With an ultra-competitive 15 driver entry in the headline Pro class, some experienced Ginetta names contesting Pro Am and no less than 10 debutants on the grid, the opening weekend of the new campaign was eagerly anticipated as the field tackled the longest circuit on the calendar.
Smalley (Elite Motorsport) picked up his maiden GT4 SuperCup pole position in the 2020 season finale and went on to make it two-in-a-row in qualifying on Saturday morning. The former Ginetta Junior champion impressively lapped four tenths of a second quicker than anyone else.
The closest challenger was Tom Hibbert (Rob Boston Racing), who had topped the timesheets in free practice on Friday. Carlito Miracco (Preptech UK) was third fastest on his return to the series ahead of James Blake-Baldwin (AK Motorsport) and leading debutant Luca Hirst (Raceway Motorsport).
In the Pro Am class, there was almost nothing between the top two, with Carl Garnett (AK Motorsport) scoring pole position from reigning class champion Colin White (CWS Motorsport) by just one thousandth of a second. Dan Morris (Simon Green Motorsport) was third in class.
Smalley was a race-winner at Snetterton last year and he replicated that performance in the opening race on Saturday afternoon. A good launch off the line secured him the early lead and he controlled the race from there en-route to a lights-to-flag win.
Hibbert ran second throughout to start his season with some silverware, while Miracco held off a determined Blake-Baldwin to complete the top three. There was a great duel for fifth meanwhile, with Rattican (Elite Motorsport) just edging out Steve Roberts (Rob Boston Racing).
Tom Emson (Elite Motorsport) rose a couple of places through the race to seventh ahead of Hirst, Joe Marshall (Team HARD) and Reece Somerfield (Breakell Racing). Blake Angliss (Century Motorsport) had been on course for a top ten finish on his debut before a late puncture.
In Pro Am, Garnett led the majority of the race from pole ahead of White. It all changed on the final lap though as White slipped past at Nelson for the class victory. Morris trailed them throughout to take third, as he returned to the scene of a triple Am class win on his series debut last year.
Luke Warr (Race Car Consultants) slipped to the back of the class on the opening lap, but fought back well to finish fourth. Garry Townsend (AK Motorsport) was next up after some close racing with fellow debutant Alexander Andersson (Preptech UK).
The first of two races on Sunday featured a repeat performance at the front of the field. Smalley held off a fast-starting Hibbert before leading every lap en-route to doubling his 2021 tally, with his adversary staying close behind to secure second position again.
There was plenty of action behind however, with Rattican being the man on the move through the race. Diving down the inside of Blake-Baldwin at Agostini on lap three for fourth, he then swept around the outside of Miracco at Brundle for third two laps later.
Blake-Baldwin followed him through, with those two running in formation to the chequered flag as Rattican scored a debut podium result. Miracco was fifth across the finish line, however a 15 second time penalty for exceeding track limits dropped him down the order
Emson therefore finished fifth in the final result, having gained an early position from Roberts, who completed the top six. Arguably the drive of the race came from Angliss, who stormed through from 14th on the grid to seventh with some eye-catching overtaking moves.
Amongst his victims were top ten finishers Somerfield, Hirst and Andy Spencer (Century Motorsport), whilst Miracco was finally classified in 12th behind Marshall. Luke Reade (Rob Boston Racing) was 13th meanwhile as he returned to the scene of his series debut last year.
Pro Am went the way of White once again, with the hugely experienced Ginetta racer leading throughout for his 62nd class victory and 114th podium finish in the GT4 SuperCup. Garnett dropped back to third on the opening lap, but got ahead of Morris next time around to finish second.
Morris completed the class podium, whilst an exciting battle behind saw Warr, Andersson and Townsend trading places through the race. Townsend took fourth on the road, however a track limits penalty put him behind Andersson, with Warr finishing up sixth.
The reverse grid for the final race of the weekend, shown live on ITV4, saw the top four positions from the race two result switched around in each class. Blake-Baldwin was set to lead away the field, however a mechanical issue forced him to pull off circuit on the formation lap.
Rattican therefore lined up on the front row on his own, but it was the fast-starting Hibbert that stormed past to take the early lead ahead of Smalley. Those two went on to enjoy a thrilling duel at the front, which culminated in some side-by-side action on lap six.
Unfortunately contact between the two resulted in a retirement for Smalley, whilst an opportunistic Rattican swept through to take the lead. The Ginetta Junior graduate had slotted into fourth on the opening lap, before getting ahead of Emson at Agostini next time around.
Rattican pulled clear of the pack from there and scored a brilliant debut victory by more than three seconds. Hibbert followed him home to complete a podium hat-trick for the weekend, results that mean he leaves Snetterton as the early championship leader.
Emson scored a maiden overall podium finish in third, whilst a last lap move from Marshall ensured he matched his best ever finish in the championship. The driver to lose out was Angliss, but he still gained a couple of spots across the race.
Roberts completed a trio of sixth place finishes ahead of Miracco and Somerfield. Three drivers picked up their best Pro class result of the weekend meanwhile; Spencer, Henry Dawes (Century Motorsport) and Seb Melrose (Team HARD) in 9th, 10th and 11th respectively.
Pro Am provided an action-packed final race, with White looking on course to complete a victory hat-trick before suffering a puncture. Morris took the lead for a few laps before Garnett worked his way ahead, though their battle wasn’t ultimately decided until the last lap.
Morris stormed around the outside through the high-speed Coram corner and made the move stick at the final corner, Murrays, to secure his first win of the campaign. Second for Garnett means he is the early class points leader, while Andersson ended his debut with a podium result.
The next rounds of the 2021 Millers Oils Ginetta GT4 SuperCup take place in two weeks’ time at Brands Hatch (26/27 June).
Full race results for the weekend can be found here: https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/212303