One of the biggest announcements over the off season was the step up to GT3 for Century Motorsport. Having spent the last number of seasons as title contenders in GT4, the time was right to add a GT3 arm to their operation.
Acting as the Ginetta Factory Team, Century unveiled their pair of new look and heavily improved Ginetta G55 GT3’s for the 2017 season, complete with their driving line up that featured American drivers Parker Chase and Harry Gottsacker, both making their international racing debuts. Teaming up Chase in the #19 G55 was former European Le Mans Series LMP3 Champion Charlie Robertson. Alongside Gottsacker in the #69 example was former Ginetta G50 Cup Champion and McLaren Autosport BRDC award nominee Nathan Freke.
With limited testing opportunities in the run up to the first rounds of the season, Saturday morning’s Free Practice was somewhat a step into the unknown for the team as everyone adjusted to their new surroundings. With question marks hanging over the car’s Balance of Performance rating, the team completed both sessions without any major dramas. Freke and Robertson, the only two of the quartet of drivers with any reasonable amount of seat time in the GT3 Ginetta completed some brief running, while the majority of the laps were carried out by GT3 Rookies Chase and Gottsacker.
Saturday afternoon’s qualifying was equally trouble free, however the team lamented what could have been, had it not been for the heavy restrictions imposed on the vastly improved Ginetta during the BOP (Balance of Performance) equalisation process.
Keeping up the tradition of no racing on Easter Sunday, it gave teams and drivers a chance to review the previous two days running and ensure they were well prepared for Monday’s races. Greeted with clouds and rain, the weather conditions would play perfectly into the hands of the GT3 Ginetta that had proven to be a competitive package in the wet,
A trouble free run in Monday morning’s warm-up confirmed the improved pace of the Century-run machines in the wet on-track conditions, finishing the session as fourth and fifth fastest overall. Lining up on the grid in sixth for race one, Harry Gottsacker was about to get a baptism of fire, starting his first British GT race. Just behind in eighth, teammate Parker Chase was equally in at the deep end, but morning Warm-up had given both drivers a renewed sense of hope ahead of the day’s proceedings.
Harry Gottsacker was certainly the star of the early part of the race, hunting down former race winner Mark Farmer in the TF Sport Aston Martin and initially fending off the attention of the experienced Lee Mowle during the early laps. Bringing the car into the pits from fifth after a superb debut race stint, Nathan Freke took over to complete the race. Returning to the track in 13th, once the pitstop cycle was complete he was back up to seventh, initially with the Rollcentre Mercedes for company but laterally, the Spirit of Race Ferrari with works driver Matt Griffin aboard. Holding back the Italian Stallion for as long as he could, Griffin found a way past on lap 25 and from there Freke would take his Ginetta G55 to the end in eighth overall and first in the GT3 Silver class.
Parker’s race would turn out to be less fortunate however. Initially getting a good start, he then slipped back to ninth and a brief moment would see him drop one more place to tenth on lap 10. Coming into the pits on lap 17 to hand the car over to Charlie Robertson, his stint would be short lived as he was forced into early retirement with engine issues.
The team quickly set about changing the engine between races, but sadly ran out of time as the pitlane opened for the second and final race of the day, leaving Nathan Freke to fly the flag as the sole Ginetta G55 GT3 on the grid. Getting a good start in the now dry conditions at Oulton Park, Freke was once again in battle with Martin Short in the Rollcentre Mercedes AMG. Pitting from ninth on lap 18, Harry Gottsacker took charge of the #69 Ginetta hoping to repeat his earlier impressive pace, this time in dry conditions. However all was not well under the bonnet of the G55, and it wasn’t long before Harry was back in the pits and would ultimately end up going into the garage for further diagnosis.
Parker Chase – #19 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3:
“We started our weekend pretty strong, obviously we lacked a little bit of speed with the BOP, but we had good pace planned for the wet. I felt good going into race one and it started pretty well. I had a bit of a spin and then we had the issue with the engine so we ended up missing race two. But overall it’s been a pretty productive weekend so now I’m ready to move onto Rockingham where we will be back in even better shape.”
Charlie Robertson – #19 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3:
“It’s been a big learning curve for everyone this weekend with the newly improved Ginetta GT3 and the team’s first weekend running the car. We’ve obviously had some ups and downs over the weekend, but we had some good pace in the wet especially and in the dry we have some things to work on. Everyone did a great job in terms of effort and hard work, so I couldn’t fault that. The races were unfortunate but I know that we will come back stronger at Rockingham in two weeks.”
Nathan Freke – #69 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3:
“On balance I’m quite pleased with this weekend. Obviously we’ve had a few issues here and there, but on balance it’s been a positive start to the year. We had some really good pace in the wet and I think there will be more to come from our dry pace once we get the chance to work on that in due course. Harry did a mega job in race one, certainly showing no signs of being a British GT novice against some of the seasoned regulars. For me it was a case of adjusting to the bigger and faster car and I was pleased with all my stints and certainly can’t wait to get out at Rockingham.”
Harry Gottsacker – #69 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3:
“This weekend has been an eye-opener, the guys out there are quite aggressive but I enjoyed it. It was fun running in the rain, it really wakes you up that’s for sure. We struggled a little bit for power this weekend, but I think by Rockingham we will be ready to rock. The first race went really well and I finished my stint inside the top five which was great and Nathan’s stint was good also. Things went a little downhill in the afternoon’s race two but I think we’ll be alright once we get to Rockingham.”
Les Jones – Team Manager, Century Motorsport:
“This has been a very important weekend for Century Motorsport, making the transition to GT3 and running as a Ginetta factory supported team. I think overall as a whole we gave a very good representation of ourselves during our first weekend in the top class. Our American drivers have been very impressive and shown no signs of being new to racing abroad in a championship that we all know is very competitive, particularly around a narrow circuit like Oulton Park. With plenty of experience gained this weekend, I think we can look forward to a much stronger run at Rockingham in two weeks.”
Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, Saturday 29th & Sunday 30th April 2017.