Ginetta G4 SuperCup – Croft 2017
For the weekend of the 10th & 11th June, TCR and the drivers were in action with the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup in North Yorkshire at the Croft Circuit for the forth round of the championship. With the strong dry performance at Oulton and a new engine for Reece, the team were hoping to bounce back strongly from the disappointment at Oulton Park.
The week before the meeting, Ginetta had held the first of 3 official test dates for the GT4 grid, but due to Reece having an engine rebuild and Ian enjoying the sunshine of Portugal, neither drivers were able to attend, potentially putting them on the back foot, although both drivers had competed at Croft before.
On the official weekend test day on the Friday both cars went out on old tyres to see what their pace was in comparison to their respective classes, and pleasingly both drivers were straight onto the pace. At the end of the first free practice session, Reece was running 8th overall, with most cars ahead having put new tyres on to set their quickest times. Ian was running 2nd in the Am class, with only Jack Minshaw quicker after he put new tyres on. During the second session a few more drivers started to run new tyres, with Reece slipping to 11th quickest, while Ian went quicker than the first session, finishing just 6/10ths off Reece and 2nd in Am class, this time with Jac Constable quickest after fitting new tyres. Everyone was looking forward to a strong qualifying session.
Saturday morning arrived and the drivers and team awoke to heavy rain, again! The Team couldn’t believe it, with all the hard work on the Friday to set the car up and now, yet again, rain will stop us from really seeing how good their pace was. However, unlike Oulton, this rain looked to be set in for the day so at least we were likely to get both qualifying and race one in similar conditions. With qualifying not until 13:45 the drivers and team had quite a wait before their action started.
As we approached qualifying, the rain had continued at a steady pace, so that the track was very wet but nothing like the horrendous down pour we saw at Oulton. The biggest questions was whether or not the drivers should be opting for new wet tyres or sticking with their current ones, and both ended up running with the old. With the steady consistent rain the circuit stayed fairly consistent throughout the session so it was really down to the drivers to find the pace. Reece was off to a good start showing some early pace, but as more of the Pro’s tuned into the conditions he started to slip down the order ending up in 8th place. Ian was a little further back and in a real qualifying battle with a number of the other Am competitors where he eventually ended up 4th, just 8 thousands of a second off Dan Kirby in 3rd, but only 1 thousandth of a second ahead of Jack Minshaw in 5th. It was a credit to the standard of the drivers and the wet tyres this year that the qualifying times were only 8 – 10 seconds off the best dry weather times set on Friday.
With race 1 looking likely to be a wet one the team worked through the data to understand where they felt they were losing time. Both drivers reported difficulties through the fast sections with a lack of confidence in the car holding, but the cars were feeling better in the slower corners. Reece had been struggling to apply power coming out of the medium speed corners where Ian had found this to be one of the strengths in the car, so a few minor adjustments were made to try to rectify these issues.
The first of three races for the weekend for the GT4 SuperCup was schedule for 16:40 on the Saturday afternoon, just after the BTCC qualifying session. The weather was still wet and very similar conditions to the qualifying session so the drivers were reasonably confident they had a chance of getting something out of the race based on how close the qualifying had been. As the teams prepared to leave the tent and go to the assembly area there was a huge 10-car accident in the Touring Car qualifying following an oil spillage through the very fast Barcroft corner. Unfortunately several of the drivers suffered serious injuries having to be cut from the cars and airlifted to hospital – Thankfully, although suffering significant injuries, they do not appear to be life threatening and all are recovering well.
After a lengthy delay, and concerns as to whether the race would even go ahead, the race finally started at 17:50, with a time limit of 20 minutes to include the green flag laps. Once the race finally got underway Reece made a great start, and was up into 4th place before the end of the first lap. However, he wasn’t able to make any more progress and as the front three started to pull away Reece had a growing train of cars building behind him. Reece kept his head though and managed to keep the pack behind until the last lap when Hibbert made a late braking move resulting in contact and forcing Reece wide and allowing both Hibbert and Pointon through and dropping Reece to 6th place, which is where he finished.
Further back Ian had made a good start clearing Kirby off the line and tucked in behind White, but as they came up to the first corner, with the wall of spray making visibility about 1m, Kirby took a dive down the inside of Ian and White forcing Ian wide and through the gravel trap, resulting in a spin and dropping to the back of the field. Keeping the engine running Ian was quickly chasing down the pack and was past one of them before the end of the first lap and into 8th in class. A lap later Brooks was nudged wide at the Hairpin by a recovering Pro allowing Ian through to 7th and gaining on the pack ahead, which was the fight for 3rd through to 6th. On lap 3 Taylor spun under pressure going into the first corner, giving Ian another place. By now Ian was up to 6th and right on the rear bumper of Wilmot in 5th place. Ian could see White and Minshaw just ahead, but beginning to pull away and was very keen to get past to chase them down. Unfortunately it took until lap 6 before Wilmot made a mistake leaving the door open at the hairpin and letting Ian through. By this time Minshaw had over a 4 second advantage and time was running out. Ian managed to close the gap by over a second a lap but with the race finishing on lap 8 due to time, there simply wasn’t enough time to catch them and Ian ended up 5th less than 1 second behind the 3rd & 4th place battle.
