|CHAPMAN BECOMES GINETTA GT5 VICE CHAPMAN|
Total Control Racing capped off yet another hugely successful Ginetta GT5 Challenge season with a strong performance at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 10th/11th September, as series rookie Matt Chapman overcame an unlucky penalty to be crowned series Vice-Champion.
The vastly experienced one-make specialists, who won the title in 2014 and 2015, were just as delighted to claim the Vice-Champion's spoils in the final race of the season at the Leicestershire venue in 16-year-old Chapman's first year of competition on slick racing tyres.
Finishing just outside the podium places in race one on Saturday, Chapman secured his 10th podium of the year in race two on Sunday morning but then had to mount a huge late race charge in the final contest to overcome an unfortunate 10 second time penalty. Doing so brilliantly, sixth place on corrected times – third on the road – gave him the coveted runner-up spot in the standings.
Multiple 'Am' class winner Ian Robinson once again produced fantastic pace and the highlight of his weekend came with yet another class victory in eighth overall in race two – having led the contest from the front early on. He wrapped-up the season seventh in the outright championship.
Dan Collinson continued to make strong improvements on the final weekend of the season and enjoyed a terrific duel with Robinson in the final contest, the team-mates finishing third and fourth in class in that encounter. On Saturday, Collinson achieved his best finish of the weekend of 12th overall and second in the 'Am' class and concluded his maiden campaign 15th in the standings.
"We tried didn't we – it would have been nice to win it three years on the trot but we've done a cracking job with Matt to finish runner-up", said TCR team boss Lee Brookes, "We gave it our best shot and Matt did a fantastic job all season, we're really chuffed with what he's achieved and he's stepped-up his game massively. He's only going to get quicker.
"Ian and Dan had a great race in the last one, the whole team is strong and those two guys have come on in leaps and bounds during the season. It's been a good season in the Challenge and we'll have to see what next year brings now!"
Qualifying on Saturday morning was affected by rain, as well as red flags, and the net result was an uncharacteristic eighth on the grid for Chapman with Robinson securing the 13th fastest time overall, third in the 'Am' class, and Collinson posting 17th and fourth best of the 'Am' drivers.
Dry weather arrived for the first race of the weekend and Chapman made great progress during the early going, climbing his way through into fourth by lap five. With a big gap to make up, by the time he broke into the top four the TCR racer wasn't able to make any further inroads to the podium.
Robinson ended lap one in 14th place overall and then gained three places on the second tour, before an unfortunate moment cost the Am class front-runner a significant amount of time and dropped him all the way down the order to 28th place overall. His woes were then compounded by a 10 second penalty for an out of position start. In the end, he finished 16th overall and fifth in class.
Collinson also made good early progress, moving into 14th position by lap three and then taking 13th place overall on lap five. Continuing to circulate strongly, he went on to end the nine lapper an excellent second in the Am class and inside the overall top 12.
Chapman lined-up fourth on the grid for round 18 on Sunday morning and managed to move into third into Redgate before sensationally slicing through into the lead when the duelling cars of Ollie Chadwick and Ryan Hadfield ran wide.
Holding the lead of the race under immense pressure for the first couple of laps, the TCR driver succumbed to an attack from Hadfield at Redgate on the third tour but he stayed with his rival and hit back at McLeans soon after. Unfortunately, though, the move then put him on the outside line into Coppice and after being held out wide he was shuffled down to fourth again.
Lap three delivered even more drama just a couple of corners later, though, when a spin for Chadwick enabled Chapman to move back into the podium placings. Moving into second on lap four, Chapman was then edged back to third again and then slipped to fourth on lap five. On the final lap, though, an incident ahead elevated Chapman back into third.
From 16th on the grid, fifth in the 'Am' class, Robinson stormed through the order with a superb drive. Breaking into the top 10 on lap one, and with it the class lead, he moved into ninth overall on lap two and then eighth on the third tour before setting the fastest lap of the race, at that point, on lap four. Remaining eighth to the finish, he was just three seconds shy of the outright podium.
Collinson didn't have such a straightforward race in the second of the weekend's encounters, slipping from 12th on the grid and second in the 'Am' class to 14th overall and third in class on the opening lap. Then, on the second tour, an unfortunate moment dropped him all the way down to 38th place but he mounted a superb recovery to fight through into fifth in class and 22nd overall.
For the season finale on Sunday afternoon, round 19, Robinson started on the front row of the 'reverse' grid in second place and made a superb launch to take the lead on the run to Redgate but was edged back to second at Melbourne Hairpin.
Chapman, from seventh on the grid, put together a sensational opening lap in the meantime to climb through into the podium battle. Into lap two, Robinson held second with Chapman fourth, having momentarily been third on lap one, as the lead quintet closed up into the Fogarty Esses.
Emerging in fourth and fifth respectively, the race then took a turn for the worse for both TCR team-mates – a huge spin for Robinson out of the Old Hairpin on lap three dropping him from fourth and the 'Am' lead down to 15th position. Chapman, meanwhile, was served with his costly time penalty and although taking third on the road, he was sixth on corrected times.
Robinson managed to battle back through into the overall top 12, third in class at the flag, after a great battle with Collinson – the latter having mounted a superb drive from 22nd on the grid. He made a great start to the race, gaining six positions on the first lap, and he continued to work his way up the order before finishing just behind Robinson in 13th overall and fourth in the 'Am' class.