Ollie Chadwick made it ‘third time lucky’ at Spa Francorchamps this weekend, as the twice vice-champion finally claimed the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge title after an almost unstoppable 2016 season. In GRDC+ Adrian Campbell-Smith was also celebrating, as he enjoyed his maiden class win.
Although he won 11 of 15 rounds before lifting the title, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Chadwick. Matt Chapman has been the fly in his ointment throughout the year, with the Ginetta Junior graduate kicking off his own weekend by taking an impressive pole position on his first ever visit to the Belgian circuit, topping the time sheets with a 2:48.456s lap.
Chapman’s time was almost half a second faster than Chadwicks, and over two seconds clear of his main rivals for second in the points, Ryan and Jonny Hadfield. In GRDC+ Adrian Campbell-Smith was the pole man by a considerable margin over his main rivals Richard Evans and Shawn Fleming, and the trio carried that battle over into the race itself.
As the action got underway, it was Chapman who lead into La Source for the first time with Chadwick tucking in behind. Although the pair ran nose to tail for much of the race there were a few cases of position swapping throughout the seven lap encounter, but following a drag race to the line, it was Chapman who took the win by 0.494s denying Chadwick the championship title in the process. The win did bring Chapman level on points with Ryan Hadfield though, the latter of whom earned his place on the rostrum in race one after keeping younger brother Jonny at arm’s length throughout the siblings’ international racing debuts.
Got Boost drivers Jack Minshaw and Nick Zapolski worked together to take fifth and sixth place after dispatching Jac Constable. Meanwhile, Mohammed Elshimy impressed on his return to the championship with a storming seventh place, although he did run at the sharp end before being shuffled down to eighth, prompting a great recovery drive.
In GRDC+ Evans soon found a way around Campbell-Smith to take the race lead, whilst Gary Wager made a great start to climb from fifth to third after passing Shawn Fleming and GRDC graduate Richard Isherwood. The trio battled for a good few laps until Wager spun at the Bus Stop and handed the final spot on the podium to Fleming on the penultimate lap.
Race two was a similar story at the front. Chapman and Chadwick pulled clear of the once again battling Hadfields. The pair fought for position, with Chadwick knowing he must take the win and fastest lap in order to secure the championship honours before the day was out.
It didn’t come easy though, as the field soon had to navigate a slow running Fun Cup car who had inadvertently joined the GT5 Challenge cars on track for a lap. Unfazed by the imposter, the Hadfield brothers worked together early on to pull an advantage over the leading pack, their rivalry soon got the better of them and they slowed each other up allowing those behind to give chase. As always, a number of mini battles broke out throughout the pack and Dan Collinson, Alex Toth-Jones, Matt Flowers, Jac Constable and Glen Broster were having a fine old fight for 10th position.
A moment for Jonny Hadfield dropped him down into the gaggle, and despite a hairy moment through Eau Rouge, he managed to claim the final spot in the top 10, behind Minshaw, Robinson and Wells. Kudos has to go to Elshimy again, as – despite not having driven the G40 for a year – he was right on the pace and picked up his second fourth placed finish of the weekend.
It was high drama at the start of the penultimate lap as Chadwick led across the line but needed to secure that all-important fastest lap in order to be confirmed as provisional champion. The Xentek Motorsport team looked on as Chadwick held his own and set the hot lap to be named victorious.
In GRDC+ Campbell-Smith took his first win of the season after pipping championship leader Evans to the overall victory by just a whisker. Joining them on the podium once again was Fleming but he was hounded by Wager and Isherwood for the second race in a row.
The third and final race of the weekend saw the reverse grid promote Wells (who had finished ninth in race two) onto pole position with Ian Robinson alongside. A great start for the pair saw them lead for a full lap before Chadwick and Chapman mounted their attack having picked up a handful of positions from their lowly grid positions.
The pair moved from sixth and seventh respectively into the race lead. With second in the championship to fight for, Chapman continually hassled Chadwick for position, until the race was neutralised under safety car on lap three Toth-Jones hits the barrier at Blanchimont.
We were back up to full speed at the start of lap five and it was Chadwick who led from Chapman, Minshaw, Wells and Robinson. With five minutes left of the clock, it was a dash to make the most of the restart and Chapman made a move stick just before lap six got underway. However, his hard work was undone as Collinson went off at turn three, and AM class leader Marshall spun at the Bus Stop, meaning race control took the call to Red Flag the session with just five minutes remaining.
With all cars having not crossed the line by the time the flags came out, the Kronos Events team counted back to the lap four positions, thus naming Chadwick as the winner with Chapman in second and Minshaw rounding out the podium in third.
The result also meant that Wells claimed his best result of the season so far, translating his reverse grid pole position into a fourth place, whilst Robinson rounded out the top five and once again took the AM class win. In GRDC+ it was another win for Evans who kept Campbell-Smith at bay, whilst Wager managed to take third in class after looking racy all weekend.
With the GT5 Challenge Championship tied up, the battle for second and third in the drivers’ championship will reach its grand finale at Donington Park as Matt Chapman, Ryan and Jonny Hadfield all go head-to-head in a bid to be best of the rest. Before then however, the GRDC+ Class of 2016 will enjoy their penultimate meeting of the season at Snetterton Circuit on August 6/7.
Provisional Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge Top 10 Driver Standings
1 O Chadwick 541
2 M Chapman 390
3 R Hadfield 372
4 J Hadfield 343
5 M Palmer 242
6 I Robinson 242
7 M Flowers 233
8 J Minshaw 210
9 N Zapolski 166
10 J Constable 154
Provisional GRDC+ Top 10 Driver Standings
1 R Evans 407
2 S Fleming 312
3 A Campbell-Smith 296
4 G Wager 239
5 P McGarty 164
6 M Jarvis 162
7 K Sinclair 142
8 G Redwood 114
9 R Elliker 114
10 A Marshall 108