Ginetta Junior Championship front-runner Matt Chapman more than confirmed his potential and pace at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit over the weekend, 4th/5th April, during the first event of the 2015 season – but a strong qualifying performance was somewhat tempered by two challenging races.
Lapping within just 0.148 seconds of pole position during the grid-determining session on Saturday, so unbelievably closely matched were the leading competitors the Oxford 15-year-old’s time placed him eighth on the timesheets. In fact, Matt and rival Dan Zelos posted an identical time of 57.198 seconds but the latter was awarded seventh position on the grid as he posted his lap first.
Determined to make strong progress in round one on Saturday afternoon, Matt was initially nudged out of the top 10 on the opening lap but the Total Control Racing driver fought his way up into ninth place on lap two before slipping back to 10th after a tussle with former team-mate Jamie Caroline.
Remaining tight to Caroline’s tail, on lap five a shuffling of the pack left Matt in 11th where he stayed for several laps. Embroiled in a tight battle involving no fewer than eight cars, the Oxfordshire racer ultimately ended the encounter in 13th place.
For round two on Easter Sunday, which was screened live on ITV4, Matt worked absolute wonders to avoid a potentially massive accident with the stricken Ginetta G40 of TCR team-mate Dave Wooder on the seventh lap of the re-started race.
Frustratingly, red flags were shown mere seconds into the original encounter following a multi-car tangle at the exit of Paddock Hill Bend, spoiling Matt’s sensational start which gained the youngster no less than four positions.
At the re-start, lining-up in 13th position again, he almost stalled but managed to control the revs enough to keep some momentum and although dropping back to 18th place he soon mounted a sterling recovery. Into the top 12 by lap six, Matt moved ever closer to the top 10 as the race reached the midway point but on lap seven he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As Wooder’s car spun at the top of the daunting Paddock Hill Bend, before rolling back towards the gravel trap, Matt had to take immediate avoiding action and somehow managed to miss making contact by an absolute whisker. Darting left past the sister TCR car and into the gravel, Matt did recover back to the track but had to settle for an uncharacteristic 19th place.
“We didn’t get the results we’d hoped for, or deserved, this weekend but things could have been much worse – I only just managed to avoid Dave’s car in race two which was very lucky”, said the relieved racer, “We definitely had the pace, we showed that in qualifying, but it was so close between the top drivers and only a few hundredths made a difference.
“The races didn’t go our way this weekend, and it isn’t the start to the season we wanted, but the car felt good and I’m sure we’ll be back where we should be at Donington in a couple of weeks. I’ll definitely be pushing hard to make up the lost ground and score some big points.”
Matt’s next racing action will come a fortnight from now, over the weekend 18th/19th April, during rounds three and four of the season at Donington Park National Circuit in Leicestershire.