The championship battle is hotting up already as this closely fought single-make series heads to Thruxton for its third race weekend of the year, and its first appearance on the BTCC support bill. With 27 cars on the grid, Stephen Errity looks at the ones to watch.
The packed field treated fans to four races at Rockingham, as an earlier race from Oulton Park that had to be postponed was also run, meaning plenty of opportunity to score points and podiums. R&J Motorsport driver Lewis Brown made hay by scoring a brace of wins and second positions to put himself in the pound seats heading into this weekend’s Thruxton encounters.
Brown’s closest challenger in the points table is Shane Stoney, who has two wins to his name so far this season, backed up by consistent podium and points finishes across the board to give him an advantage over third-place man Ryan Hadfield, who ended 2016 third overall in the GT5 Challenge and is the highest-placed driver from that season to come back this year.
Ollie Wilkinson has shown prodigious pace in the GT5 Challenge from the get-go, clinching pole at the first race of the season. He initially struggled to convert strong qualifying performances into race results, but came good at Rockingham in fine style to score two fighting podium finishes, making plenty of overtakes along the way.
Elsewhere, Nick Zapolski and Max Bird have both suffered some misfortune alongside promising results so far this season, and will no doubt be ones to watch around Thruxton’s thrilling high-speed corners. Others to watch out for include Alex Toth-Jones, Matt Flowers, Ashley Marshall, Steven Wells and Matt Palmer, who each raced here during the championship’s 2016 guest appearance on the TOCA package.
Rapid junior saloons graduate Katie Milner and Rockingham podium finisher Simon Traves have also showed strong potential in the races to date, with Milner overdue a visit to the podium having just missed out on more than one occasion.
Finally, make sure to keep an eye out for guest championship appearances from last year’s overall champion Ollie Chadwick, who is expected to be one to beat here. Along with former Ginetta Junior rivals, Geri Nicosia and Seb Perez – the latter of whom currently contests the Michelin Ginetta GT4 SuperCup.
Aiming to make in-roads to the top 10 are Morgan Quinn and Luke Pinder – the latter having enjoyed his best weekend to date last time out. Carlito Miracco and Adrian Campbell-Smith complete the top 15, with Richard Evans, Andy Marshall, Connor O’Brien, Sami Saarelainen and Angus Fender rounding out the top 20. Mike Jarvis and Nick Halstead complete the grid.