Race two of the weekend was on the Sunday afternoon with a 12:45 planned start time, straight after the first BTCC race. The weather was a little better with heavy clouds and high winds, mixed with the occasional bright spell, but crucially dry. For race 2 the grid is created from the race 1 results on Saturday, Reece was now starting in 6th position and Ian was back in 16th but 5th in class, both with a lot of work to do if they were to stand a chance of collecting silverware.
Reece got another good start and this time was up to 5th by the end of the first lap. With strong pace Reece was keeping up with the leading quartet and slowly pulling away from the pack building behind 6th place. Pointon was just ahead of Reece and the opportunity of a podium just ahead of him. Then on Lap 3 an accident behind brought out the safety car so that the track could be cleared and this triggered the decline in Reece’s good fortune. After 3 laps behind the safety car at the restart Reece seemed to lose all grip in the car and he couldn’t keep with the leading pack falling into the clutches of the chasing pack and on lap 6 dropped back to 6th place. With the car not coming back to him, Reece’s pace continued to drop and by the end of lap 7 he was down to 7th place. He managed to fight off Declan Jones for the next 7 laps, but finally faltered on the final lap and lost 7th place to Jones, leaving Reece and the team wondering what happened to the performance.
Further back Ian made a slow start and although managing to pull along side Minshaw, was equally caught by Taylor from behind. As the three of them headed down to the first corner something was going to have to give and with Ian on the outside, he ended up running through the gravel trap, again!! However, this time only losing a couple of places although he took a big hit into the driver side front wheel as he came back on track from Brooks, putting the suspension out and creating under-steer through the faster right hand bends. Recovering behind Brooks in 7th place Ian was determined to make up some places quickly and not let the main Am pack pull away. After a lap behind Brooks, Ian could see he was early on the brakes coming out of Barcroft and into Sunny In, so with a good run through the Esses and then through Barcraft, a late braking move down the inside into Sunny in moved Ian up to 6th and with 2nd to 5th squabbling ahead, Ian was quickly on to the tail of Kirby in 4th. As they started Lap 3 Kirby took a lung down the inside of Taylor into the first corner, with the inevitable contact and both cars spinning letting Ian straight through into 4th place. Unfortunately just behind Ian one of the recovering Pro’s, Broadley, didn’t manage to avoid Taylor who had ended up in the middle of the track and with a heavy impact both cars were seriously damaged and the safety car had to be deployed to clear the vehicles from the track, allowing Ian to close right up to Minshaw in 3rd .
Although the safety car had allowed Ian to catch up to the bumper of Minshaw it had also allowed Minshaw to catch the slower Pro’s of Perez and Higgins, with White (2nd in Am’s) sandwiched between them, ahead and for Brooks and Kirby to recover onto Ian’s bumper. On the restarted, everyone got away pretty evenly and held station through the first sequence of bends, with Ian pulling a slight gap over Brooks allowing him to focus on Minshaw ahead. However, just ahead Perez was struggling for pace and in front of him White was all over Higgins making a 5 way scrapped with a mixture of Pro and Am drivers. All 5 cars remained bumper to bumper, with some close but clean racing. On lap 7 Minshaw managed to make a move on Perez, putting the Pro between Ian and his podium position. Then just ahead on Lap 8 White managed to work his way past Higgins giving him some breathing space over Minshaw. A lap later Minshaw was past Higgins leaving 2 Pro’s now between Ian and his podium position.
Higgins was now struggling and beginning to hold them up. Perez managed to force his way past on Lap 10, with Ian just missing out. Then on Lap 11 Higgins again ran wide at the Hairpin allowing Ian to have a look down the inside. Higgins recovered just in time and they headed down the start and finish straight side by side, crossing the line with only a tenth of a second between them, however, Higgins had the inside line so Ian had to yield as they headed into the first corner. Next time round and Higgins made the same mistake going into the Hairpin and this time Ian made it count ensuring Higgins didn’t have room to get back down the outside, and after the first corner Ian was pulling away chasing down the others just ahead. With White, Minshaw and Perez all battling ahead it allowed Ian to close in quickly and join the battle. On lap 14, the penultimate lap, Minshaw made a late move up the inside of White into the Hairpin, holding up both White and Perez, allowing Ian to squeeze past Perez right up behind white heading into the last lap. Pushing as hard as possible Ian tried to find away past White to claim 3rd in the Am class, however, Perez clearly didn’t like being past by the Am’s decided he hadn’t given up on getting back in front and as they headed through Barcroft and onto the brakes for Sunny In, Perez took a lung down the inside, misjudging the braking and smashed into the side of Ian. Fortunately both drivers managed to hold their slides and recovered to finish and although their respective positions were swopped neither lost out in their respective classes.
All in all a pretty good result for Ian considering the poor start finishing in 4th just behind White and Minshaw in 3rd and 2nd places respectfully. Jac Constable took his second win of the weekend with a dominant display ahead of them. However, Ian’s car was looking a little worse for ware and both the front and rear suspension had been damaged by the various incidents and the team didn’t have long to get everything sorted before the final race of the day at 16:10.
