The penultimate round of the Ginetta GT5 Challenge took place at Brands Hatch circuit this past weekend. Sunshine brought the crowds out to spectate as teams continued to fight for championship points.
Nick Firth once again led the attack for Optimum Motorsport, whilst Finlay Ractliffe sat out the trio of races, hopeful for a return at the Donington Park finale.
While the results weren’t forthcoming, his rapid pace gave reason to be positive.
Qualifying – #76 FIRTH – Race 1: P8 | Race 2: P13
A brief downpour before the track action began, created treacherous conditions for qualifying. Nick ran well and was constantly improving his time in the opening laps, but as the session progressed, so the track dried and the last few minutes of the session were a hive of activity with cars keen to better their times.
Unfortunately for Nick his crucial final flying lap was blighted by an uncharacteristic spin, meaning his qualification times would be significantly slower than his potential. Final positions meant Nick qualified eighth for race one and thirteenth for race two.
Race 1 – #76 FIRTH – P13
Qualifying out of position gave Firth extra motivation for the race start. An explosive start saw him cut his way through the field to P3 by the second corner. However, whilst jostling for position Nick had an unfortunate spin, dropping him down to P23.
Even more encouraged, Nick battled through the field throughout the remainder of the 15-minute race, displaying his skill and the quality of his race craft. A P13 finish would be an admirable result in the short sprint race.
Race 2 – #76 FIRTH – P9
Nick was able to get a clean start to the second race, despite being in the precarious position of midfield. After battling through the opening few laps, Nick found himself in a tough three-way battle with Nick Zapolski and Matt Flowers. Throughout the race, the trio would switch positions lap on lap, showcasing clean and exciting racing. Nick ended the race in a well fought P9, taking away valuable championship points.
Race 3 – #76 FIRTH – DNF
Race 3 would see a dramatic opening. As the race began, Nick made another signature strong start to overtake Luca Hirst on approach to the legendary ‘Paddock Hill Bend’. However, a coming together between Zapolski and Moore, would have disastrous consequences for Nick.
Moore’s airbourne car collided with Nick’s, pitching him into a spin across the front of the accelerating pack. With nowhere to go, Chris Webster made heavy impact with Nick’s G40, resulting in race-ending front end damage and the deployment of the Safety Car.
Shaun Goff – Team Principal
“Our aim for qualifying was around the top five. Tricky, damp conditions meant the lap time tumbled each lap and saw Nick go as high as P5 until the last few minutes when a spin meant he was unable to improve whilst others did, demoting Nick to P8. For the first race, our goal was to attack in the first couple of laps to get in the back of the top 5, so we could then challenge for a podium shot. A great start had seen Nick up as high as P3, but a spin at the exit of turn 3 meant he was at the back of the field. In race 2, we wanted to make sure Nick finished well, to enable him to start race 3 in a good grid slot. He started P13 and had a good battle throughout with Flowers and Zapolski, which saw Nick finish a solid P9. The first corner in race 3 was enough to halt the race, as heavy contact from Will Moore spun Nick into oncoming traffic resulting in heavy front-end damage. We are looking forward to our favourite track Donington, which is up next and where better fortunes are expected!”
Nick Firth #76:
“Unfortunately, Brands Hatch has not been the most fruitful of weekends. Qualifying really put us on the back foot, with a spin meaning I was always going to be in the thick of any action. Race 1 and 2 were really about getting the best out of a bad situation and I think we managed to show we can race through the field cleanly and fairly. However, Race 3 was over as soon as it started. By qualifying in the middle of the pack, you’re always going to have a handful of cars all trying to claim the same section of track and unfortunately that meant that I got collected up in a big shunt into Turn 1. It’s disappointing to end the weekend in that way, but the important thing is that everyone came away unhurt. Concentrations turn to Donington now for the last round, which is one of the few circuits I can say I have prior experience of! So we will definitely be looking to come away from there with a season best result.”
The final round of the Ginetta GT5 Championship will take place on the 13th & 14th of September at Donington Park. It is a track that Nick and the team knows well, and they will be hoping for a more positive weekend!