After the long winter break, the Ginetta GT Supercup kicked off at Brands Hatch for the opening three rounds of the season. Newcomer to the championship James Birch, the reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Challenge GB champion was looking forward to a consistent opening weekend to the championship having shown good pace in pre-season testing. Joining Century Motorsport for the weekend was Rob Smith who was looking forward to a new challenge as he evaluates his options for the 2013 season.
Qualifying for the Ginetta GT Supercup was the opening session of the weekend and drivers were met with dry but bitterly cold track conditions. As the session unfolded, the top ten drivers were split by less than one second with the order changing after each lap. James Birch in theplayer.co.uk supported Ginetta G55 set the ninth fastest time as the session drew to a close. Despite entering the weekend without any pre-season testing, Rob Smith put up a very good showing to put his car eleventh on the grid for the afternoon’s opening race.
A good start for James Birch promoted him to eighth on the opening lap of race one. Rob Smith had an unfortunate spin at Surtees and pitted to check the car was ok with his Century Motorsport team before returning to the track. Birch was now suffering with steering trouble and was driving a conservative race to ensure he remained in eighth. As the chequered flag dropped James Birch brought his Ginetta G55 across the line in eighth, which would also be his starting position for race two later in the day. Rob Smith crossed the line in 17th after his opening lap woes.
Mixed conditions going from snow to dry made tyre choice tricky for race two. Just before the cars were due to leave the assembly area, wets were deemed to be the most suitable option across the board. Starting eighth James Birch got a good start off the line to move up to seventh. Rob Smith was also making his way back up the order sitting in 16th before the safety car came out to clear the stricken Carl Boardley. With the field now well bunched up, James Birch got a good restart following Fergus Walkinshaw. Contact between the pair allowed Andrew Watson to capitalise and move ahead. Rob Smith was now up to 12th and running well. Birch was had now made his way back ahead of Walkinshaw and Watson but the latter was filling his mirrors in the closing stages of the race. Crossing the line for the final time James Birch finished ninth followed by Rob Smith in 14th for Century Motorsport.
Sunday afternoon’s Ginetta GT Supercup race three which was shown live on ITV4 saw Century Motorsport’s James Birch in theplayer.co.uk supported Ginetta G55 line up ninth on the grid with Rob Smith 14th. A good start off the line for Birch was hampered with Rob Boston stalling right in front of him. The safety car was deployed on the second lap of the race to recover the cars of Jamie Orton and Carl Breeze who were off at Clearways. As the safety car pulled off James Birch restarted from eighth with Rob Smith in 11th. Birch was pushing Boston for seventh before finding a way past on lap nine. However Boston managed to regain the place on lap 14. Approaching the closing laps of the race Birch was now catching race two winner Pepe Massot before the race was abruptly finished with a red flag due to an incident at Druids in the Ginetta G50 class. The result was declared and James Birch finished eighth with Rob Smith eleventh.
Speaking after the weekend, James Birch commented: “Overall I’m happy to come away from the weekend with three clean finishes. I think my qualifying position let me down a little but overall I’m confident now that I know what we need to do for Donington Park in a couple of weeks time.”
Team Principal Nathan Freke added: “Its been a bit of a mixed weekend overall. Rob having not driven the car before Friday has been a baptism of fire for him but we’re very pleased with his progress throughout the weekend and we’re hoping he’ll join us again this season. On reflection we have had a good weekend with James considering we have only had one days dry testing with him. We both wanted better results and we will be testing before Donington to ensure we arrive there better prepared.”
The Ginetta GT Supercup continues at Donington Park on Saturday 20th April.