Century Motorsport travelled to Belgium for round five of the 2015 Avon Tyres British GT Championship. The famous Spa-Francorchamps would play host to the series’ only visit outside of the UK. Hoping to put the misfortunes of Silverstone behind them, the team was feeling confident of putting on a strong display.
Their weekend got off to a strong start in Friday’s pair of free practice sessions. Despite being a Spa rookie, James Birch seemed right at home on the high-speed circuit, setting the third fastest GT4 lap time in FP1, before increasing that to the fastest time in FP2. By comparison, Aleksander Schjerpen was making his third visit to the Belgian circuit and was just as quick during his stints making the driver pairing the fastest of the GT4 runners.
Carrying their super pace into Friday afternoon’s qualifying shoot-out, the team was rewarded with a third place starting position for Saturday’s two-hour show down.
Unlike the previous rounds, there was no morning warm-up on race-day, meaning it was straight into racing just after 12pm. Aleksander was chosen to start the race and put in a strong opening series of laps to remain in third. As he set about mounting a challenge for second, his Ginetta G55 developed a gear selection problem, requiring the Norwegian to make an unscheduled visit to the pits. Some small consolation came in the form of the Safety Car being deployed just as he entered the pitlane, buying the team some valuable time to work through the issue. Eventually identified as a paddle shift problem, Schjerpen was back on his way, all be it some way down the order.
Now just at the half waypoint in the race, the team pulled off a textbook pitstop to put James Birch out in the car for his stint. With the aim of trying to make up as many places as possible, earning some all important championship points was the best the team could now hope for. Sadly James’ race ended prematurely as a result of some unfortunate contact with an Aston Martin early in his stint.
James Birch – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“It was a very unfortunate Saturday for Aleksander, Century and myself after what had been our first real true show of pace this year. We have got faster each round, being at the sharp end in practice and qualifuing this weekend. However an electrical failure cost us a sure podium finish in harsh circumstances. We look forward to righting the wrongs at Brands Hatch and can only hold our heads high after showing the grid our true turn of pace this weekend.
Aleksander Schjerpen – #43 Ginetta G55 GT4:
“We started this weekend a little unsure of where we would be against the other drivers. James and I found a really good pace in FP1 and went really quick. In FP2, James and I was the fastest car in GT4, which we were really happy with. The team did a brilliant job with the car to find a great balance and setup. Qualifying also went really well getting P3 for the race. This was James’ first time here, so I was able to share some of my experience with him. In the race, I had a really good start to hold my position. Unfortunately we had a steering wheel issue so I had to go to the pits. But before that I felt like I could have pushed really hard in this race. Hopefully we can bring this pace to the next race and not have anymore bad luck!”
Nathan Freke – Team Principal:
“We turned up this weekend fairly positive as the Ginetta had a good BOP (Balance of performance) for this weekend. As soon as we hit the ground on Friday, both drivers were really happy with the car and turned in some really good times. We were the top Ginetta in every session including qualifying and quickest overall in FP2 which as a really good effort. Both drivers were driving excellently and it was nice that everything just fell into place where we could show our true speed. In the race, it was always going to be difficult to beat the Lotus, but with the 407 Aston Martin carrying a 20-second pitstop penalty we thought we might have a good chance of racing for second. Aleksander had a textbook start and stint really. Unfortunately 40 minutes into the race the car stopped changing gear. Initially it was difficult to figure out what it was but eventually we changed the steering wheel, which fixed the issue. Shortly after that we put James into the car but a couple of laps later he had some contact with an Aston Martin which was a disappointing end to the weekend. However we can look forward to Brands Hatch now where we should be able to challenge for a good result.”