Teenage racing driver Matt Chapman produced two highly competitive performances during the live televised fifth and sixth rounds of the Ginetta Junior Championship season at Thruxton in Hampshire on Sunday, 10th May, with a season-best seventh place his reward in the first race of the weekend.
Arriving at the fastest track on the calendar determined to take away a healthy haul of points after a somewhat trying campaign to date, the 15-year-old did precisely that in two robust encounters and also confirmed his pace with the fastest lap in Sunday’s opening contest – which was ultimately the best lap time of the weekend.
“It’s been quite eventful but I’m happy to come away with two good finishes and the fastest lap of the weekend – that’s really good”, said the Oxford driver, who has climbed into the championship top 12, “The races didn’t go how we wanted them to, there was a lot of contact, so to pick up some good points and show our pace is as much as we could have done.”
Posting the ninth fastest time in morning practice on Saturday, 9th May, within 0.6 seconds of the top four, Matt delivered a near-identical performance in qualifying to secure a place on the fifth row of the grid for race one.
Round five was certainly action-packed with lots of incident. Running in 10th position at the end of the opening lap, the Oxfordshire driver remained in the tight cluster of cars around the top 10 and prior to the appearance of the Safety Car on lap four he held 11th place.
At the re-start on lap seven, Matt held position and then moved into ninth after profiting from an incident ahead involving team-mate Dave Wooder. Posting the fastest lap of 1m31.548 seconds on the seventh tour, he went on to climb into the top eight but the conclusion wasn’t without drama.
On the final lap at the chicane there was a real heart-in-mouth moment for the teenager. As two cars immediately in-front tangled, Matt tried to negotiate his way through but his Total Control Racing-run Ginetta G40 was tagged. Fortunately, he managed to emerge relatively unscathed and he went on to end the race in a very creditable seventh position.
Round eight was punctuated by two Safety Car periods in quick succession but Matt again raced very strongly to almost match his result from earlier in the day. From the fourth row, he made a decent getaway but into the complex the right-rear of his car was hit which forced him off the track.
Recovering in 12th position, albeit with damaged steering and a bent rear wheel, the first of two cautionary periods was then triggered. When the race resumed on lap four, Matt managed to climb into the top 10 despite his handling issues before the Safety Car reappeared.
At the second re-start, he ran close behind team-mate Cameron Roberts and then profited from a retirement for Wooder to move into ninth. Embroiled in a very close battle with Roberts and Senna Proctor, Matt managed to edge ahead of the latter on the final lap to take a hard-fought top eight finish, just over a second shy of the top six – an impressive performance with an ill-handling car.
“I got too much wheelspin at the start of race one which meant I was surrounded into the first corner, but I managed to pick people off one by one”, he reflected, “It’s frustrating we couldn’t have been nearer the front and battling for the podium as we proved our pace with the fastest lap.
“The car ended up very bent in race two, so to come through as well as I did was pretty good. At the complex I could see the car behind in my mirror and then I just felt a big hit on the rear which put me wide. The car was quite a handful after that so to finish where we did wasn’t too bad at all.”
Rounds seven and eight of the Ginetta Junior season will take place at Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire over the weekend 6th/7th June.