Tom Sharp made an overdue return to the top step of the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup podium at Knockhill in Fife on Sunday 4th September, with a superb victory during round 20 of the season, enabling him to retake the lead at the top of the driver standings.
Unbeatable during the first six rounds of the championship, the IDL racer was thoroughly dominant but after a mid-season slide his points advantage was heavily reduced before then being overturned as Carl Breeze stepped-up his championship bid.
At Knockhill on Sunday though, Breeze’s curse of misfortune at the Scottish track returned with a vengeance as he was forced out of the third of the weekend’s races with car problems – gifting Sharp an 18 point lead and enabling Adam Morgan and Nathan Freke to also close-in.
Following on from Saturday’s race victory, Freke added another win to his tally – now standing at six for the year – during round 19 and having seemed completely out of the hunt at the halfway point of the season, the 2009 G50 Cup Champion is now a rapidly growing threat.
With the inaugural GT Supercup battle heating up nicely, as is the title fight in the G50 Cup class, each of the remaining three events this year could be absolutely vital in determining both champions, starting at Rockingham two weeks from now.
“When you’re on top of the world and it all goes crumbling around you, it’s a long old slog to get back on the top step”, said Sharp, “When you see people winning things and then it goes wrong, you think ‘just win again’ but it’s not that easy – it’s more a mental thing than anything. This has come at just the right time for us, we’ve got the championship lead again which feels great.”
During the first of the day’s races, pole-sitter Freke was under huge pressure early on from Sharp but saw him off as the race progressed and eventually took a relatively comfortable 2.1 second win to bag his second victory of the weekend.
Sharp pushed incredibly hard over the first third of the race but wasn’t able to prise open a passing opportunity on Freke’s theplayer.co.uk/Century Motorsport G55. In the end, second place ensured more great points for Sharp as his title bid started to be reinvigorated.
Freke said: “I had a bit of heat from Tom (Sharp) early on but I knew if I got my head down and put in a couple of stormers, I could get away and I did. It’s all going well at the minute, the car is perfect to be honest.”
Total Control Racing’s Breeze held third until lap 12 when Morgan managed to get a good run in his Ciceley Racing machine into the first corner and he went on to pull 1.8 seconds clear of the erstwhile championship leader.
In the G50 Cup, Jody Fannin celebrated his 18th birthday in incredible style by taking his third class win of the year in fifth position overall. Aaron Williamson, winner of round 18, started on the G50 pole but Fannin got ahead on lap 13 and was able to see off the FML driver who just shaded Tom Ingram for second at the flag.
“Starting fourth it was going to be hard but the guys ahead of me started battling and it gave me the chance”, explained Fannin, “I really wanted to try and win on my birthday and I have, it’s a really great feeling!”
Birthday boy Fannin starts on outright pole for round 20For round 20, the ‘reverse’ grid number drawn was five meaning Fannin started the third race of the weekend from the outright pole position. Making a peach of a getaway, the Team Pyro driver pulled away from the quicker G55s of Morgan and Breeze but the latter’s race started to unravel at the hairpin on lap one when he momentarily grabbed second before being tipped into a spin.
Eventually able to recover from the gravel trap, Breeze continued to circulate the track but on lap four his race came to an end when his G55 cut-out and he was forced into retirement. This paved the way for Freke and Morgan to battle it out after a short Safety Car period but the race resumption was slightly confusing when Fannin went wide out of the hairpin and several cars flooded past.
The order on lap eight, therefore was Sharp from Freke and Morgan and the top three did seem fairly well set but as the race wore on, guest driver Marino Franchitti got faster and faster. Into the hairpin on the final lap, he saw his chance and the international sportscar ace produced a superb, late cut-back to grab the final podium spot – a dream end to the weekend for the Scottish star.
“I really am delighted to be on the podium here at Knockhill”, said Franchitti, “I can’t believe it because in the middle of the race I just seemed to be going backwards. I don’t know who’s who and I didn’t want to get involved in the championship, especially in the G50s, so I tried to pick people off one by one.
“I could see the guy ahead (Morgan) was struggling with his tyres and at the last corner, last lap, I thought ‘I’m not going to be back here next week’ so I had to get on with it. It’s been tough with wet sessions and dry sessions and me needing to learn the car but we’ve chipped away and found quite a sweet set-up with TCR – I just wish this was the start of the weekend and not the end!”
In the G50s, Tom Ingram took back the points lead he had earlier lost to Fannin by securing the round 20 class win in front of Jake Hill and Williamson. Ahead of the next event, his lead over Fannin is 11 points with Williamson a further 51 points adrift.
Ingram said: “This win certainly makes the eight hour drive back home a lot more bearable! To have so many bad races, be off the podium and see such a big points lead cut to nothing is really tough. Our lead was 96 points and everyone said we had it in the bag – it can all turn though, as we’ve seen! Everyone has stepped-up their game, it won’t be over until it’s over.”
Next on the calendar for the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup is a visit to Rockingham, near Corby in Northamptonshire, two weeks from now on 17th/18th September for rounds 21 and 22 of the 2011 championship season.
Provisional 2011 Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup Championship Positions (after Rd20):1st Tom Sharp, 515pts; 2nd Carl Breeze, 497pts; 3rd Adam Morgan, 492; 4th Nathan Freke, 462; 5th Colin White, 318pts; 6th George Murrells 315pts
Provisional 2011 Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup ‘G50 Class’ Championship Positions (after Rd20):1st Tom Ingram, 503pts; 2nd Jody Fannin, 492pts; 3rd Aaron Williamson 441pts; 4th Jake Hill. 409pts; 5th Andrew Richardson, 260pts; 6th Louise Richardson, 198pts