• Best result of P9 for Matt Chapman and Sam Webster at Oulton
• Autoaid/RCIB Insurance Racing duo set good pace in Rds1&2
• Oxfordshire’s Chapman happy with opening event development
Ginetta G55 GT4 driver Matt Chapman achieved his aim of scoring championship points on his British GT debut at Oulton Park in Cheshire on Easter Monday, 17th April, after taking a best finish of ninth place during a rain-affected first contest.
Teaming-up with Sam Webster at Autoaid/RCIB Insurance for his rookie year in endurance racing, the Oxford 17-year-old thoroughly enjoyed his maiden race weekend in British GT where he gained a massive amount of experience in the season-opening 60-minute contests.
After racing to ninth overall in GT4 and fourth in the Silver class in the rain-hit first round on Monday morning, the duo had to settle for 14th place, sixth in the Silver battle, in round two following a late spin for Webster as he avoided a huge, race-ending collision in the headline GT3 category.
“We were massively thrown in at the deep end this weekend with no pre-season testing, but I was up for the challenge and I’m happy with what we achieved”, said Chapman, “We were still learning and finding the limits of the car through qualifying and the races, we had a fundamental issue in practice but the team fixed it for qualifying and after that it was all about doing the best we could.
“Sam did a great job in the second race to avoid the GT3 accident, he reacted well and I’m so grateful he brought the car home in one piece – it could have been much different. It was really unfortunate he had the spin as a result, but we’re happy with the weekend overall and looking forward to Rockingham now in a couple of weeks.”
Having only signed a deal to graduate into British GT this year at the eleventh hour prior to last month’s pre-season Media Day, the rapid teenager went into this weekend’s first event of the campaign with precious little time in the car and at the foot of a major learning curve.
Even so, Chapman performed admirably throughout qualifying and the two races where, for the first time, he experienced in-race pit-stops, driver changes and, of course, an altogether different format of competition.
Webster took the first stint of the rain-hit opening race and from ninth in GT4 he climbed into the top eight after a handful of laps, before being shuffled back soon after. When the pit-stop window opened with 25 minutes of racing elapsed, Chapman climbed aboard the Ginetta G55.
Although slipping outside the top 10 as the order settled, he fought through into 10th place and was then elevated into ninth, fourth in the Silver class, following the exclusion of Matt Nicoll-Jones’ Aston Martin. Notably, Chapman set the fourth best GT4 race lap.
For round two a fully dry line was evident and Chapman began the race from 12th in GT4. Having held position over the first few laps, on the fifth tour contact between the first and second placed cars resulted in both spinning out at Cascades and so Chapman moved up inside the top 10.
When the pit window opened at the 25-minute mark, Chapman remained on track and he climbed as high as fourth, as others served their stops earlier, before pitting to hand the No.63 Ginetta over to Webster with 27 minutes to go.
Holding 10th spot as the race order settled down, Webster soon worked his way into eighth position and ran tight to the tail of the HHC Motorsport Ginetta of Will Tregurtha. No changes were possible as they were both lapped by faster GT3 cars but then, with around 15 minutes to run, Webster had to take swift avoiding action to miss two stricken GT3 cars which had collided at Hilltop.
Swerving to the right and onto the grass, the unsettled Ginetta was pitched into several rotations and before he could get going again, Webster had slipped to 14th place. That ended up being the race result with the action brought to an early conclusion, under the Safety Car, due to there being insufficient time to make barrier repairs.
Rockingham in Northamptonshire will host round three of the British GT Championship, which will be Chapman’s first ever two-hour race, just a fortnight from now on Sunday 30th April.
2017 British GT4 Championship Standings
11th Matt Chapman & Sam Webster, 2pts
2017 British GT4 Championship – Silver Class Standings
5th Matt Chapman & Sam Webster, 20pts