All three of Total Control Racing’s Ginetta GT5 Challenge drivers departed Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, 9th July, with richly deserved silverware from the penultimate event of the season – Matt Chapman taking his second victory of the year as part of a podium hat-trick and ‘Am’ class drivers Ian Robinson and Dan Collinson each tasting success.
Despite having never visited the world-famous Belgian track before testing, 16-year-old Chapman starred by topping the timesheets and then qualifying on pole position. Winning race one, he added a pair of runner-up spots in the second and third contests to climb back into the series top two.
An unfortunate incident in the opening race cost Robinson the ‘Am’ class win, but he hit back superbly in the subsequent races to chalk-up two more successes – the first from the back of the grid. His tally of victories has now increased into double figures, he has 11 to his credit so far.
Robinson’s loss was team-mate Collinson’s gain, though, in race one on Friday, 8th July, as the first year GT5 Challenge driver claimed his maiden ‘Am’ victory. Despite the challenge posed by Spa, the weekend was actually one of Collinson’s most competitive yet.
“We knew we had the pace from the first test Matt did on Thursday, it’s been an amazing weekend for him considering he hadn’t even seen the track before”, said TCR team principal Lee Brookes, “He proved his pace with pole in qualifying and another win and two seconds is great, although we know we had the pace to win all three.
“Two more wins for Ian in his class is fantastic, race one was just unfortunate but he did an incredible job in race two to come through like he did from the back. With Dan’s class win in the first race every driver has come away with some silverware so we’re absolutely delighted.”
Chapman starred on his first visit to Spa by scorching to pole position for race one and he delivered an exceptional performance in the first of Friday’s two contests. Leading away at the start, he kept championship leader Ollie Chadwick at bay lap after lap as they battled door-to-door.
Coming under increasing pressure, Matt fended off Chadwick well but was edged back to second on the penultimate tour. The TCR driver wasn’t to be denied the success he had worked so hard for, though, and on the eighth and final lap he got back ahead of Chadwick at the chicane and on the sprint to the line managed to grab the win by 0.027 seconds. He also ended the race with fastest lap.
Robinson ended the opening lap in seventh overall before climbing into the top six and then challenging for fifth. Frustratingly, though, damage sustained on lap three resulted in an enforced pit-stop which wrecked his hopes of taking another ‘Am’ class win. He ultimately ended the contest in 31st position overall after repairs.
For Collinson, the race went much more smoothly and from 14th place on the grid he worked his way into a strong 11th position finish. Gaining two spots on lap three, as a result of a two-car tangle ahead, he then moved into 11th place just before the conclusion after quite a lonely outing.
Chapman started race two from pole, as a result of his victory, and again enjoyed a titanic battle with Chadwick. Opening up a one second lead on the first tour, as the race reached mid-distance the scrap began to intensify.
Edged to second on lap three, Chapman hit back the next time around and soaked up huge pressure from Chadwick until the penultimate tour when the champion-elect managed to get ahead once more. At the flag on lap eight, Chapman crossed the line just 0.3 seconds shy of another win and with a fastest lap time just 0.002 seconds away from the best of the race.
Collinson, from 11th on the grid, broke into the top 10 on the opening tour and stayed there to the end of lap four when edged back by Alex Toth-Jones. Staying in the thick of the battle around the top 10, Collinson reclaimed 10th a couple of laps later but was ultimately shuffled back to 11th again.
From 31st on the grid, Robinson had an almighty challenge ahead but he carved his way through the order incredibly to finish in a hugely impressive eighth position. Gaining no fewer than 12 places on lap one, he continued to make great progress and into the final tour held 11th position. Leaping into the top eight over the final four miles, the result capped a stunning drive and another Am win.
The final race of the weekend on Saturday morning delivered a second success on the road for Chapman in a red flag shortened contest. Beginning the race eighth on the grid, the TCR driver sliced his way through the order impressively on lap one to move into the top five and after a big shake-up on lap two he was able to thread his way through into second place with some excellent driving.
Following a brief Safety Car period, racing resumed on lap five and Chapman managed to get ahead of newly crowned champion Chadwick to seize the lead of the race. Another incident on lap six then resulted in the race being red flagged so, with the result taken to the end of lap four, Chapman had to be satisfied with second place.
Robinson led the race early on, having moved into first from second on the grid, and after a good battle at the front he was edged back to fifth after a shuffling of the pack on lap two. Although slipping to 10th place prior to the red flags being shown, on countback he was credited with fifth.
Unfortunately, another great drive from Collinson ended with an excursion at Turn Three on lap five when he had been on course for an excellent ninth place finish. Running in the top 10 at the end of the first tour, Collinson moved into ninth soon after and continued to run very competitively in the lead group until his untimely departure from the contest.
Ginetta GT5 Challenge now takes a nine week break from action with the final event of the season taking place on 10th/11th September at Donington Park. Before then, TCR’s Ginetta Junior and Ginetta GT4 Supercup squads will be back on track over the weekend 30th/31st July at Snetterton.
Ginetta GT5 Challenge Driver Standings (after Rd16):
2nd Matt Chapman, 390pts; 6th Ian Robinson, 242pts; 14th Dan Collinson, 97pts