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Bennett And Steed Score Maiden GT5 Challenge Wins

10th May 2021 • Simon Paice

John Bennett and Josh Steed secured their maiden victories in the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge during an action-packed season opener at Thruxton (08/09 May).

On a damp circuit in qualifying, a dominant performance from Steed (Xentek Motorsport) secured him a maiden GT5 Challenge pole position by nine tenths of a second. His closest challenger was Max Coates (Breakell Racing), as he returned to Ginetta racing for the first time in seven years.

Magnus Kriklywi (Race Car Consultants) joined Coates in making a late charge up the timesheets to go third quickest, his best qualifying result in the series, ahead of fellow 2020 returnee Bennett (Elite Motorsport), Will Aspin (TCR) and Conner Garlick (Xentek Motorsport).

Tricky mixed conditions greeted the field for the opening race on Saturday afternoon, which began with an unfortunate incident that ended the races of Garlick and Nat Hodgkiss (Race Car Consultants) and led to a red flag stoppage.

When the action restarted, Steed got a great start to maintain his advantage through an early safety car period. He shot clear of the pack when the race went green again and was nearly four seconds clear at one stage, before he started losing ground.

A call to go on wet tyres ultimately proved to be his downfall, as a drying track went in favour of the majority of the field on slicks. Bennett took away the lead on lap nine and headed an exciting four way battle for the win with Aspin, Coates and David Ellesley (Race Car Consultants).

Coates posted the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of the top two, however a wild moment at Church corner dropped him back to fifth. That opened up the gaps at the front, with Bennett bringing his car home for a maiden win, as Aspin scored second on his GT5 debut.

Ellesley picked up a first podium in the series since the 2020 season opener, with Coates recovering to fourth ahead of Will Rochford (TCR). Steed had to settle for sixth, while a stunning drive from Harley Haughton (Elite Motorsport) saw him climb from 19th at the end of lap one to seventh.

Will Orton (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport) was next up ahead of fellow championship debutants Ignazio Zanon (Raceway Motorsport) and Mikey Doble (Xentek Motorsport), the latter being another to lose ground on wet rubber, while Owen Hizzey (SVG Motorsport) was the final class finisher.

The second race of the weekend followed on Sunday afternoon in front of the live ITV4 television cameras. Bouncing back from his race one disappointment, Steed was unstoppable as he led from start-to-finish to record his first win in the championship.

A rapid launch from Ellesley saw him move from fifth to second at the start of the race, however shortly after an early safety car period he lost out to Bennett. The race one winner stayed in second for the remainder of the race to secure the early championship lead.

A wide moment at the final chicane for Ellesley cost him a podium opportunity as Aspin and Haytham Qarajouli (TCR) worked their way past. The two Ginetta Junior graduates then enjoyed a fantastic wheel-to-wheel duel in the closing laps, with Aspin just emerging in front for a second podium.

Coates was on course for fifth place before a last lap spin to 11th, ensuring Ellesley got the spot ahead of Garlick. An impressive drive from Ginetta debutant Orton saw him climb from 15th to 7th ahead of Rochford, Hodgkiss and Connor Grady (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport).

Bouncing back from a frustrating retirement in race one, Kriklywi picked up a 12th place finish ahead of Doble, Haughton, Zanon and Hizzey. The GT5 Challenge is next on track at Brands Hatch in two weeks’ time (22/23 May) alongside British GT.

Full race results for the weekend can be found here: https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/211803