The weekend began with a new name topping the timesheets in qualifying on Saturday morning, as Mikey Doble (Xentek Motorsport) secured his first pole position in the series. Aspin (Elite Motorsport) was second quickest, a strong start to his quest for the GT5 Pro title.
Next up were a trio of Race Car Consultants drivers, as Nat Hodgkiss led Magnus Kriklywi and Will Orton, with champion-elect Steed (Xentek Motorsport) and Bennett (Elite Motorsport) left down in eighth and 11th respectively.
It was Aspin who kicked off the opening race that afternoon with the best launch, moving into the race lead on the run to Redgate. Doble and Hodgkiss went on to make contact later in the lap, which eventually dropped them both out of podium contention.
Steed fought his way up to second by the end of lap three, however with Aspin already holding a three second lead by that stage, he had to tail him to the finish. Post-race Aspin lost his win though, as one of four GT5 Pro drivers to be disqualified from the result for a track limits infringement.
With Steed having also received a five second penalty for exceeding track limits, a brilliant drive through the field from 11th to third ultimately earned Bennett a fifth win of the season ahead of the hugely impressive debutant Sam Smith (TCR).
Third in the end was still more than enough to earn Steed the title with two races to spare. Aidan Hills (Hills Motorsport) was another driver to make up big ground during the race, rising nine places to equal his then seasons’ best result of fourth.
Doble battled hard to fifth, with Haytham Qarajouli (TCR) moving up eight places to sixth. His team-mate Will Rochford, Orton and debutant Will Vincent (Xentek Motorsport) had finished in the top ten on the road, however they were all disqualified like Aspin.
Harley Haughton (Elite Motorsport), Rory McKean (SVG Motorsport), Hodgkiss and Ignazio Zanon (Raceway Motorsport) therefore picked up top ten finishes, with Hodgkiss particularly impressing having been back in 24th after his opening lap incident. Connor Grady (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport) meanwhile went from a pitlane start to 12th place.
There was a big change in the weather ahead of race two on Sunday morning, with heavy rain greeting the field. A great start for Steed saw him go from fifth on the grid to challenging for the lead at Redgate, however he went on to spin two corners later.
As Aspin remained in front, Rochford had fought his way from ninth to second before a spin of his own at the last corner of lap one. Bennett then emerged in second, before he had a spin too at the Old Hairpin on lap two, giving the spot to front-row starter Doble.
That action allowed Aspin to pull a clear lead at the front of the field, with an eventual winning margin of six seconds. A duel for second place developed between Doble and Smith, with the position changing hands multiple times.
It was decided when Smith ran wide at the chicane on the last lap, giving Doble his equal best result of the season. Smith eventually dropped to fourth, with Hills completing a stunning drive from 11th to his maiden podium finish in the championship.
Owen Hizzey (SVG Motorsport) was a great fifth on the road, however he accumulated 15 seconds of track limits penalties, dropping him to ninth behind Orton, Haughton, Qarajouli and Rochford. Bennett rounded out the top ten ahead of Vincent, McKean, Zanon and Hodgkiss.
As darkness fell over Donington Park, the GT5 Pro contenders produced another exciting race to sign off the 2021 season. Back on a dry circuit, a thrilling moment through Schwantz Curve for the first time saw pole-sitter Aspin, Hills and Smith run three abreast for the race lead.
Smith emerged in front, but Aspin was back ahead by the end of the lap. Hills was third for the early laps, but a slide wide through the Old Hairpin dropped him to the bottom of the top ten and put Orton up to third position. He soon set about closing onto the top two.
The leading trio would run in formation to the finish though, Aspin scoring a third win of the season – all three coming at Donington Park across the two visits – with Smith taking a second podium of his debut outing and Orton a brilliant maiden top three in the series.
As Rochford ran fourth throughout, there was an epic six car battle for fifth place behind. Steed put in a champion’s performance to fight through the pack and take the place, having started 17th on the grid, with Kriklywi ending an otherwise torrid weekend in sixth.
Hodgkiss and Qarajouli were next to pass the chequered flag, while Doble fought back well to ninth having gone from the front row to 15th on a tough opening lap. Vincent capped of his debut weekend in tenth, with fellow newcomer Oliver Richardson (Xentek Motorsport) having taken a best of 16th in race two.
Josh Steed – Provisional 2021 Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge champion: “It’s hard to put into words. We’ve come a long way to get here, including taking a year out in 2020, so to come back and win it is incredible. The competition has been tough all year, so it’s taken a lot of work away from the circuit and at the race weekends to be successful. Thank you to my sponsors, the team and my family for their support.”
Full race results for the weekend can be found here: https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/214105
Find out more about the championship’s title sponsor, Protyre Motorsport, at https://www.protyre.co.uk/