For race 3 the grid is created by a reverse grid with the positions of 4 to 6 being in the hat. To Ian’s joy 4th place was pulled out putting Ian in pole position of the Am class for the start of race 3. However, both cars had a lot of work do be done to them before the next race.
With Reece’s drop off in pace the team tried to understand from what he was describing what the issue could be as it sounded a lot more than a tyre issue. Having discussed the issue and thrown around a number of ideas they finally decided on a number of set up changes to try and improve the performance and the mechanics set about making the changes. Meanwhile on Ian’s car the front and rear suspensions were given a thorough check over and a number of bolts were found to be bent, but nothing serious. With everything put back together the car had to be ‘strung’ to ensure it was straight while the rest of the car was prepared. With only a couple of hours between the two races, this made it very tight and the team were still putting everything back together as they called the drivers up to the assembly area, but as always the team pulled together and got both cars into the race.
At the start of the race Reece was starting in 7th with Ian a little further back in 12th, but pole position for the Am class. Unfortunately for Ian the way the grids work is that all Pro’s are positioned in front of the Am grid which meant both Perez and Higgins were back in front of him and potential cars to be dealt with later in the race, however, Carl Broadley’s car was too badly damaged to start the race which meant there was no car directly in front of Ian at the start. From lights out, Reece was slightly slow off the line and Perez made his way past into the first corner dropping Reece down to 8th. A lap later Perez made a mistake dropping down several places and promoted Reece back up to 7th where he remained for several laps.
Slightly further back Ian had made what looked like a reasonable start, but the vastly more experienced Colin White made an absolute flyer to his right, pulling along side halfway down the straight, then as they entered the first corner Constable took a dive down the inside. Ian managed to avoid the gravel this time and tucked into 3rd place with White in the lead closely followed by Constable and Minshaw right behind. At the end of the first lap this leading Am pack was keeping pace with the rear of the Pro group, and if anything were being held up as the Pro’s fought it out ahead and as the group headed into the complex, the pack concertinaed up allowing Constable to squeeze past White into the Am lead and allowed Minshaw to close right in on Ian. On Lap 4 Green, running towards the front of the Pro’s made a mistake dropping him back into the Am class battle, while temporarily helping Reece into 6th before he was dropped back by Hibbert passing a couple of corners later.
As the race progressed Reece’s pace started to deteriorate again, and he was falling away from the leading Pro’s back towards Perez, Higgins and the leading Am group. By Lap 12 Reece decided that the car was getting dangerous and pulled into the pits to retire. Just behind him Ian was involved in an almighty battle for the Am podium places, mixed in with a couple of Pro’s just to add a little more confusion! At the end of lap 5 there was only 3 seconds separating 6 cars starting with Perez & Higgins in the Pro class followed by Constable, White, Ian and then Minshaw. With Perez just managing to keep his pace ahead of the rest, it was Higgins who was proving to be the real bottle neck in the battle, but he was determined to keep ahead of the Am class as long as possible. On lap 6 Constable managed to make a move down the inside at the Hairpin getting him ahead of Higgins, but then on the next lap round, Higgins managed the same move to get back ahead. However, this move created a huge concertina behind forcing White out wide and allowing Ian and Minshaw to sneak ahead of him to line up behind Constable. On Lap 8 Constable managed to make the same move, this time making it stick and pull away from Higgins leaving Ian, Minshaw and White tucked up behind and they remained that way for a couple more laps by which time Kirby had joined the party just behind White in 5th place. Then on Lap 10 Higgins ran wide into the Hairpin and Ian was able to move past while leaving Minshaw, White and Kirby all stuck behind him. Ian was now able to stretch away and chase after Constable who now had a 3 second lead ahead of him.
Constable and Ian managed to pull away from the battle behind, with Ian slowly closing in on Constable for the lead but never managing to get closer than a couple of seconds behind and went on to secure his 2nd second place of the season. Meanwhile, behind all of the action was carrying on with Minshaw trying to get past Higgins and as he tried, White managed to sneak down the inside of the two of them and started to chase after Ian leaving Minshaw stuck behind Higgins until the end of the race, while White closed the gap down to a couple of seconds on Ian and taking third place.
Another mixed weekend for the team with Reece falling right off the pace and struggling for championship points, where as Ian, despite the disappointment of Saturday was able to salvage some good championship points and a much deserved second podium finish of the year.
We now have a 7-week summer break before the next rounds at the Norfolk circuit of Snetterton and the team will be working hard to try to understand what has happened to Reece’s car with the assumption something must have broken. Fortunately the second of 3 official Ginetta test days are scheduled for Wednesday 12th July, a couple of weeks before the actual meeting so there should be sufficient opportunity to test out the cars and any fixes applied before we get into the actual race weekend.
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup Driver Standings:
10th Reece Somerfield, 138pts
5th Ian Robinson, 208pts
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup next rounds:
29th/30th July Snetterton 300
26th/27th Aug Rockingham
16th/17th Sept Silverstone National
30th Sept/1st Oct Brands Hatch GP