Matt Chapman delivered one of the drives of his young racing career at Silverstone National Circuit on Sunday, 27th September, after impressively slicing his way through the order from the back of the grid to claim a tremendous top six finish in round 18 of the Ginetta Junior Championship season.
Displaying front-running pace throughout the weekend at his ‘home’ track, the 15-year-old went on to confirm what might have been, had he not been the victim of contact in the previous day’s race, by posting the fastest lap in the second contest to underline his race winning potential.
Anticipating a very tough outing in race two from 21st on the grid, his eventual finishing position in round 17 on Saturday, 26th September, the Total Control Racing driver produced his most stirring performance in cars yet with a remarkable climb through the order.
Although not making the best of starts, and delayed by an incident early on, Matt managed to work his way through to 18th position prior to a Safety Car period on lap five which worked beautifully in the Oxford driver’s favour – a real turnaround in fortune compared to the bulk of his luckless season.
Slicing his way through the order like a hot knife through butter following the resumption, Matt had climbed into the top 10 by lap 10 and then gained four more places before the chequered flag on lap 12 to take away a thoroughly deserved sixth place finish.
As well as marking an incredible gain of 15 places on his starting position, he took the chequered flag a mere 0.074 seconds shy of fifth place and his fastest lap of 1m10.834 seconds (83.37mph) was significantly faster than anything the majority of his rivals could manage. With a less challenging couple of laps at the start, a podium would certainly have been on the cards.
“It was a pretty eventful start for us, I got too much wheelspin off the line and then I was caught-up in a collision – I had to actually reverse out of it before I could drive off so that meant we were a long way down”, explained Matt, “I passed as many people as I could but then the Safety Car came out which was a blessing really.
“I picked people off one by one after that, some others had accidents so we made the most of that, and to come through in sixth is a great result. It’s fantastic having fastest lap too, I put that in when chasing the pack down before the Safety Car. Considering what happened on Saturday, this was the best way to hit back. I know we can be on the podium at Brands if we qualify well.”
Quick through testing and free practice, in qualifying on Saturday the Oxfordshire racer didn’t quite put the lap together he wanted so ended up with the eighth fastest time – still just 0.5 seconds shy of pole position.
Climbing into seventh on the first lap, after pressuring Lewis Brown he managed to make his way into the top six on lap four despite running out wide at Becketts. On the fifth tour, Matt leapt into the top four after a terrific battle with team-mate Dave Wooder and he then set about challenging for the podium.
With nothing to split the lead eight contenders, the racing proved incredibly entertaining and after another shake-up the next time around, Matt continued to hold fourth but with Wooder ahead in third. On lap seven, though, both TCR drivers lost out with Matt edged back to sixth but the podium was still very much a possibility…until he was hit from behind at Brooklands on the eighth tour.
Spinning down the order to 18th position as a result, Matt worked his way back into the top 15 before the chequered flag at the end of lap 11 but the application of a five second track limits penalty led to a frustrating 21st position on corrected times.
The final two races of the Ginetta Junior Championship season will be contested a fortnight from now over the weekend 10th/11th October at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit.