Former Ginetta G50 Cup Champion Nathan Freke made his return to GT3 in Oulton Park last weekend, this time however with the confidence of a full season programme ahead of him aboard a heavily revised Ginetta G55 GT3 for the 2017 British GT Championship.
With limited testing opportunities in the run up to the first event for Freke and his British GT rookie teammate, Harry Gottsacker, the pair were hoping to make the most of Friday’s two short test sessions, in addition to the standard Free Practice running on Saturday.
Running through a pre-defined programme for the sessions, both Freke and Gottsacker were making good progress in the heavily revised G55. Despite having to deal with a severe Balance of Performance adjustment to the car, both were confident in their wet weather pace and starting from sixth and ninth for Monday’s two single hour races, would put them in a good position to be ready to capitalise.
Monday morning arrived and with it came the much sought after wet weather conditions to favour the Ginetta. Their pace was confirmed with the fifth fastest time during the morning’s ten minute pre-race warm-up.
American Harry Gottsacker would be first in the car for the opening race of the 2017 season, and starting from sixth he was immediately mixing it with the seasoned regulars when the race got underway. Breathing heavily down the neck of the TF Sport Aston Martin during the early part of the race, Harry was showing no signs of being a newcomer to this highly competitive championship.
Pitting the car from fifth, Nathan Freke took over to complete the race. Returning to the track in 13th, once the pitstop cycle was complete he was back up to seventh, initially with the Rollcentre Mercedes for company but laterally, the Spirit of Race Ferrari with works driver Matt Griffin aboard. Holding back the Italian Stallion for as long as he could, Griffin found a way past on lap 25 and from there Freke would take his Ginetta G55 to the end in eighth overall and first in the GT3 Silver class.
With the track now starting to dry out, it was back to slick racing tyres for the second and final race of the day on Monday afternoon. Nathan Freke would carry out the opening stint on this occasion, starting the race from ninth on the grid. Getting a good start in the now dry conditions at Oulton Park, Freke was once again in battle with Martin Short in the Rollcentre Mercedes AMG. Pitting from ninth on lap 18, Harry Gottsacker took charge of the #69 Ginetta hoping to repeat his earlier impressive pace, this time in dry conditions. However all was not well under the bonnet of the G55, and it wasn’t long before Harry was back in the pits and would ultimately end up going into the garage for further diagnosis.
Despite their non-finish in the second race, overall the weekend was a positive start to the year and both now look forward to taking on the slightly longer two-hour round three at Rockingham Motor Speedway in two weeks.
Nathan Freke - #69 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3:
“On balance I’m quite pleased with this weekend. Obviously we’ve had a few issues here and there, but on balance it’s been a positive start to the year. We had some really good pace in the wet and I think there will be more to come from our dry pace once we get the chance to work on that in due course. Harry did a mega job in race one, certainly showing no signs of being a British GT novice against some of the seasoned regulars. For me it was a case of adjusting to the bigger and faster car and I was pleased with all my stints and certainly can’t wait to get out at Rockingham.”
Harry Gottsacker - #69 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT3:
“This weekend has been an eye-opener, the guys out there are quite aggressive but I enjoyed it. It was fun running in the rain, it really wakes you up that’s for sure. We struggled a little bit for power this weekend, but I think by Rockingham we will be ready to rock. The first race went really well and I finished my stint inside the top five which was great and Nathan’s stint was good also. Things went a little downhill in the afternoon’s race two but I think we’ll be alright once we get to Rockingham.”
Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, Saturday 29th & Sunday 30th April 2017.