nathan-freke-british-gt-spa-francorchamps-2.jpgDespite having a wealth of experience, Spa-Francorchamps was one circuit that has eluded Nathan Freke during his career from any race experience. Unexpectedly, Freke made an unplanned debut in the Ardennes not for British GT as anticipated, but for a Historic three hour race just two weeks ago in an Austin Healey along side Nick Matthews. Cruelly missing out on a podium finish, both Nathan Freke and co-driver Anna Walewska were keen to make amends and carry the podium success from Silverstone onto the championship’s away round of the season.

With multiple red flags in Free Practice One and sharing a track with almost 60 cars as the European GT4 Championship also featured this weekend, useful track time in advance of qualifying would be in short supply. As qualifying approached, the skies darkened, and as Anna left the garage for her qualifying run, the heavens opened and soaked a large portion of the circuit. Running on slicks, she was forced to pit at the end of the lap for a change to wets, before going on to secure the ninth fastest time. Now it was Nathan’s turn for the second and final part of the session. Leaving the pitlane on wets, the falling rain had stopped and such was the heat in the track he felt slicks were the only option and returned to the pitlane for a rapid pitstop by the team. Lighting up the timing screens from there, Freke would end the session as the second fastest GT4 car on circuit, and when combined with Walewska’s time, the pair would start Saturday’s two-hour round six from third in GT4.

A bumper 57-car grid lined up to take the start in warm and sunny conditions on Saturday morning. With lights out just after 12.25 local time, the packed grid burst into the first corner. With lots of action at the first couple of corners, a rather unwell Anna Walewska managed to keep her nose clean during the opening lap to remain inside the top five. From there, it was a case of doing her best to maintain a strong position during her stint at the notoriously challenging Spa-Francorchamps. Just as the pitstop window opened at the 50-minute mark, Walewska dived into the pits to hand the car over to Nathan for the final part of the race.

Bursting out of the pits, Freke set off on a charge to try and work his way back up the order. Having to carefully work his way through the European GT4 traffic, Nathan was up to seventh after the pitstops were complete, closing down a large gap to Robert Barrable in sixth. His charge however was hampered by a number of European GT4 cars in front, who were faster in sector one and making it difficult to close in and find a way past over the remainder of the lap. Finally finding a way past to move directly behind Barrable, Nathan brought the gap down to just two seconds, but as the chequered flag fell, his charge for position was ended as he crossed the line in seventh.

Nathan Freke - #73 Century Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4:
“Spa is probably the only circuit on the calendar that I have little or no race experience off, in fact my first time to race here was a couple of weeks ago in a historic Austin Healey, so between that and some of the cars around us that are usually faster in a straight line this weekend was potentially somewhat of an unknown. It was hard to get a rhythm going on Friday with such mixed running in Free Practice, but Qualifying was where it all came good. Anna put in a solid run in her session on a very mixed track as rain was falling out the back but the pit-straight was dry! I opted for slicks and that really paid off, getting us up to start the race in third. Anna hasn’t been feeling very well this weekend, so her opening stint in the race was good considering that and she brought the car in at the pit window in eighth. I drove the wheels off the car, but to be honest it was hard to make up places being mixed in with the European GT4 cars. That said we finished seventh which secures a few more points for the championship as we move to Snetterton where I feel we should be strong.”

Next Round:
Snetterton, Norfolk, UK – Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th August 2016.