The newly formed driver pairing of Declan Jones and Nathan Freke served notice at the penultimate weekend of the championship at Zandvoort that they would be the pace setters of the field at the final round in Donington Park. Third in their first race together at the Dutch circuit was followed by a win which they were later denied due to a technical issue with the car’s catalytic converter.
Coming to Donington Park, the Century Motorsport pair had a clear task for the weekend ahead. Win the race and hope their closest rivals Rick Parfitt Jnr and Ryan Ratcliffe would finish third or lower, enabling them to win the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT4 Championship.
Jones completed the majority of the running over the course of the two hour-long free practice sessions on Saturday morning. Freke elected to start Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session running on new tyres. Instantly he was on the pace and leading the battle of the championship contenders as he pitted at the half way mark to hand over to Jones. Towards the end of the session, a quick lap from Ratcliffe put the Century pair down to fourth on the grid just as Jones pulled his Ginetta G50 off the track. Disaster had struck the Liverpudlian as a sudden engine blow denied him any chance to improve their starting position for Sunday’s race.
After a superb overnight effort by the Century Motorsport crew to fit a new engine, Declan Jones finished the session fastest in GT4 which was a very assuring result as they prepared for Sunday afternoon’s two-hour championship decider.
Freke, an experienced endurance racer started the race in the Chicago-Soft supported G50. By the third lap, he had made his way to the front of the GT4 runners and began to open a slender advantage at the head of the group. On lap eight, the stranded Trackspeed GT3 Porsche brought out the safety car for three laps, which allowed Freke to re-assess his lead and bunch up the GT4 field. A strong restart allowed him to firmly remain in the class lead while championship rival Rick Parfitt Jnr defended his second position. Approaching the one-hour mark, Freke pitted to hand over the class leading G50 to championship contender Declan Jones. A perfect pitstop by the experienced Century Motorsport crew allowed Jones to rejoin the track in the lead of GT4 and set about reestablishing the team’s advantage at the head of the field. Despite this, the championship looked all but decided until suddenly championship rivals Optimum Motorsport were handed a drive-through penalty that looked set to alter proceedings. Despite moving them down one position to third on the road however, Ryan Ratcliffe was still set to score second place championship points as the AMR Silverstone Auctions Aston Martin in second place was not registered as a championship contender. As ever, Jones emulated Freke’s opening stint to control their advantage and secure class victory for Century Motorsport and second in the Avon Tyres British GT4 championship in his maiden season.
Championship runner-up Jones summed up the final weekend of the season, “Well it was an eventful weekend! Testing went very well as did qualifying until our engine failure with me in the car. The guys got the engine changed overnight and ready in time for the race today. Nathan went out and led the race nicely pretty much from the start even with a safety car and handed over to me to bring it home. It got a little close half way through my stint with Optimum but their drive-through penalty sealed the deal for us to win the race comfortably. Its obviously bitter sweet, I’ve never been so disappointed to win a race as Ryan and Rick finished second allowing them to win the championship by just two points!”
Nathan added, “The weekend overall was good. Obviously we were behind in the championship so all we could do was try and win and hope our rivals wouldn’t finish second which unfortunately for us didn’t happen. The team did a fantastic job getting the car ready for us today after an engine failure in qualifying. It was great to drive all weekend which made the job easy for us to go out and win the final race of the season.”