|PODIUM FOR CHALLENGE ROOKIE CHAPMAN AND DOUBLE "AM" WIN FOR ROBINSON|
TCR also got its Ginetta GT5 Challenge season underway but not in the manner it expected with rapid series debutant Matt Chapman forced to begin the first race from the back of the huge grid in 35th place – a result of having his times in qualifying expunged when his car was removed from the gravel after a spin on oil.
Facing a monumental task, Chapman mounted a superb drive and rocketed through the order on lap one to climb into a stunning 19th position prior to the emergence of the Safety Car. Racing only resumed with around five minutes on the clock, leaving Chapman very little time in which to make more progress, but he delivered a remarkable showing to finish in ninth spot – a gain of 26 places.
Team-mates Dan Collinson and Ian Robinson, both contesting the new 'Amateur' Class in this year's GT5 Challenge, had entertaining battles in the mid-order with Collinson finishing his first race with TCR in 13th place and third in the 'Am' classification, having qualified 12th fastest overall, and Robinson two spots further back in 15th and fifth in 'Am', after starting 18th on the grid.
Round two on Sunday morning came to an enforced stoppage after just one corner when a multi-car accident in the pack triggered the red flags. At the re-start, Chapman made great progress from ninth into the top six and after setting the fastest lap of the race, and then bettering his own benchmark too, he finished fifth just 0.5 seconds shy of the top four.
Team-mate Robinson produced a superb performance too, carving his way through from 15th on the grid into seventh place on the first lap alone and then taking sixth early on lap three. Although edged back to seventh a lap later, the second year GT5 Challenge driver remained there to the flag to cap an excellent performance and also secure the 'Am' class victory.
Collinson, from 13th on the grid, moved into the top 10 on lap one and then climbed into ninth on lap three where he remained to the chequered flag at the end of the 10-minute duration to make it a TCR one-two in the 'Am' rankings.
In the third and final contest, Chapman raced through to his maiden podium on his first weekend in the category with an excellent runner-up spot while Robinson celebrated 'Am' success once again in seventh position. Unfortunately for Collinson, his race ended in retirement on lap two.