Having started the year on the ultimate high at the opening round in Oulton Park with a dominant race winning performance, Max Bird and his Century Motorsport team were hoping to return to the podium this time out in Silverstone.
With a planned part programme of events for his car racing debut, Sami Saarelainen would also return to the championship at Silverstone, having opted to miss the last round supporting the British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton. The Finnish driver also hoping to continue his constant learning and improvement.
Having shown well in pre-event testing, a busy Silverstone GP Circuit with a field of almost 48 cars proved somewhat challenging during Saturday’s qualifying for Bird, with his best lap placing him in P11 on the grid having barely managed to get a single clean lap. Making his debut at the British Grand Prix host venue, Saarelainen finished the session in P20 and hoping to progress from there in race one.
The first of the weekend’s three races started just after 5pm on Saturday afternoon in a race that would end up being split into two parts. Max Bird got a good getaway initially but fell well down the order, leaving him with a mountain to climb for the remainder of the session. After five laps, the race was red flagged before shortly being restarted for a four lap sprint race. Taking advantage of a second bite at the cherry with a bunched up field, Bird took the chequered flag in 17th place. Sami Saarelainen enjoyed a trouble free race as he continued to adjust to the Northamptonshire circuit, finishing his opening day in 20th.
Race two had been timetabled to start early on Sunday morning, but ongoing queries over the starting order following on from the red flag incident in race one meant the session was postponed until later in the day. On the coattails of the headline race – the Silverstone 500 for British GT, race three, or race two now as a result of the timetable adjustment started with Bird lining up in P17 and Sami just behind in P20. Both drivers were keen to make a big push for the final races of the day. Max didn’t hang about, picking places up on every lap and closing rapidly on the top 10. Similarly Sami Saarelainen was clearly benefiting from his hard work overnight with his Century Motorsport team as he worked his way up the order. After a quick six laps, Bird took the chequered flag in a fine ninth overall, with Sami not far behind in 16th.
With the original race two being shifted to the final race of the day on the calendar and acting as race three, it looked set to be a brief run for competitors with Silverstone’s noise curfew rapidly approaching. At 17:51 the lights went out and compliments of a reverse grid order, Bird now started on the front row with Sami getting away from the inside of row eight. However Max had his mirrors full right from the first corner. Slipping to third, The Chichester driver was in a multi-car battle for the final podium spot, that eventually ended in a drag race to the chequered flag in favour of Bird to make a welcome return to the podium. Unfortunately Sami’s weekend didn’t end in the way he had hoped. Contact on the opening lap left the Finnish star on the side-lines.
Sami Saaraleinen – #12 Century Motorsport Ginetta G40:
“The weekend started off a little bit tricky with very little running in testing on Friday with so many red flags and traffic, so we came into the races a little bit unprepared. But we worked hard and it got better and better all the time. Race two was good, there was lots of action during session. But race three was not so good and didn’t end very well with a crash but overall we’ve made good progress this weekend.”
Max Bird – #44 Century Motorsport Ginetta G40:
“The weekend didn’t start the best in qualifying as we didn’t get the best from the new tyres. After getting taken off at the start of race one, I worked my way back up to finish 17th, where I then started for the second race. I managed to get up to ninth in that one which helped me with the reverse grid for the final race to start in P2. I didn’t get the best start, but I still managed to get a better one than the guy beside me and lead on the opening lap. The pace was quite fast in that race so I ended up coming third in the end so we finished the weekend on a high and overall it’s been a good weekend as a whole.”
Nathan Freke – Team Principal, Century Motorsport:
“After the highs of Oulton Park, we’ve been keen to return to the podium and that was certainly our aim in Silverstone. It was a bit of a rough start to the weekend for Max, and race one really hurt him being pushed off. However he never gave him and it stood to him in the end with a front row start for the last race getting him back onto the podium which was a great result for everyone’s hard efforts. It was good to have Sami back with us as part of his limited programme for 2017 and again it was all a big learning curve for him. But he took it in his stride and race two in particular showed how talented he is and how good he is going to be with more experience.”
Zandvoort, Netherlands – Friday 7th & Saturday 8th July 2017.