The opening rounds of the Ginetta GT5 Challenge got underway this weekend at a very gloomy Oulton Park, and in true Ginetta GT5 Challenge style, the packed grids put on some fantastic racing, with two winners from two races.
As the green flag was waved for the first qualifying session of the season, a strong twenty-six grid became eagle-eyed on their competition for the first time. Steven Wells posted an early time to sit at the top of the order before Optimum Motorsport’s Oliver Wilkinson jumped onto pole position
With Wilkinson now leading the session, it was all to play for behind him. Wells, Max Bird and Lewis Brown all continued to exchange places, before Nick Zapolski jumped a staggering twenty places on his first flying lap and was joined soon after by Alex Toth-Jones. Ultimately it was Wilkinson who continued to improve on the damp circuit and in the closing stages and it was Max Bird, who, on the final lap jumped to second, thus setting the final positions for the opening race.
The first race began with rain lingering in the air, and it was Ryan Hadfield who took the lead into Old Hall Corner following a rocket start off the line. Hatfield wasn’t the only one to have a rocket start, Shane Stoney also gained five places off the line following a slow start from Wilkinson.
As the pack completed their first tour, it was Bird leading following a superb overtake on Hadfield, thus demoting him to second. Hadfield’s luck went from bad to worse with Zapolski also using the opportunity to make a move and bumping Hadfield to third.
Wilkinson’s race, however, was far from over. He set the fastest lap of the session whilst clawing back position after position. Meanwhile it was all action at the front once again as Hadfield missed a gear, allowing Bird to create a lead of nearly five seconds.
With the top three running a clear gap from fourth, there was a real fight for second place. As the chequered flag was deployed it was almost side-by-side for Zapolski and Stoney, but ultimately it was Zapolski who claimed the second place position by only 0.399s whilst Richard Evans crossed the line to secure the opening AM class win.
The top ten was completed by Hadfield, Wilkinson, Toth-Jones, Traves, Quinn, Marshall and Palmer. Katie Milner made a fighting recovery after minor contact with the barrier throughout the early stages of the race, working her way back through the field to take the chequered flag in eleventh.
Having taken the opening race win, Bird lined up on pole position for the second race of the day. As the lights went out, it was Zapolski who lead from Stoney, demoting Bird to third. Zapolski’s lead was shorted-lived however, as moments later, as the pack entered lodge for the first time, Stoney made a move around the outside to take the lead.
Zapolski’s luck continued to fade as Wilkinson made a successful pass demoting him to fourth. Meanwhile Brown was on a charge, having started in in seventh and was closing in on the lead battle. With Stoney currently leading and only 0.7s separating Bird, Wilkinson and Zapolski, the front four were all in full contention for a race win. It was Bird who started to apply the pressure on Stoney forcing him to turn defensive.
With the duo not giving up the fight for first, this allowed for Brown to continue to close the gap and mount the pressure on the front runners. As the pack entered Lodge for the final time, it was Brown who made a move around the outside to claim second as they crossed the line and the chequered flag was waved.
Adrian Campbell-Smith was holding the AM class lead for the majority of the race before but Evans still hungry from the first class win of the day continued to pressure Campbell-Smith before finally making the move and taking his second win of the weekend. The top ten was completed by Wilkinson, Hadfield, Traves, Milner, Pinder and Evans.
Following several red flags during the course of the day, the final race of the weekend and round three of the championship was postponed until later in the season. The GT5 Challenge contingent now looks towards their next outing at Rockingham Motor Speedway on 29/30 April.