Ginetta GT4 SuperCup – Rockingham 2017
For the weekend of the 26th & 27th August, TCR and the drivers were in action with the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup in Corby at the Rockingham Speedway for the sixth round of the championship, hoping to bounce back strongly from the disastrous weekend at Snetterton.
The week before the meeting, Ian had decided to take in an additional test day at Rockingham in order to shake the car down from the damage at Snetterton and to build his own confidence back up. The test day had gone well with steady improvements in times throughout the day and ending up very much on the same pace as the Am championship leader, Jac Constable, so the team were all feeling boosted as they headed for the weekend.
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 ended up having a scrappy session with the Ginetta timing system not working both drivers were struggling to push. At the end of the first free practice session, Reece was running 9th overall, with most cars ahead having put new tyres on to set their quickest times. Ian was running 2nd in the Am class, having run with new tyres, with only Jac Constable quicker again on new tyres. During the second session a few more drivers started to run new tyres, and about two laps in Reece was just building up to speed and working his way past a slower driving coming down into turn 2 off the incredibly quick banked circuit, when Colin White misjudged what was happening ahead of him and ploughed straight into the side of Reece’s car, breaking the suspension on both cars. After the red flag Ian could only managed 4th quickest in the session going no quicker than the first session, but was still second quickest Am over both sessions, but 8 tenths off Jac Constable and closely followed by Jack Minshaw and Dan Kirby.
With the promise of our first dry weekend of the year, it was a bit of shock for the drivers to arrive with light drizzle on Saturday morning! Fortunately, this soon cleared, leaving a mixture of blue skies and light clouds.
As we approached qualifying, both drivers were confident they could improve on their Friday testing times, with Ianknowing he was going to be in a 4 or 5-way fight for pole, and he had to go quicker to take pole. As the cars were released into the pits most of the teams were holding their drivers back so Reece and Ian decided to get some early runs in, hopefully finding some early space and pace. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite work out as the drivers came around on their flying laps they were met by cars on their warm up laps, not paying enough attention and causing delays. The Rockingham circuit is another extremely abrasive surface and with only 3 or 4 flying laps possible, both Reece’s and Ian’s best chances had been ruined by the late departures from the pits. To make things worse the Ginetta in-car timing system still wasn’t working correctly and the drivers were only getting occasional lap times. Both drivers did manage to improve on their Friday times, but it wasn’t enough with Reece ending up 9th and Ian 4th in class.
Reece was struggling with pace ending up some 1.2 seconds off the pole position and only just ahead of the Am pole position, whereas Ian was right in the middle of a very tight Am battle with only about half a second covering 2nd to 5th in the class, it was looking like a tight race.
The first of three races for the weekend for the GT4 SuperCup was schedule for 14:50 on the Saturday afternoon, just before the BTCC qualifying session. The weather was still hot and sunny 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. Reece however, was struggling to understand where he was losing pace against the front runners.
Rockingham has one of the fastest runs to the first braking point into a tight second gear left-hander and there is inevitably contact through this section. As the lights went out Reece got a flying start and managed to avoid the worst of the chaos at turn 2 and ended the lap up into 6th place. Further back Ian had made a good start but had been blocked by Dan Kirby and Jack Minshaw just ahead and had to follow them into the first corner. However, with a couple of minor incidents ahead the pack was concertinaed back and holding Dan and Ian up, allowing a number of the drivers behind to get around the outside dropping Ian to 6th in class, but then Constable got tagged by one of the Pro’s turning into turn 3, causing another shake up, with Dan Kirby taking a hit on his suspension and sending him wide, allowing Ian to recover a couple of places to 4th, where he stayed for the first few laps.
Up front Reece continued his strong performance until lap 6 when the season long problem of rapid tyre degradation kicked in dropping him back into the clutches of the chasing Jason Baker, then to make matters worse Reece dropped behind Jac Constable, the Am Leader, on lap 7, which is where he remained until the end of the race, giving him 7th in the Pro class.
Further back Ian was also struggling with tyre wear and was struggling to keep the charging Colin White behind him. Then a small mistake from Ian coming onto the main start and finish straight allowed Colin to get in his slipstream for an easy out braking exercise into turn 2., dropping him to 5th. A couple of laps later White made his way past Brooks in a similar manner and it was clear to Ian that Brooks was vulnerable on the brakes after the very fast turn 1, but had to get a good exit out of the final corner to make it work. On Lap 9 his opportunity came with a good slipstream, and an out braking move into turn 2 promoted Ian back into 4th, which is where he finished.
After the race Jac Constable and Jason Baker were given a 10 second penalty for a jump start, dropping them back several places. Unfortunately Ian just missing out on being promoted to 3rd by only a matter of seconds, but Reece, benefited and was promoted to 6th place due to Jason Bakers penalty.
