The new campaign kicked off earlier this month with two entertaining races at Thruxton, with Bennett (Elite Motorsport) and Steed (Xentek Motorsport) taking the early spoils. Two weeks on and it was a similar story as they led the 15 car Pro class grid on the Grand Prix layout.
The opening race-winners were immediately at the head of the pack once again in qualifying on Saturday morning, with Steed setting the pace for the second consecutive meeting. Bennett was second quickest, just edging out Connor Grady (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport).
As the opening race began later that afternoon, Steed initially converted his pole position into the race lead, however by the end of the opening lap it was Bennett in front. Unfortunately from there, a couple of safety car periods limited the number of racing laps.
Bennett produced a couple of textbook safety car restarts to maintain his advantage through to the chequered flag. Post-race however he was deemed to have passed Steed under yellow flags, meaning their positions were switched and Steed secured the win.
Grady seemed on course to record a podium finish before dropping back late on, which opened the door for Will Aspin (Elite Motorsport) to finish third. Fellow series newcomer Mikey Doble (Xentek Motorsport) further highlighted his potential in fourth.
Race Car Consultants duo Magnus Kriklywi and David Ellesley rose from 9th and 12th on the grid respectively to finish inside the top six. They benefited from a late issue for Haytham Qarajouli (TCR) that dropped him down the order from fifth place, while Grady eventually finished up seventh.
Behind Will Rochford (TCR), Owen Hizzey (SVG Motorsport) bounced back from a luckless season opener to score his first top ten finish in the series. Will Orton (Alastair Rushforth Motorsport), Conner Garlick (Xentek Motorsport) and Harley Haughton (Elite Motorsport) completed the class finishers.
Based on the drivers’ second best times in qualifying, it was Grady who started race two on Sunday morning from pole position. He held the place through Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, with a wide moment for Steed dropping him to fourth behind Bennett and Aspin.
That began an exciting four car battle at the front, with Grady holding the lead until lap four when Bennett got ahead. Two laps later and Aspin also got ahead of Grady with a move into Sheene, with an opportunistic Steed following him through.
Despite some close racing, the top four remained the same to the finish; Bennett avenging his race one disappointment with a second win of the season. Haughton impressively ran fifth throughout meanwhile for his best result in the championship so far.
Ellesley produced a stunning opening lap to climb from 13th to seventh, and gained one more place through the race to complete the top six ahead of Doble. Rochford was eighth on the road, but a time penalty for a false start dropped him a position behind Garlick.
Three drivers picked up points finishes as they bounced back from race one retirements meanwhile, with Ignazio Zanon (Raceway Motorsport) coming home 12th, Nat Hodgkiss (Race Car Consultants) in 14th after a time penalty and Qarajouli one place further back.
The grid for the final race of the weekend was set by the finishing positions from race two, with Bennett on pole. His advantage was short-lived though, as a quick starting Steed worked his way past heading into Druids for the first time, with Grady following him through.
Bennett looked to fight back soon after but was caught out as rain began to fall around the back of the circuit, with his race ending in the barriers. With another car in the Paddock Hill gravel trap, the race was neutralised by the safety car.
The action would resume with just a one lap shootout to the chequered flag. Steed soaked up pressure throughout the lap and took the flag for a third win of the season, while Aspin came second to become the only driver to record a podium finish in each of the opening five races of the year.
Grady fought his way past Ellesley on the final lap to take his first podium finish of the season, with the latter continuing his record of finishing every race in the top six so far. Rochford rose four places over the race to take a weekends’ best fifth ahead of Haughton, Doble and Kriklywi.
Steed’s double win, coupled with Bennett’s DNF, means he’s now taken the GT5 Challenge championship lead for the first time heading into the third meeting of the season in five weeks’ time on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit (26/27 June).
Full session results from the weekend and the current championship standings are available at tsl-timing.com/event/212005
The live streams of races two and three can be watched back at youtube.com/ginettatv