Optimism is high in the BoltonCAPE garage on Saturday morning after the team had slotted in a day of testing at Donington on the Thursday and it paid off. In the first free practice session, Anna’s and Rob’s fastest time’s puts the Ginetta on the front row, Anna showing strong pace being 2nd quickest in the AM class. FP2 is disrupted a couple of times by spinners but Rob followed Anna and again their times are very impressive. For a change, Ginettas rule the GT4 roost ahead of the Astons and Evoras.
As usual, qualifying is split into classes and driver categories which pretty much guarantees each driver a chance of getting a few clear laps, even though each session is a mere 10 minutes long, giving the drivers only 2 flying laps to set a time when the tyre is working at it’s best. The University of Bolton pair don’t fair quite well as in free practice but Anna posts P6 and Rob P7 in their own sessions, meaning a third row for Sunday’s race lining up alongside championship leader Jamie Chadwick in the Beechdean Aston Martin.
Race day and the sun is high in an almost cloudless sky. It’s going to be pretty hot in the car today and proper hydration will be even more vital – a subject both drivers are acutely aware of both through experience and their own fitness training. After an early start for a public pitlane walk, the team choose to skip the 10 minute warm up session.
Two sets of Avon slicks have been scrubbed in during qualifying and will be used in the race having been scraped free of “marbles” by the team. Although the second set will live in the tyre heater until needed, the set Anna takes the car out to the grid on will have cooled a little by the time the lights go out.
Anna gets a storming start, the first few laps are clear but soon enough the yellow flags are out and the guys and gals in orange are busy. A Ferrari and Rick Parfitt’s Ginetta spin at Surtees leaving the Ginetta stranded in the gravel to be recovered under waved yellows. Paul McNeilly spins in his GT4 Ginetta into the gravel at Sheene, then the #27 Eurostar GT3 Aston spins and beeches at Clark Curve, to be recovered with a “live snatch” (towed out without calling for the safety car). Its shortly recovered but these incidents have spread considerable gravel through Clark corner.
A little later and an off-track excursion by a couple of the lead GT3 cars – the McLaren of Ross Wylie and Godfrey Jones’ Mercedes – at the exit of Sterlings leads to a safety car period but its too early to take advantage. The cars now bunch up but with GT3 cars mixed in with GT4s it’s no time to relax. Anna maintains 5th position chasing down the AMD Porsche and defending the super quick Toyota of Fletcher and Hodgetts, she hands the car over in 5th position for the scheduled driver change and fuel just before the 1 hour mark and the pit stop goes without a hitch.
Most teams pit together and once racing resumes, there are further retirements among the field including the Oman Racing GT3 Aston and then Rick Parfitt’s GT4 Ginetta, which goes straight on across the gravel heavily into the barriers at Sheene corner.
Anna comments: “A great weekend for us, showed strong pace and my stint went to plan with non stop action chasing down the Porsche and defending off the Toyota there was no let up in the race, it felt like a sprint to the pit stops. I’m pleased for The University of Bolton and their engineering students that attend our races and work on the car, great job and super quick pit stop by them”.
With 56 minutes remaining the safety car is out when Rob and Jamie Stanley’s #48 Ginetta collide at Druids, Stanley spins and is left immobile mid-track on the exit from the corner – once again the field bunches up but the timing is wrong and the lead GT4 cars get away.
All of a sudden Gavan Kershaw’s Lotus Evora conks out at Druids – marshals push it for a few yards until it coasts down the hill to retire on the grass inside Graham Hill Bend – but this late retirement gifts the BoltonCAPE team with another place in GT4. Now with just 27 minutes left on the clock, at the Druids hairpin Jon Barnes swerves suddenly in the #11 22GT Racing Aston – narrowly missing Rob – and hits the tyre barrier quite heavily. Despite its precarious position, the safety car is not deployed.
And there’s yet more action when Jake Hill’s AMD Porsche and Dennis Strandburg’s Aston come together braking on the approach to Druids with just 9 minutes remaining. But both GT4 cars recover and continue before there’s a chance for Rob to catch and pass them.
So at the flag – and after a suitable delay for approval of the results by the Clerk of the Course – Anna and Rob finish P6 in class – the team’s best result of the season. After the race, Rob says “the tyres were not very happy by the end – but we were still quick. Anna drove over something which left a big dent in the floor but didn’t effect the car. We are happy with the result but also know it could have been better – we lost the lead group on the last safety car otherwise I think we could have been close to a podium.”