Oxford teenager Matt Chapman leapt into second place in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge standings at ultra-fast Thruxton in Hampshire over the weekend, 7th/8th May, thanks to a pair of richly deserved runner-up spots in rounds four and five of the season.
Securing the second and third podiums of his rookie campaign in the one-make category – which ran as part of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support package for the first time – the 16-year-old Total Control Racing driver was delighted with his weekend’s work in surprisingly hot weather at the Andover venue.
In qualifying on Saturday morning Matt got the weekend off to a very strong start with the second fastest time, 0.7 seconds quicker than the third placed car. Unfortunately, though, the TCR racer wasn’t able to capitalise on his front row start at the beginning of round four later in the day.
After slipping back to fourth place on the run through Allard, Matt set about recovering the lost ground immediately and into the chicane at the end of the first lap he produced a superb pass on the tricky outside line to climb into the top three.
Pressing hard to try and move up into the top two, on lap three at the complex he succeeded and after shaking off the attentions of Ryan Hadfield by mid-distance he set about closing down the gap to the vastly experienced Ollie Chadwick.
As the only driver other than the leader to lap in the sub 1m26 second bracket, Matt took the flag on lap 12 just 2.3 seconds adrift but an incredible 10 seconds clear of the chasing pack. His best lap time of the race, 1m25.957 seconds, came on the final lap of the contest.
For round five on Sunday afternoon, which was broadcast live on ITV4, Matt didn’t quite make the launch he wanted again from the outside of the front row and was surrounded by the second row starters into Allard. Being squeezed on the run into the complex, the TCR racer boldly kept his foot in and with some impressive driving he emerged into the right-hander back in second place.
Pulling well clear of the pack once more, other than pole-starter Chadwick he was the quickest driver on track and during the latter stages their pace was very even. With a best lap time of 1m25.523 seconds, he was just 0.4 seconds shy of Chadwick’s best and at the finish on lap 12 only 1.4 seconds separated the lead championship protagonists. Notably, Matt was almost 19 seconds clear of third.
“I’m pretty satisfied with two second places from the weekend”, reflected Matt, “Thruxton is a mega circuit, I love racing there and it’s been great being there for the first time racing on slick tyres in a Challenge car. We’re still trying to chase Ollie [Chadwick] down, he has so much more experience than we do in this championship, but the pleasing thing is the significant gap we had to the others.
“Neither of my race starts went to plan, so that meant we had to fight back through each time, but I did get back into second easier in race two and towards the end we had similar pace to Ollie so I was happy with that. It’s great to have two more podiums and fantastic to move up the championship.”
Oulton Park in Cheshire will host the third event of the Ginetta GT5 Challenge season over Spring Bank Holiday weekend, 28th/29th May, where the category will link back up with the British GT Championship in its regular support slot.
2016 Ginetta GT5 Challenge Driver Standings (after Rd5):
2nd Matt Chapman, 123pts