The weekend began with a close fought qualifying session on Saturday morning, with John Bennett (Elite Motorsport) scoring his first pole position by 0.087s. Rory McKean (SVG Motorsport) was second quickest, a great performance on his long-awaited first outing of the season.
Aspin (Elite Motorsport) and Ben McKenna (Xentek Motorsport) were close behind on the timesheets, while Harley Haughton (Elite Motorsport) and Nat Hodgkiss (Race Car Consultants) both produced career-best qualifying results in fifth and sixth respectively.
The start of the opening race was characteristically action-packed at the front of the field. Both pole-sitter Bennett and McKenna ran wide and kicked up the gravel through Redgate for the first time, leading to a shuffled up order with Aspin out front.
Championship leader Steed (Xentek Motorsport) had qualified a lowly eighth, but he benefitted most from the moments ahead on lap one to storm into second place. Next time round however it was his turn to have a wide moment at Redgate, which dropped him to ninth.
McKean therefore held second into an early safety car period ahead of Bennett, however on the restart lap those two switched places into the hairpin. Bennett’s attention turned to his Elite team-mate Aspin and he began mounting a challenge for the race win.
His moment came at the end of lap eight when a slide at the final corner for Aspin opened for door for him to draw alongside down the straight and get ahead on the run to Redgate. They were soon greeted by red flags around the circuit though.
With the result counted back to the last full completed lap, it was Aspin who therefore came away with his first GT5 Challenge race win by just 0.018s. Behind, McKenna superbly came back from 12th at the end of lap one to a third podium finish in three races in the championship.
Magnus Kriklywi (Race Car Consultants) also marched his way up the order from 12th on the grid to fourth ahead of Steed and Haughton. McKean ended up eighth meanwhile, in the middle of a TCR sandwich of Will Rochford and Haytham Qarajouli.
Owen Hizzey (SVG Motorsport) completed the top ten from Will Orton (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport), while Mikey Doble (Xentek Motorsport) and Hodgkiss both dropped out of the leading pack to finish 12th and 13th respectively.
The first of Sunday’s two races began with Aspin making a great start from pole position to lead the field away. An early change behind saw Hodgkiss sweep past McKean down the Craner Curves for second, with the latter eventually ending the lap fifth behind McKenna and Steed.
McKenna mounted a challenge for second on lap three, however contact with Hodgkiss at Redgate dropped them both down the order. As Steed took second, it became a battle for third between Orton and Bennett, with the latter moving ahead at McLeans on lap five.
Ahead, Steed eradicated Aspin’s near three second race lead and after they traded the lead twice on lap eight, he made a move stick into the Melbourne hairpin on the next lap to ultimately take the race victory. Aspin and Bennett made it a double podium for Elite Motorsport.
The finishing order across the line behind was Rochford in fourth ahead of Qarajouli, from 14th on the grid, and David Ellesley (Race Car Consultants), who bounced back strongly from a race one retirement. They all picked up time penalties through the race though.
The revised result saw Doble promoted to fourth ahead of his Xentek team-mate McKenna and Qarajouli. Hizzey was a seasons’ best seventh from Ellesley, Ignazio Zanon (Raceway Motorsport) and Hodgkiss, with Rochford eventually classified 11th.
The race three grid was set by the preceding race result, with Steed taking full advantage to lead away from pole position. Bennett took second from Aspin at the Old Hairpin on lap one, however both would be overhauled by a fast starting Ellesley from eighth on the grid.
The podium places continued to change in the early stages. An impromptu trip to the pits dropped Bennett out of contention, while Aspin picked off Ellesley for second on lap two. The latter settled into a mammoth five car battle for third place with Hodgkiss, McKenna, Kriklywi and Doble.
All of this was allowing Steed to romp clear at the front of the field and he eventually took win six of the season by 11 seconds, by far the biggest winning margin in 2021. Aspin completed a weekend podium hat-trick in second, continuing his incredible run of nine in ten races so far.
McKenna eventually broke away from the pack behind to take third, with a late move securing Kriklywi fourth from Hodgkiss to match his series best result again. Ellesley completed the top six ahead of McKean, who fought through from 12th after not reaching the finish of race two.
Doble, Haughton and Zanon rounded out the top ten in a race that sadly had two cars absent. Heavy damage from a race two incident ruled Orton out, while Alastair Rushforth Motorsport team-mate Connor Grady encountered mechanical issues, ending the weekend with a best finish of 14th in race one.
The Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge remains with the British GT Championship for their next rounds at Snetterton in four weeks’ time (07/08 August).
Full session results from the weekend are available at tsl-timing.com/event/212705
The live streams of races two and three can be watched back at youtube.com/ginettatv
Find out more about the championship’s title sponsor, Protyre Motorsport, at https://www.protyre.co.uk/