A grid of established GT5 Challenge front-runners and some exciting series newcomers came together to produce three highly entertaining races in Cheshire, with Wilkinson (Xentek Motorsport) emerging as the early championship leader courtesy of a consistent front-running weekend.
It was Malin (Richardson Racing) who secured the first pole position of the season in qualifying on Saturday. The 2019 race-winner was a quarter of a second quicker than his closest challengers, Taylor (Elite Motorsport), Wilkinson and a late returnee to the grid, Gordie Mutch (Fox Motorsport).
The opening race of the weekend later that day was unfortunately dominated by a lengthy safety car period. The action began with a great launch from Taylor seeing him dive into the lead at the first corner ahead of Malin and another fast starter in Mutch.
Those three ran nose-to-tail for the opening two laps, with Wilkinson and Ashley Marshall (Fox Motorsport) in hot pursuit, when the race was neutralised due to an incident in the pack. Amongst those forced into retirement was David Ellesley (Race Car Consultants), who had started sixth.
The action finally resumed with a one lap shootout to the chequered flag. That proved to be just enough time for Malin to make a move for the lead, storming around the outside heading into the Shell Oils Hairpin to secure his second win in the series. Taylor and Mutch completed the podium.
In the Am class, Richard Tetlow (Privateer) took the class pole position on his return to Ginetta competition, but he was unfortunately caught up in the early incident. That opened the door for Ginetta G40 Cup graduate Ian Duggan (Fox Motorsport) to secure the first class win of the year.
The driver’s second best lap times in qualifying set the grid for the first of two races on Sunday, with Taylor lining up on pole. As he started well, a slow launch for front row starter Wilkinson dropped him to fourth behind Malin and Mutch as they tackled the opening lap.
Conner Garlick (Xentek Motorsport) latched onto the back of them to make it a five car pack fighting for the podium, and he soon benefitted from an incident at the front. A mis-timed move from Malin for the lead resulted in Taylor being spun around.
When the dust settled, Malin was in the race lead and despite the best efforts of Wilkinson over the remainder of the race, he crossed the finish line first. Post-race he received a ten second penalty for the incident with Taylor though, demoting him to seventh in the results.
Wilkinson therefore took his maiden victory in only his second race in the championship. Mutch finished second on the road, but a track limits time penalty for him meant that Garlick was promoted to second to complete a one-two finish for reigning champions Xentek.
Second year contender Ellesley bounced back from his race one disappointment to secure a first podium finish of his own in third. Jesse Chamberlain (Xentek Motorsport) rose from 11th on the grid to fifth ahead of Magnus Kriklywi (Race Car Consultants).
After missing out in race one, Tetlow was able to convert the Am class pole position into a lights-to-flag victory next time out. Duggan ran second throughout, while Bal Sidhu (Xentek Motorsport) was third. Both he and Karim Sekkat (Elite Motorsport) had finished on the race one podium.
The race two results set the grid for the final encounter, so Wilkinson lined up pole. By the time the field reached Lodge for the first time though, it was Garlick who had leapt to the front ahead of Mutch, with Wilkinson having to settle for third place.
Behind them, the man on the move was Taylor, who started tenth after his race two incident. A sensational opening lap saw him scythe his way through to fourth position, and next time around he had already picked off Wilkinson to get into the podium places.
Next time around a slick move into Island bend promoted Taylor to second at the expense of Garlick, who a lap prior had lost the lead at the chicane. It was now Mutch out front as he pursued a fourth career win in the series, but he too was unable to stop Taylor’s charge.
Three laps from the end the reigning Ginetta Junior Winter Series champion dived down the inside at the first corner and went on to take victory. Unfortunately for Mutch, a spin whilst being overtaken dropped him out of podium contention.
Wilkinson and Ellesley took advantage to each take their second podium finish of the day, with Garlick just missing out ahead of Marshall and Kriklywi. Rory McKean (SVG Motorsport) capped off his first ever weekend of car racing in seventh, with Mutch having to settle for eighth.
Duggan led the Am class throughout for his second win and with it the early class points lead. In the Pro category, sibling racers Charlie and Daniel Budd took weekend best finishes of seventh and ninth respectively in race one, while debutant John Bennett (Elite Motorsport) peaked with tenth in race three.
The Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge paddock will return to Oulton Park in three weeks’ time (22/23 August) for the second round of the 2020 season, as they race alongside the British Touring Car Championship on the Cheshire venue’s Island layout.
Full results from the weekend can be found here: https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/203105