Race two of the weekend was on the Sunday morning with a 10:40 planned start time, being the second race of the day, just before the first BTCC race. The weather was still clear and hot, in fact Sunday was looking likely to be an even hotter day than Saturday, so it was going to be important for the drivers to take on plenty of liquid before each race. 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 15th but 4th in class, both with work to do if they were to stand a chance of collecting silverware.
Reece got another great start and this time was up to 5th by the end of the first lap, helped by the usual mess at the first braking area at turn 2. Unfortunately, Reece was involved in an incident on lap 2 with several other Pro drivers and although didn’t suffer any damage was dropped down to 8th place.
Ian hadn’t made the best of starts this time and Dave Brookes had made it past by the first corner, then as Alex Taylor tried to make his way around the outside he made contact with Ian’s driver side rear wheel, bending the suspension, allowing Ian to continue, but with a very badly handling car. On the second lap as the Am class came into turn 2 there was contact between Dan Kirby, Jac Constable and Dave Brookes, leaving Dave Brookes stranded and bringing out the Safety car as well as promoting Ian to 4th. After the safety car, despite his damage Ian was able to keep in touch with the leading Am’s but couldn’t fight off the recovering Jac Constable, who made it past Ian, dropping him to 5th on Lap 7. Then contact between Minshaw and White, allowed Ian past, but also Taylor to pass Ian, while bringing out a second safety car.
With Ian running 4th in class, a poor restart allowed Bearne and Minshaw to start attacking straight after the safety car, causing more contact from Bearne and then the wall, all on the same damaged corner. On lap 12 Minshaw managed to work his way past, demoting Ian to 5th, but just as this happened Kirby up ahead suffered a drive shaft failure and had to retire, moving Ian back to 4th. Although the car was suffering badly through the left-hand corners (not great on an anti-clockwise circuit!) Ian managed to hold on to Minshaw and the two of them were soon all over the back of Taylor in second place, leading to a three way fight for second.
Just ahead of them Reece was again suffering with the handling falling off at the end of the race, he was struggling to maintain his position and on lap 12 lost out to Baker and then on the following lap lost another place to Ladell. However, Ian was taking the fight for second right to the end and as the 3 of them started the final lap Taylor went very defensive with Minshaw and Ian all over him. As they went through the serious of left handers, Minshaw made a move up the inside slowing the two cars up and giving Ian a chance to get a run around to the ‘Tarzan’ hairpin. As they reached the Hairpin, Ian managed to hold the inside with Taylor taking the outside and Minshaw trying the cut back, leaving the three of them side by side heading down to the final chicane with Ian trapped in the middle being knocked about between the two other cars. Unfortunately, as they braked for the chicane, contact caused Ian to lock up and run a little wide and allowed both Taylor and Minshaw through, giving Ian another 4th place finish.
For race 3 through the grid is based on a reverse grid from the results of race 2 and with the number 4 being pulled out, Ian was going to be starting in pole position for the Am class, giving him a chance to make the most of his repaired car and hopefully show some of the pace he showed during testing. While Reece was having to start back in 10th, resulting in him being directly in front of Ian at the start.
With both drivers getting good starts, Reece was up to 7th place after the first couple of corners, while Ian had maintained his lead and was right up with the Pro drivers. Ian then came under a sustained attack from Constable for the next couple of laps, but some strong defence allowed him to maintain his position and then pull a small gap to Constable, allowing him to focus on catching the Pro’s ahead.
Both drivers continued to maintain there respect positions until there was a small incident amongst the leaders that brought out the yellow flags at the chicane and this appear to disrupt both drivers rhythm as they both lost a position on the following lap. With Reece dropping to eighth, while Ian was demoted to second but able to keep in close contact with Constable ahead with both of them having pulled a good lead over Minshaw in third place.
On lap 9 the fight behind Reece and Ian was heating up and an optimistic move by Kirby on White resulted in Kirby
retiring and White losing his rear wing as well as leaving debris all over the chicane. Unfortunately for Reece, he didn’t avoid the debris as he next came around to the Chicane and picked up a puncture, forcing him to retire on lap 10. While Ian continued to push hard to catch Constable, the gap remained pretty even and the two of them finishing the race less than 2 seconds apart, and giving Ian his third second place finish of the year.
Another mixed weekend for the team with Reece still struggling to find any pace or consistency and struggling for championship points, where as Ian, despite the disappointment of race 2 was able to salvage some good championship points and a much deserved third podium finish of the year.
We are now on the final run up to the end of season, with a 3-week break before Silverstone and then a further 2 weeks later the season finale at the Brands Hatch GP circuit. With the final Ginetta test day on the Thursday before the Silverstone meeting it is going to be a long and busy weekend, but Silverstone is a circuit both drives like and the team is confident they can get some positive results before the final round.
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup Driver Standings:
10th Reece Somerfield, 212pts
4th Ian Robinson, 304pts
Ginetta GT4 SuperCup next rounds:
16th/17th Sept Silverstone National
30th Sept/1st Oct Brands Hatch GP