Total Control Racing driver Matt Chapman produced his most competitive performance of the year during an action-packed seventh event of the Ginetta Junior Championship season at Knockhill in Scotland over the weekend, 22nd/23rd August – the Oxford youngster only just missing out on his maiden podium with a best result of fifth place in round 14 on Sunday.
Like the previous couple of race meetings at Croft and Snetterton, the 15-year-old set an impressive pace in officially timed testing and final practice. Unlike the last two events, however, Matt was able to convert that level of performance into strong qualifying pace and two excellent results.
Finishing sixth in round 13 on Saturday, where he ran in third place during the first half of the contest, the second year Ginetta Junior driver went one better in the second encounter to chalk-up his best result of the campaign inside the top five.
“It’s been quite a strong weekend overall, we were P3 in testing on Friday, only a tenth off, and we knew we needed to make it count which I was able to do with our best qualifying of the year”, said Matt, “Qualifying was one thing, though, we also needed to make it count in the races which we managed to do with two good results.
“Race one was good and we were close to getting that first podium, we bounced back well in race two with fifth though – our best result of the year. We’ve shown our pace again, as we have at the last few tracks, so now we need to move on from here and keep building the momentum when we get to Rockingham in a couple of weeks.”
As during the previous event at Snetterton 300 Circuit, the TCR youngster started the weekend very impressively in testing on Friday, 21st August, with the third fastest lap – just 0.1 seconds shy of the top of the times – and in final practice on Saturday he was in the top five again.
Replicating the same sort of front-running pace in qualifying, Matt secured a place on the second row of the grid for round 13 with the fourth fastest time of 1m02.377 seconds (73.12mph) placing him just 0.2 seconds shy of pole position.
Before Saturday’s race got underway, front-row qualifier Stuart Middleton encountered problems with his car on the lap to the grid so Matt actually lined-up in third place. Holding position off the start, he was edged back to fourth by Lewis Brown but after an early Safety Car period Matt hit back to reclaim third on lap three.
Soaking up a lot of pressure from Brown, Matt looked well on course for his first podium but a moment on lap five at Scotsman dropped him to seventh place. Moving back into the top six a lap later, the Oxfordshire teenager closed right up behind Jonathan Hadfield and over the line into lap 10 he managed to nose ahead. Hadfield, though, was able to hold onto the place.
Following a second Safety Car period three laps from the finish, Matt pressured Hadfield again over the final couple of tours but to no avail. Even though taking the chequered flag just 0.2 seconds shy of the top five, Matt’s sixth place marked his best result of the season to that point and his best lap of 1m02.414 seconds was only 0.2 seconds shy of the quickest of the race.
In round 14 on Sunday morning, from sixth on the grid, Matt made a good start and climbed into fifth where he remained for the duration of the closely matched contest to chalk-up his best finish yet – and with it the second fastest lap of the race, 1m03.222 seconds.
With very little to choose between the lead contenders, he was again incredibly close to achieving his first podium, taking the flag on lap 12 just 0.6 seconds shy. In terms of the championship, Matt’s consistently strong Knockhill experience has consolidated 12th in the driver standings and moved him closer to the coveted top 10.
Matt will be back in action just a fortnight from now when rounds 15 and 16 of the Ginetta Junior Championship season take place at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on 5th/6th September.
Provisional Ginetta Junior Championship Standings (after Rd14): 12th Matt Chapman, 135pts