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Three New Winners From Exciting Ginetta GT5 Challenge Opener

19th April 2022 • Simon Paice

Nat Hodgkiss, Will Jenkins and Connor Grady each scored their maiden victories in the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge from three action-packed races at Oulton Park (16-18 April).

After setting the pace in pre-event testing on Friday, it was Jenkins (Elite Motorsport) who led the way again in qualifying the next morning. He went seven tenths of a second quicker than his closest challengers, Hodgkiss (Race Car Consultants) and Mikey Doble (Xentek Motorsport).

There would be opening lap drama for two of those drivers in the first race though, with Jenkins and Doble both failing to finish the first lap. Hodgkiss therefore took the race lead from team-mate Will Orton and Harley Haughton (Elite Motorsport) heading into an early safety car period.

When racing resumed, an early change saw Haughton get ahead of Orton for second and mount a challenge to Hodgkiss. He piled on the pressure and drew alongside at one stage, but the leader held him off to record the opening victory of the year.

Haughton scored his breakthrough podium in second, while Sam Smith (TCR) passed Orton on the penultimate lap to complete the top three. There was more close battling behind, with Ruben Hage (TCR) impressively coming through to finish as the leading debutant in fifth place.

Grady (Xentek Motorsport) rounded out the top six ahead of reigning Am class champion Harry Mangion (Elite Motorsport), who rose from 12th on the grid, Will Rochford (TCR), Kian Donaldson (Race Car Consultants) and Sam Harvey (Xentek Motorsport).

In the Am class, 2021 runner-up Chris White (Raceway Motorsport) secured a double pole position in qualifying. He had an early moment in the race though and dropped back to fifth, with team-mate Paolo Santi taking the class advantage ahead of Karim Sekkat (Elite Motorsport).

Santi was on course for the class win until an unfortunate retirement on the last lap, with White taking full advantage to complete a brilliant fight back with victory. Sekkat and Phil McGarty (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport) joined him on the podium.

After a day off on Sunday, the action resumed on Easter Monday with Hodgkiss getting the best launch off the line to take the early lead in race two. Pole-sitter Jenkins fought back though and got ahead at Hislops of lap four, before pulling clear to a two second win.

Arguably the drive of the race came from Doble, who joined Jenkins in bouncing back from race one disappointment for a podium. He had to work hard for it as he defended from a determined pack behind, with six cars battling it out for third at one stage.

Grady pulled off a stunning double overtake to ultimately score fourth place ahead of Haughton, while track limits time penalties for Orton and Smith allowed Hage to finish sixth. Rochford and Mangion completed the top ten from Dave Sutton (Avago Racing) and Ignazio Zanon (Raceway Motorsport).

From the Am pole position, Sekkat led the class from start-to-finish but was ultimately denied the victory by a false start time penalty. Santi and Bal Sidhu (Xentek Motorsport) benefitted to finish in the top two, with Sekkat left to settle for third position.

Debutant Gerson Zarpelao (Xentek Motorsport) had run in third for a long spell before finishing fourth ahead of McGarty. White was second early on but lost ground following a trip to the pits, while Neil Finnighan (Xentek Motorsport) completed the race finishers.

The final race of the weekend sadly proved to be a short encounter. An exhilarating start saw the top three go side-by-side into the first corner, with Grady sweeping round the outside to take the lead having started back in fourth. Hodgkiss slotted into second ahead of pole-sitter Jenkins.

Unfortunately the action was soon paused as the safety car was introduced at the start of lap three, before the red flags came out due to barrier damage. With the race start having already been late due to earlier delays in the schedule, the impending circuit curfew meant the race would not restart.

Grady therefore came away with the race win from Hodgkiss and Jenkins, with Haughton, Doble and Smith completing the top six. Orton, Sutton and Rochford were next, while Harvey bounced back from an unfortunate race two retirement to take a second top ten result of his debut weekend.

A dramatic start in the Am class saw pole-sitter Santi caught up in a start-line incident, giving Sidhu the advantage. He suffered an incident on lap two though, which meant White ultimately secured a second class win of the weekend from sixth on the grid from Sekkat and first-time podium finisher Zarpelao.

Full race results can be found at https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/221505

Races two and three can be watched back at https://www.youtube.com/user/ginettatv

The 2022 Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge season continues this coming weekend (23/24 April) at Donington Park, alongside the season opener for the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship.