Ginetta GT4 SuperCup – Brands Hatch GP 2017
In what feels like an incredibly short period of time we have reached the final round of this year’s Ginetta GT4 SuperCup and our journey with TCR and the team. The final round was held at the fantastic Brands Hatch GP circuit over the weekend of 30th September and 1st October, ensuring the weather will play a major part as England moves into Autumn.
On the official weekend test day on the Friday, the weather was forecast to be variable, but it looked like we were going to get a wet session in the morning followed by a dry session in the afternoon, which would give the team a great opportunity to set the cars for both conditions. For the first session both cars headed out on old wet tyres to see what the conditions were like. But before either cars had a chance to set a time the Red flags were out, with the champion elect, Calum Pointon, running wide out of clearways. After a short break, they were back out, with Ian running in a small group of others and as they came around to start their first timed lap, Ian misjudge the braking point up into Druids, locked the brakes and ended in the gravel. Once he was dragged out it was straight back to the truck to clear out all of the gravel and prevent any damage, but end of session for Ian. Reece, was running well and on the pace of the front runners for the first few laps and then started to fad again, with the same issue come back to haunt his car.
For the afternoon session, the team were struggling to get Ian’s car prepared as the gravel had got everywhere and caused a little more damage than suspected, but the car was prepared for a dry session. Then just before the cars were due to go out the heavens opened and everything had to be changed back to wet settings. Reece’s car was sorted quickly and out he went while Ian had to wait as the team finished his car, missing the first few minutes. Reece, again started on the pace putting in some competitive times, especially on such worn wet tyres, but again the car started to fad after a few laps. Ian got out onto the track and started to prepare to get up to speed and find out where the grip was. This little adventure didn’t last long though as after only two corners the power steering failed and with smoke pouring into the car Ian had to pull the car over and jump out. Luckily it wasn’t a fire but just the belt melting and smoking. It turned out that a piece of gravel had lodged itself behind the power steering pulley, jamming it and then the friction burnt out the belt, again, end of session for Ian. Resulting in Ian not achieving a single timed lap all day and very much on the back foot for the weekend.
Saturday was promising to be the best day for the weather and as the team arrived at the track it was overcast but crucially dry.
As we approached qualifying, both drivers were unsure of what they were able to achieve. Reece was concerned about how the car would go off and whether he was able to get a lap in before, and Ian was on a steep learning curve as he never driven a lap in anger in this car around the GP circuit. The session started well for Reece posting a number of competitive times, but as the session went on the front runners started to post quicker and quicker times dropping Reece down the grid, eventually ending in 10th place. Ian meanwhile was slowly learning the circuit and where he could push more, but had quickly got onto the pace on the main Am group, but still off the leading couple. Ian eventually finished 4th in class only just short of 3rd and not too far off 2nd, so a pretty impressive performance considering he lack of running on Friday.
The first of three races for the weekend for the GT4 SuperCup was schedule for 16:20 on the Saturday afternoon, just after the BTCC qualifying session. The weather was still dry and very similar conditions to the qualifying session. This meant Ian was reasonably confident he had the right set-up to get something out of the race based on how close the qualifying had been and that he felt there was more to come from the car. Reece however, was struggling to understand where he was losing pace against the front runners.
Off the line, both cars appeared to get good starts, with Reece making up a couple of places and able to run with the leading pack. Further back Ian had made a good start, but couldn’t quite get in front of the third-place man, Toby Bearne, but slotted in behind to protect the inside line for Paddock hill bend. As they came up the hill Jack Minshaw tried a bold move down the outside, but missed his braking and ended up in the gravel, which scrambled the safety car, which is when everything started to go wrong for Ian. Having passed several marshal posts with double waved yellow flags and SC boards, it didn’t look like Dan Kirby, behind Ian, had seen them and as they came down towards Clearways and the pack slowed up, Dan didn’t, ploughing into the back of Ian at over 100mph, spinning Ian off the track, but luckily avoided by everyone else. Ian managed to recover the car back to the pits who gave him the all clear to continue. Luckily for Ian he hadn’t dropped a lap and had two laps to catch the pack up before the safety car came in, so though he was down in 8th place, he was still in the race with a very second hand car.
Up front Reece made a good restart, but was stuck behind Jason Baker, who clearly didn’t have the pace but was defending well and Reece couldn’t get by. Then on lap 7, Reece closed in on braking into Paddock hill bend, but realised Jason hadn’t seen him and tried to pull out. Just too late and Jason turned across him breaking his front splitter and dropping him back. Reece managed to keep going but dropped down the order.
Further back Ian was also struggling with an poor handling car, but was determined to make up as many places as possible, knowing he had the pace of most of the cars ahead of him. Ian was first helped by Dan Kirby having to retire as the impact had damaged his radiator and he was overheating. Then Ian worked his way past Phil Taylor and Dave Brookes, up into 5th place. He was now right behind Alex Taylor in 4th with Toby Bearne just ahead in 3rd, but laps were running out and he couldn’t find a way past Alex, so ended the race in a respectable 5th place, but with considerable damage to the rear of the car.
The crash had taken the rear quarter of the bumper and rear diffuser off the car as well as bending the exhaust and rear suspension and it was luck the team had the evening to work on the car to rebuild it as best they could ready for the morning race.
