Oxford racer Matt Chapman moved another step closer to the Ginetta Junior Championship top 10 at Rockingham in Northamptonshire over the weekend, 5th/6th September, as his strong late season resurgence continued with seventh and sixth place finishes in rounds 15 and 16 of the season.
Concluding the eighth event of the campaign within 17 points of the target top 10, the 15-year-old produced two excellent race drives in the hotly contested encounters and, once again, delivered pace equivalent to podium performance.
Lapping fifth fastest in free practice on Saturday morning, Matt headed into qualifying determined to reproduce a similarly strong showing but after being unable to secure a much-needed ‘tow’ around the fast Oval banking, he had to settle for 14th on the grid for the opening contest.
Moving up into the top 12 on the opening lap, the Total Control Racing driver gained another place on lap two and continued his fantastic rise through the order by climbing into ninth position on the third tour ahead of Billy Monger and Alex Day.
Slicing into the top eight on lap four, Matt set his sights on challenging Charlie Fagg with the pair running nose-to-tail for the next few laps. Getting good drive out of the Brook Chicane at the end of lap seven, Matt was able to edge alongside his rival over the line and went on to take seventh spot.
Instantly scorching away from Fagg, the Oxfordshire teenager went on to take the chequered flag on lap 10 over three seconds clear – and with an impressive gain of seven positions on his grid slot, also securing an improved fourth row start for race two.
“I think we raced quite well to be fair, from 14th to seventh in the first race was a good result and decent performance”, said Matt, “Qualifying didn’t go to plan unfortunately, we didn’t get the ‘tow’ right and we had a slight handling problem as well, but we fixed that for the first race and the car was good. The action was pretty close and moving up seven places wasn’t too bad really.”
Round 16 on Sunday morning was a very closely matched and entertaining affair, with Matt in the mix for a possible top four result during the latter stages before eventually taking sixth. Beginning the contest in seventh position, he lost a little bit of ground through Turn One and slipped to ninth before moving back up into eighth on the brakes into Deene at the start of lap two.
Chasing down the pack ahead, Matt climbed into seventh place on lap three and began to pile on the pressure to Billy Monger who stoutly defended his position. Absolutely glued to the rear bumper of his rival’s Ginetta G40 into lap six, as Monger backed-up the cars behind, Matt came under attack from Patrik Matthiesen.
Swapping seventh place back and forth, the TCR driver eventually ended up in eighth but on the penultimate tour, lap seven, he was able to take seventh again from Monger at Deene before instantly closing up behind Matthiesen.
Running as part of a very close four car train from fourth to seventh, Matt managed to take sixth on the final lap to secure another strong finish in his increasingly competitive campaign. Once again, too, his pace was impressive with a best lap of 1m38.520 seconds a match for the podium.
“Race two was a good battle, everyone raced well and the weekend ended positively”, said the second year Ginetta driver, “We didn’t test at Rockingham before the event, so we were on the back foot a little bit on Friday. Even though qualifying didn’t work out how we wanted, the results have been pretty good as I took every opportunity I could.”
There are just three weeks to wait until the penultimate event of the Ginetta Junior Championship season, rounds 17 and 18, over the weekend 26th/27th September at Silverstone National Circuit.
Provisional Ginetta Junior Championship Standings (after Rd16):
11th Matt Chapman, 169pts