Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit proved an extremely happy hunting ground for Matt Chapman during the final race of the 2015 Ginetta Junior Championship season on Sunday, 11th October, with the Oxford teenager securing his eagerly awaited first ever podium finish in car racing.
After a year which has been hampered by misfortune on multiple occasions, costing the Total Control Racing driver potential podium results at several tracks, the 15-year-old finally got his just reward for a superb never-say-die ethic with an excellent third place finish in round 20, which was beamed live across the UK on ITV4.
He also posted the fastest lap of the race to again confirm his sheer speed and his excellent points haul for the weekend elevated the youngster into the championship top 10, ending the season on a real high.
“I’m really happy”, said an overjoyed Matt, “At the start of the weekend it really didn’t look like we’d be in a position to try and be on the podium, after qualifying it looked like we’d be mid-pack and race one was a disappointment as we were involved in some contact and ended up ninth.
“We knew we could go somewhere from ninth on the grid in race two, but we didn’t know we’d get to the podium. It was really busy, there was some contact on the first lap but then we managed to slice through the field and make overtakes when it was necessary. Fastest lap was a bonus too, it feels so good to get my first podium and we can feel confident now for whatever we do next year.”
Qualifying on Saturday, 10th October, didn’t go to plan for the second year Ginetta Junior driver and he unfortunately had his best time disallowed for a track limits infringement which led to a spot on the sixth row of the grid for the opening contest.
Originally scheduled for late Saturday afternoon, due to some delays in the timetable round 19 was then moved to Sunday morning and from 12th on the grid Matt made a good initial getaway. At Graham Hill Bend, though, he was barged wide by a rival and out onto the grass – resulting in a slip down the order to 19th place.
In a familiar position of having to mount a major recovery, the Oxfordshire teenager did just that and after an early Safety Car period he set about carving his way through the order. Back into the top 12 by lap six, he managed to climb into ninth before the conclusion a couple of laps later to cap a very strong showing.
Therefore beginning round 20 on the fifth row of the grid, Matt held station off the line but on the run out of Paddock Hill Bend up to Druids he had to take avoiding action to miss being caught-up in a two car tangle immediately ahead.
Following a lap behind the Safety Car, racing resumed on the third tour with Matt holding eighth place and at Westfield he was able to profit from contact between Dan Zelos and Jonathan Hadfield to slice past into sixth.
Soon after, officials served Jamie Caroline and Billy Monger with drive-through penalties due to jump starts which elevated Matt into fourth and at the beginning of lap five at Paddock Hill Bend he was able to slingshot past Stuart Middleton to move into the coveted top three.
Setting fastest lap with a time of 1m48.140 seconds (81.00mph), Matt set about trying to challenge for second but hopes of unseating Lewis Brown were dashed when the contest was red flagged due to a couple of cars off the circuit on the Grand Prix loop. Third position, however, marked a superb result and gives Matt a great deal of confidence as he looks to whatever the 2016 season may bring.
Final Ginetta Junior Championship Standings:
10th Matt Chapman, 227pts