In one of the most thrilling races of the Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge, 18 year-old Brad Bailey took an unexpected victory in the final race of 2012 at Donington Park last Sunday, his first in the series and first since he began circuit racing in 2010.
Former Junior Rallycross Champion Bailey began racing in the Ginetta G40 Junior series in 2010, taking several Podiums and Pole Positions in 2011 before moving into the ‘Senior’ Ginetta G40 series at the beginning of this year.
After almost taking Podium finishes at Silverstone and Snetterton, Bailey knew that the Paul Bailey Cars entered machine would need to be spot-on for him to round out the season with a top-three finish, and free practice on Friday gave the team confidence that they would be on the pace.
Qualifying proved to be super-close, as the top seven drivers were covered by just 0.5 seconds over Donington’s full Grand Prix loop, with Bailey taking 7th on the grid for races one and two, but confident the race pace would be strong.
“Donington’s a track I really like but it’s the first time I’ve driven the full Grand Prix Circuit, in Juniors we used the shorter National Circuit, and the Melbourne Loop and Gerards are really tricky corners so I’m pleased to be on the pace. I usually race well here so think we can go forward – and there’s usually some chaos too…I just hope I can avoid it ‘cos too many times this year I’ve been on the receiving end of things!”
At the start of race one Bailey good a good getaway and was in the thick of the action, with a battle developing with Rick Parfitt – son of the Staus Quo rocker – which raged throughout the race, with Bailey maintaining his 7th place to the flag.
“That was a good start – the car should be really good for race two – we always seem to get stronger as the race goes on – and in each of the later races in the weekend. I had a good scrap with Rick, and it’s all in one piece so we’re in good shape!”
With Graham Johnson missing from the grid, Bailey was promoted a place and started 6th for race two, and again was immediately in the mix, fighting hard with Parfitt as up front Luke Davenport hit problems and ended up in the gravel early on.
Now running in closer to the leading pack in 5th, Bailey was putting in stronger and stronger lap times and looking good to get in the mix for the battle between Ratcliffe, Robinson, newly crowned Champion Sean Huyton, and William Burns.
As the race progressed it looked as though things were getting pretty fraught up front, and as Ratcliffe edged away slightly, Huyton lunged inside Robinson at the Melbourne Hairpin, the pair tangled and Burns was caught up in the melee too.
Reading the situation perfectly, Bailey sliced past on the inside and up into 2nd place!
With only a couple of laps remaining Bailey pushed hard and began reeling in the leader, closing down Ratcliffe to get within striking distance of the Welshman – a former Ginetta Junior rival – who had already won race one.
At the end Bailey was to cross the line just 0.3 behind Ratcliffe with the second fastest lap of the race, delighted to have taken his first Podium in the series, to back up the double Podium at Snetterton in August in his debut in the Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup in a Ginetta G50.
However there was to be a dramatic twist... Earlier in the race when fighting with Huyton and Robinson, Ratcliffe was reported for overtaking when the yellow flags were being waved – strictly prohibited and taken very seriously by the officials.
Hence a surprised but delighted Bailey was sportingly presented with the Winner’s trophy by Ratcliffe who was excluded from the results for his misdemeanour.
“It was a mega race throughout – really good battle with Rick then after I got into 2nd place I was pushing like mad and catching Ryan all the way – another couple of corners and I think I would have got past him anyway.
I’m so, so pleased to have ended the season like this – we are just a family run team – my Dad Paul, my Mum Michelle, me, and my engineers Glen Gower and Elliot Pedder all just get on with it – I prepare the car myself and Elliot and Glen do a mega job running it track side. I wouldn’t be out racing without my Dad’s support so this is for him, my Mum, Elliot and Glen – who has had a really tough time personally as his Mum was taken seriously ill over the weekend, so it left Elliot in charge – they are all mega and I’m really proud of them all”
Bailey will focus on a title challenge in the series in 2013, but for now will enjoy his victory, proving at Donington that The Only Way is Essex!