Marking the halfway point of the 2019 campaign, the first of two visits to the iconic Leicestershire venue this season saw some fantastic racing around the Grand Prix circuit and plenty of twists and turns in the title battles across both the Pro and Am classes.
Under glorious sunshine, it was championship contenders McKenna (Xentek Motorsport) and Geri Nicosia (Quattro Motorsport) who took a pole position apiece in qualifying on Saturday morning ahead of a chasing pack including Mutch (Fox Motorsport) and Adam Smalley (Elite Motorsport).
The opening race of the weekend took place that afternoon and Nicosia made the early move, getting into the lead on the first lap as poleman McKenna slipped to third behind the fast-starting Connor Grady (Total Control Racing), who shot up from sixth on the grid.
McKenna picked off Grady soon after to move into second and was immediately on the tail of the leader. After putting the pressure on in the closing stages of the race, he was able to sneak through on the final lap to record his third consecutive victory in the series.
Second place was Nicosia’s seventh podium finish of the campaign, while Grady recorded his second close behind. Malin (Richardson Racing) and Smalley were next ahead of Will Dyrdal (Privateer), who superbly rose from 15th on the grid to his first top six result of the season.
A similarly impressive drive from Josh Steed (Mutation Motorsport) saw him climb from 18th to seventh to kick off his second outing of the season in style. Behind, Mutch led home Xentek Motorsport duo Gus Bowers and Sami Saarelainen, though the latter received a time penalty.
This dropped the Finnish driver down three places, meaning Katie Milner (Merlin International) completed the top ten from 21st on the grid ahead of Lewis Ryder (Privateer), while Ryan Firth (Reflex Racing) completed a hugely positive day with a season’s best result of 12th.
Race Car Consultants team-mates Abbi Pulling and David Ellesley meanwhile picked up what turned out to be their best results of the weekend in 14th and 15th respectively, with the former having earlier impressed with her first top ten qualifying result of the campaign.
In the Am Class, Ginetta G40 Cup race-winner Daniel Morris (Declan Jones Racing) starred on his debut, converting a double pole position into the opening victory. Points leader Dale Albutt (Quattro Motorsport) and title contender Wesley Pearce (Elite Motorsport) joined him on the podium.
There was another new face on the grid in the class as Gareth John (GBR) entered the fray. A competitive showing saw him finish the opener in fifth, with Declan Jones Racing team-mates Bal Sidhu and Simon Khera finishing either side of him.
Race two on Sunday morning was a thrilling affair at the front of the field. Nicosia, Malin. Mutch and Smalley quickly established themselves as the top four and in a close-fought encounter, less than two seconds separated them for the majority of the nine lap encounter.
A spirited defence from Nicosia saw him fend them off to take the win on the road, however post-race he was disqualified from the results due to a technical infringement. This meant Mutch inherited the win, with a last lap overtake on Malin ultimately proving crucial.
Smalley eventually came home third, while after recording his strongest qualifying performance of the year on Saturday, Danny Harrison (Mutation Motorsport) continued his impressive progression in the series with fourth ahead of McKenna, Grady and Ruben Del Sarte (Total Control Racing).
Dyrdal and Bowers were next, while Matt Maxted (Graves Motorsport) and Milner rose from the ninth row of the grid to 10th and 11th respectively. Ashley Marshall (Merlin International) made his first outing of the year meanwhile and recorded the first of two 12th place finishes for the day.
Morris finished 13th overall as he picked up the Am Class victory once again ahead of Pearce. Albutt finished third to extend his superb run of form to eight consecutive podium finishes in the class, while James Townsend (Fox Motorsport) and Phil McGarty (GBR) rounded out the top five.
The same three drivers from race two went on to occupy the overall podium spots in the final race of the weekend, however they did so in a different order. A lightning launch off the line immediately earnt Malin the lead and he held it into a safety car period at the end of lap two.
The action restarted with a three lap shootout to the flag and with Mutch and Smalley looming large in his rear view mirror, Malin produced a composed drive to record his maiden victory in the championship and become the fifth different winner of the 2019 campaign.
Mutch and Smalley made it three and six podium finishes respectively for the year so far, while Grady and McKenna completed the top five ahead of Harrison to maintain their status as the only two drivers on the grid to have finished every race this season inside the top ten.
Arguably the drive of the weekend came from Nicosia, as he stormed through from 27th on the grid to seventh place in just five racing laps. Del Sarte took the flag in eighth, while Dyrdal completed a top ten hat-trick to cap off his strongest weekend of the campaign to date.
A second standout drive of the weekend netted Steed a seasons best tenth from 19th on the grid, with two more scintillating efforts to climb the order seeing Firth rise from 29th on the grid to 14th, while from one position higher on the grid Ryder fought his way up to 16th.
Charlie Budd (Privateer) matched his best result of the season so far with 16th in race two, Daniel Budd (Privateer) and Nick Halstead (Fox Motorsport) both peaked with 23rd place finishes, and Jesse Chamberlain (Xentek Motorsport) broke into the top 20 in race three.
Morris completed his hat-trick of wins in the Am Class meanwhile, with Townsend hot on his heels as he secured his fourth top three result of the campaign. McGarty climbed the podium steps for the second time this season, with Albutt, Sidhu, John and Khera completing the finishers.
There are three meetings to go in the 2019 Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge season, with the next rounds being the championship’s annual overseas meeting, which this year takes place at Zandvoort in Holland (06/07 July).