta hoping to continue her speedy promotion up the order. By the mid-point in her stint, Walewska was now up to 13th in GT4 and lapping consistently on every tour. As the pitstop window opened at the 50-minute mark, shortly afterwards Anna dived into the pits, a superbly executed stop sent Nathan Freke out on circuit, fully fueled and with new tyres, ready for a big push to the end of the race.
When the pitstop shuffle had finally settled, Freke was now up to tenth in GT4, and eagerly looking to move further up the order. Starting to put a sequence of strong laps together, Freke had catapulted himself up to seventh before capitalizing on the struggling Ross Gunn five laps from the end to move into sixth. There he would remain as he crossed the finish line, but some post race penalties would promote the duo to fifth and with it, reward their challenging season with third overall in the 2016 British GT4 Pro/AM Drivers Championship.
How the weekend went for #40:
Sean Byrne and Aleksander Schjerpen have proven to be a fast driver pairing in 2016, with Byrne proving to have acclimatised very well to the unique characteristics of British GT racing.
With both of Saturday’s free practice sessions run on a heavily wet Donington Park Grand Prix circuit and with the forecast for a largely dry afternoon qualifying session, Sean and Aleksander used the sessions to work through a variety of options and settings.
The two-part qualifying started shortly after 4pm on Saturday afternoon on a damp circuit. Sean took part in the first AM session putting in a very solid times before Aleksander took over for the final 10-minute Pro session. Finding it difficult to get a good rhythm during his run, their combined times would put the pair in 12th for Sunday’s race, but confident they could put on a strong display and progress over the two-hour race.
Using Sunday’s morning warm-up to perform some last minute systems checks, it was straight down to business when the race got underway just after 1pm. Sean made a superb start to the race on the opening lap to move up one place before the Safety Car was deployed to deal with a first corner incident. When racing resumed on lap four, Byrne resumed his flying form, now running in tenth.
A further spate of bad luck would hit the Irishman however as he was caught out on oil coming into the Melbourne loop on lap seven, dropping him well down the field. With his pace unaffected by the spin, Byrne set off on a charge to make up the places lost. Staying on track until close to the end of the pitstop window, Byrne dived into the pits from just outside the top ten in GT4, handing the car over to Norway’s Aleksander Schjerpen.
Feeling ready for the challenge, Schjerpen left the pits hoping he could emulate his teammate Nathan Freke’s progress. After two hours of hard racing, Schjerpen brought the VA Tech and Garage15 Ginetta G55 across the line tenth in GT4.
Nathan Freke – #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It’s been one of those bitter sweet weekends really. Free Practice suggested that we could be in with a good chance of a podium to finish the season, but in the race it just wasn’t to be, especially with the penalty from Snetterton. However both Anna and I never gave up and it paid dividends in the end as the fifth place finish helped us to third overall in the GT4 Pro/AM Championship, which is a nice reward for everyone’s efforts this year. I’d like to say a special thank you to the University of Bolton and Westons for supporting both myself and Anna this year. We’ve had some brilliant races and results, so roll on 2017!”
Anna Walewska – #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“What a year it’s been, new team, new teammate for me and we’ve hardly been off the podium all season. A win at the Dubai 24hr was a great way to kick the season off and the success didn’t stop there. It’s only my second year in British GT and we all gelled so well together. It’s been a pleasure driving with Nathan Freke and Century Motorsport. The reward for me is working alongside the University of Bolton Motorsport students and seeing them progress through the year. I’m so very proud of them all. We couldn’t have had the success without their input. My thanks also go to my sponsors the University of Bolton and Westons. Finishing third in the British GT4 Pro/AM Championship has really proven our success.”
Aleksander Schjerpen – #40 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We started the weekend off with two wet practices, where we did not put in too much effort with these since Qualifying and the race would be dry. Qualifying went ok, we had a very good setup on the car and I improved my own lap time by about 0.5 seconds. Starting the race from P12, Sean made a good start, the spin during his stint was unfortunate, but he did a mega job making up for it. I got in the car and struggled to be consistent, but all in all, it was a good race. Looking at the year as a whole we have had our share of bad luck, but Sean has been a great teammate, and the Century boys and girls have made each race weekend great however the result!”
Les Jones – Team Manager, Century Motorsport:
“On track this weekend we haven’t achieved the results I feel we deserved. Sean did a fantastic job throughout, his spin was a shame but he showed in his recovery drive just how fast he can be. Aleksander was strong in Qualifying as we have become used to seeing, but seemed to struggle a little in the race. Anna and Nathan worked very well together again and proved what could have been by finishing fifth after starting back in 16th position. Finishing third in Pro/AM is a fitting reward for their efforts this year. It’s been an enjoyable time with Century, and I look forward to returning next year where I hope we can mount a serious championship bid from the beginning.”