Race two of the weekend was on the Sunday morning with a 10:00 planned start time, being the opening race of the day. As forecast the weather had changed with heavy rain over night we were now back to full wet settings. For race 2 the grid is created from the race 1 results on Saturday, Reece was now starting in 9th position and Ian was back in 16th but 5th in class, both with work to do if they were to stand a chance of collecting silverware.
Ian’s car had been patched up and straightened, but had significant amounts of the rear diffuser and bumper missing. Added to this, Ian had no idea where the grip was having missed all of the Friday wet sessions.
Reece got another great start and this time was up several places by the end of the first lap, helped by the usual mess at the top of the hill into Druids. Again, Reece was managing to run strongly and had the same pace as the front runners and had managed to get past Jason Baker early on giving him the opportunity to run with the lead pack. This unfortunately didn’t last long as the season long issue of the cars pace dropping came back, slowly dropping him back down the order, before he retired complaining about braking issues.
Ian had made a good start and was past Alex Taylor by the first corner up behind Toby Bearne, but with no idea of where the grip leaves were, was struggling to keep up with the front cars and hold of the attentions of Dan Kirby, Jack Minshaw and Dave Brookes behind. A couple of laps in and Ian looked like he was beginning to find his feet, only to misjudge his braking into Clearways and ran wide into the gravel. Fortunately, Ian had seen it coming and allowed the car to straighten and was able to drive the car through the gravel and back on track. Unfortunately for Dan Kirby, he had followed Ian straight into the gravel and hadn’t managed to keep it going ending up into the tyre wall, sending out the safety car. Ian was again at the back of the pack, but struggling for pace and after the safety car was unable to make it past Phil Taylor ahead, and after a small spin at Graham hill bend was back in 7th place and not really able to make any in-roads into the gap ahead, but Ian kept going and finished in 7th. Not the best result, but with Dan Kirby retiring it secured Ian 4th place in the championship.
For race 3 the grid is based on a reverse grid from the results of race 2, the number 5 had been pulled out, but with Ian and Reece both finishing behind this in their respective classes it didn’t help them so Reece was to start in 11th place, with Ian back in 18th (7th in class).After the last race, with Reece complaining about the brakes the team focused in on the braking system, when Reece confessed that the rear brakes had now been run for the last two seasons, yet had worn less than Ian’s leading to a glazing issue and making them go off as soon as they started to get hot, potentially explaining a lot of Reece’s issues. So new pads and disks were fitted to see if that helped.
With both drivers getting good starts, Reece was up to 8th place after the first couple of corners, while Ian had got up to 6th, and then 5th through the first corner. Then as they came up the hill into Druids, an over ambitious Dave Brookes missed his braking and used the back of Ian’s car to help slow him down, breaking off even more of the rear diffuser and bumper, and losing Ian a place. As they headed out to the fast rear section of the track Ian could feel a lot of vibration at the rear of the car, and a very disconcerting floating feeling as you turned into the fast corners, but the car appeared to be holding so it was game on.
Both drivers continued to maintain their respect positions, with Reece feeling much happier about his car and able to keep with the lead pack. Reece ran strong until the end of the race, challenging for positions throughout and managed to finish in 7th place. Further back Ian was getting to grips with the way his car was handling and starting to attack Alex Taylor ahead, while defending from Phil Taylor behind. Mid-way through the race, just ahead of Ian’s battle, Jac Constable had contact with one of the Pro’s sending him into the gravel and out of the race, promoting Ian to 5th place, while deploying the safety car.
This closed up the Am class with 1st to 7th now running nose to tail and at very similar pace. Colin White managed to pull a small lead over Toby Bearne as he defended from Jack Minshaw, Alex Taylor, Ian and Phil Taylor. Eventually Jacks pressure on Toby gave and he was through to chase down Colin, then Alex made a mistake allowing Ian through and onto the tail of Toby. Then just ahead, something had happened to Colin, with smoke coming out of his front tyre, he had slowed his pace allowing Jack and the rest of the pack to close in on him. Colin managed to recover a bit of pace and held Jack off, but we were now running 1st to 5th bumper to bumper, but with only a lap to go. Amazingly, despite numerous overtaking attempts during the lap, no one touch the other and the cars all stayed in the same order with Colin White taking the win followed by Jack, Toby, Ian in 4th and Phil Taylor 5th. A pretty good result, and thoroughly enjoyable race for Ian despite the amount of damage to the rear of the car.
Overall, Calum Pointon won the Pro category with Ben Green running a very close second. Reece ended up in 9th place. In the Am’s Jac Constable managed to hold on and take the championship despite Colin winning all three races over the weekend, Jack Minshaw took 3rd with Ian ending up 4th.
It has been a great year for the TCR team and a lot of fun had by all involved. Reece, struggled with the car setup, but it would appear they found the issue as he reported the car had been great throughout the whole of race 3!
Ian, had a steep learning curve this year and has clearly shown he has the pace in the car, but small bits of misfortune have stopped that translating into the race winning results the team know the car is capable of, but 4th place in the first year is a respectable result.
A big thanks to all who have been involved throughout the year and supported the drivers and the team, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we all have.
As for next year? We simply don’t know yet.
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup Driver Standings:
Pro Class 9th Reece Somerfield
4th Ian Robinson