Carl Breeze raced to his fourth victory of the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup season at Rockingham yesterday afternoon, which – along with bonus points for fastest lap and pole position – has enabled him to move within three points of championship leader Tom Sharp.
Increasingly prominent title threat Nathan Freke, who was all but out of the reckoning after the first three race meetings of the season, extended his run of podium finishes to eight with an excellent second place ahead of Adam Morgan, the latter making his 14th rostrum visit of the campaign.
Although unable to stay with the top three during today’s 18-lapper, Sharp managed to hold on to a slim advantage at the top of the points standings by taking fourth position and ahead of tomorrow’s inaugural Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup ‘pit-stop’ race the championship couldn’t be closer.
With the category’s double ‘drop score’ ruling taken into consideration, where each competitor has to subtract their two worst scores from individual totals, Sharp provisionally heads Breeze by three points with Morgan only four points further adrift and Freke now less than 30 points shy of the lead.
During qualifying this morning Breeze put the disappointment of a race three retirement at Knockhill firmly behind him with pole position for Total Control Racing ahead of the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 of the returning George Murrells, just 0.182 seconds splitting the pair.
Freke grabbed third on the grid in his theplayer.co.uk/Century Motorsport machine while Ciceley Racing’s Morgan was fourth fastest, IDL’s Sharp was fifth and Century’s Freddie Hetherington, making his first appearance in the championship since Oulton Park in early June, was a strong sixth.
Breeze initially moved away from the line in the lead but the start wasn’t the best, unlike Freke who made an electric getaway from the second row and into Turn One of the Rockingham Oval he boldly threaded his Ginetta G55 in between Breeze and Murrells to sensationally grab the advantage.
Out of Deene Hairpin, Breeze managed to hold on to second position but Murrells was bundled down the order to sixth as Morgan, Sharp and Hetherington all moved ahead. The pole-sitter, intent on re-challenging for the lead, closed back in towards the end of the opening lap and into the second tour Breeze was well placed to gain a great tow out of Turn Four and across the start-finish line.
Diving to the inside of Turn One, Breeze brilliantly grabbed the lead and after setting the fastest lap of 1m23.881 seconds (83.26mph) on lap two he gradually edged away to make a welcome return to the top step of the podium – taking the flag two seconds clear of the 2009 G50 Cup Champion.
“We had some really unfortunate luck at Knockhill – we went from leading the championship to being 18 points behind so we knew we had to come here all guns blazing this weekend”, commented Breeze, “Not only did we have to beat Tom Sharp and (Adam) Morgan, we also needed to try and stop the momentum that Nathan (Freke) has had in the last few rounds.”
After the first lap exchange, the top six didn’t change with third placed Morgan the only other driver able to keep pace with Breeze and Freke. For Sharp, round 21 wasn’t as fruitful as his stunning weekend in Scotland a fortnight ago but fourth place meant he was able to maintain the series lead.
Commenting on his runner-up spot, Freke said: “We have a university guy who’s been measuring heart rates of racing drivers and he’s been telling me my reaction rate and that’s spurred me on to get them down – so I was ready”, explained Freke, “I keep getting good starts, I got through the middle but I don’t think (George) Murrells saw me as he came down and hit me.
“I had a great first lap but this is a proper bogey circuit for me, I’ve never done that well here. Carl was just a bit quicker than me today, our car is good but I can’t seem to get the final sector sorted so considering that it’s another solid finish and puts us in a good position on the grid for tomorrow.”
Ingram finally overcomes Richardson’s defence to earn G50 win...For the battle of the race, the fight over the lead in the G50 Cup class was easily the highlight with Andrew Richardson defending first place lap after lap from points leader Tom Ingram – the latter able to make a decisive move on the penultimate tour while under pressure himself from Jake Hill.
Richardson took the lead from pole-sitter Ingram on lap one and with the Ginetta G55 of Colin White acting as a buffer behind, the 2010 Ginetta Junior Champion wasn’t able to challenge during the first few laps. Ingram moved ahead of White on lap five though and rapidly closed up to Richardson but the ever-present G55 got ahead of both G50 contenders at Brook Chicane on lap 12.
Paving the way for the lead battle in G50 Cup to reignite once more, Ingram piled on the pressure but Richardson’s incredible defence kept his immediate pursuer at bay and also enabled Hill – who had to overcome a broken damper in qualifying – to close in along with Jody Fannin.
Try as he might, Ingram couldn’t carve open an opportunity with the door firmly closed at every corner. Eventually though, with Hill sizing up his own attempt to take second place, Ingram got good drive out of Turn One and sliced past Richardson for the lead into Deene on lap 17.
“As soon as I got past Andy (Richardson) I found two seconds so he was definitely defending hard and slowing us up”, said Ingram, “With Colin (White) being involved that made it difficult, I wanted to get past Andy but I didn’t want to lose out by Colin coming past in a quicker car so it was a difficult position to be in. I’m really, really pleased though to get the win and extend the points lead.”
Richardson held off Hill by 0.5 seconds at the chequered flag while Fannin took fourth in class, a couple of seconds to the good over Aaron Williamson. For the other Richardson sibling, Louise, her race ended with an excursion on lap eight at Deene while dicing with Hill and although sporting an arm sling after the race, the former Ginetta Junior star declared herself ok and “just sore”.
History will be made at Rockingham, Sunday, 18th September, when the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup competitors will take part in their first ever ‘pit-stop’ race during round 22. The half hour encounter – which will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD at 15.20 – will feature a mandatory wheel change for all drivers, bringing true GT-style flavour into the popular category.
Provisional Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup Championship Positions (after Rd21 – inc. drop scores):1st Tom Sharp, 521pts; 2nd Carl Breeze, 518pts; 3rd Adam Morgan, 514pts; 4th Nathan Freke, 492pts; 5th Colin White, 328pts; 6th George Murrells, 322
Provisional 2011 Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup ‘G50 Class’ Championship Positions (after Rd21 - inc. drop scores):1st Tom Ingram, 540pts; 2nd Jody Fannin, 476pts; 3rd Aaron Williamson, 461pts; 4th Jake Hill, 435pts; 5th Andrew Richardson, 290pts; 6th Louise Richardson, 198pts