Matt Chapman once again had to battle the odds during the latest instalment of Ginetta Junior action at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk over the weekend, 8th/9th August, with a stunning drive through the order from the back of grid almost securing the Oxford racer a headline top 10 result.
Impressively setting the outright pace during pre-event testing and lapping second fastest in practice on Saturday morning, the teenager looked to have finally put the misfortune which was hampered his championship bid firmly behind him. In race one of the weekend, though, he was wiped out of the contest at the second corner as a result of contact to the rear of his Ginetta G40.
Forced to begin race two on Sunday afternoon, which was screened live on ITV4, from the back of the grid in 24th position, the Total Control Racing driver scythed his way through the pack superbly to gain no fewer than 13 places over just six racing laps. Not only that, he was a mere 0.023 seconds shy of the coveted top 10 and also posted the third fastest lap of the race to confirm his clear pace.
“We’ve shown again this weekend we’ve definitely got the pace”, said the 15-year-old, “It’s really frustrating how race one turned out, but to make up 13 places in race two, in only six laps, was good going – I’m really happy with that performance and it shows what we can do.”
Getting the second half of the season off to a superb start in officially timed testing on Friday, 7th August, Matt lapped fastest of all with a best of 2m20.029 seconds (76.32mph) from the first of the day’s two sessions.
He then went on to circulate second quickest in morning practice on Saturday, a lap of 2m20.636 seconds (75.99mph) placing him a miniscule 0.050 seconds away from the top of the times and also setting the TCR driver up very well indeed for qualifying later in the day.
Unfortunately, his best time in the grid-determining session was expunged after officials declared he had exceeded track limits – costing him a potential top three start – but with a grid penalty from the previous event at Croft applied to team-mate Cameron Roberts, Matt lined-up on the fourth row.
From eighth on the grid, he made a decent start but on the run into the second turn, Montreal Hairpin, a tangle involving several cars led to a concertina effect which resulted in the rear of Matt’s car being smashed into – ruling him out of the race on the spot.
“Fastest on Friday in testing was great and after being up there again in practice, we were pretty sure qualifying would be good”, said Matt, “Unfortunately, my best lap was taken away but from eighth we should still have been able to fight for a good result. I didn’t see what happened in race one, a few cars made contact further back and then I just got hit from behind.”
As at the Croft event prior to the mid-season summer break, for race two – round 12 – Matt had to start at the back of the grid as a result of his opening encounter dramas but, unlike the Croft outing, he had the opportunity to carve his way through the order untroubled.
Although making a great start, Matt couldn’t fully capitalise initially with the path ahead blocked but when several cars made contact into the hairpin he was able to smartly pick his way through the chaos to climb into the top 15 on the first lap alone.
Having already moved up nine places from his starting slot, the Oxfordshire racer was determined to continue his tremendous progress and after taking 14th place on lap two he then climbed into 12th place on the third tour.
Although re-challenged into Riches on lap four, Matt produced a fantastic cut-back to ensure he held onto his position and he then reeled in team-mate Dave Wooder. Passing the sister TCR car on the sixth and final lap, Matt almost managed to steal 10th on the line at the chequered flag but 11th place still marked a superb result.
Next on the Ginetta Junior Championship calendar is a trip north of the border, to Knockhill in Scotland, over the weekend 22nd/23rd August.
Provisional Ginetta Junior Championship Standings (after Rd12):12th Matt Chapman, 97pts