Century Motorsport got their 2016 season off to a strong start at Brands Hatch, pole position and a podium finish in the opening race of the season certainly made their intentions clear to those around them. However Aleksander Schjerpen and Sean Byrne had their strong run ended prematurely during Schjerpen’s stint. As the championship moved to Rockingham Motor Speedway last weekend for round two, the team were firmly intent on making sure it would be a weekend to remember for both crews.
Saturday morning started to shape what would appear to become a dream weekend for the University of Bolton and Westons supported Ginetta of Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke. Topping the timesheets of both Free Practice one and two, from the outside it looked almost certain that Qualifying was going to become a foregone conclusion.
However, all was not well with their Ginetta G55. Towards the end of Free Practice two, Nathan reported a slight miss in the car, and the team quickly set off in pursuit of the fault.
Hoping the issue had been cleared; Anna Walewska started qualifying in the first of the two-part session. However as she exited the last corner to complete her second flying lap, her Ginetta ground to a halt on the approach to turn one, the team franticly going through a systems check over the radio to try and help her restart the car. To no avail, the team pushed the car back to the garage and quickly set to work on trying to resolve the issue to allow Nathan Freke to take over for his part of qualifying. However in the short time frame, the team was unable to locate the fault, which resulted in a back of the grid starting position for Sunday’s race.
Working late into Saturday evening, the team located and resolved a fuel pump issue, and hoped this would clear any outstanding issues for Sunday. Sadly however, Sunday morning’s Warm-up session would throw up some similar symptoms, resulting in some further diagnoses of the poorly G55.
As Anna Walewska drove to the grid for the start of the second two-hour race of the season, it was a case of so-far so-good in the #73 Ginetta. When the lights went out, Anna got a good start and in the opening laps she quickly made her way up the order.
Walewska clearly had the bit between her teeth and was now running in ninth place. Hoping to climb one further place, Walewska was unable to find a way past the experienced Joey Foster, despite a number of superb moves on the fellow Ginetta driver.
Just like at Brands Hatch, Freke was on a mission and undeterred by the mountain still left to climb. A rapid pitstop allowed him to return to the track in eighth place, with a brief Safety car period shortly after giving him the opportunity to close in on those in front.
Seizing the moment, one by one Nathan caught and passed those in front before catching and passing GT4 race leader Jamie Chadwick on lap 59. What seemed like the impossible was now a reality, from starting last to leading the race, Freke moved into a lead that he would extend to a margin of almost 30 seconds as he crossed the finish line much to the delight of the Century Motorsport Pitwall.
However, following much celebration, controversially the race officials excluded the #73 Ginetta after the race, due to a yellow flag infringement during the opening laps. The severity of the penalty was uncharacteristically harsh, and certainly a bitter pill to swallow after achieving what seemed like the impossible before the start of the race.