Will Burns (Rob Boston Racing), Gus Burton (Century Motorsport) and Hibbert (Triple M Motorsport) were the class of the field in the season opener at Donington Park one week prior, and they continued to set the pace in qualifying on Saturday morning in Kent.
While Burton got the opening pole position of the campaign, it was Hibbert’s turn to top the times this time around, though only by the narrowest of margins. Burns finished the session just 0.013s adrift, with Burton and Smalley (Elite Motorsport) not far behind too.
It was a similar story in the other two classes as well, with Tom Emson (Elite Motorsport) setting the Pro Am pace by just 0.021s from Chris Salkeld (Assetto Motorsport), while Nick Halstead’s (Fox Motorsport) margin at the front of Am was only 0.061s.
The margins remained close once the racing began that afternoon. Hibbert led away from pole position, but a determined Burns ran side by side with him through Paddock Hill Bend and then Druids. He was stuck on the outside though, and Burton nipped past to demote him to third.
The top three quickly edged away from the pack behind and battled closely between themselves, with Burton in the tough spot of trying to attack and defend at the same time. Hibbert eventually successfully negotiated a safety car period and a close final few laps for the win.
Behind them, Smalley and Jamie Falvey (Motion Capital Racing) ran fourth and fifth throughout. Joe Marshall-Birks (Rob Boston Racing) was on course for sixth, but he lost out to hard-charging team-mate Charlie Ladell on the last lap – the 2018 champion making a welcome return to the series.
Reece Somerfield (Privateer) had enjoyed a great battle with Ladell through the race, eventually taking the chequered flag in eighth. James Blake-Baldwin (AK Motorsport) finished ninth on his first outing of the season, with Fin Green (Rob Boston Racing) completing the top ten.
In the Pro Am class, a late duel between Emson and Salkeld went down to a drag race to the flag, with Salkeld snatching a first class win by four hundredths of a second. It was a more comfortable victory for Halstead however, who led the Am class throughout.
It was a similar story at the front in the first of Sunday’s two live televised races. Hibbert edged clear of his pursuers through the race to take his tenth career win in the GT4 SuperCup, with Burton and Burns following him home to make it the same three drivers on the podium for a fifth race in a row.
The best action of the race came in a fantastic Pro Am battle. Salkeld led the class from pole until a moment at mid-distance dropped him to third. Colin White (CW Motorsport) assumed control, however two laps from the end Emson came through for his maiden class victory.
In the Am category meanwhile, Halstead doubled his win tally. Stewart Lines (Maximum Motorsport) followed him home in second ahead of Carl Garnett (AK Motorsport), with Lee Goldsmith (Assetto Motorsport) having picked up a maiden podium in race one.
The reverse grid for the final race put Smalley onto pole position, and a good start saw him maintain his lead into a lengthy early safety car period. When the action resumed, he had Burns tucked under his rear wing and ready to make a challenge.
The two-time GT4 SuperCup vice-champion went for a move at Paddock Hill Bend on lap ten but had to back out, leaving him vulnerable to attack from Burton into Druids. A robust move put the ex-Ginetta Junior racer into second, with Burns dropping back to fourth.
Next time around Burns regained ground with a switchback move on Hibbert through Paddock Hill Bend, however the appearance of the red flag brought an early conclusion to the race. With the result counted back a lap, Burns was classified fourth as Burton and Hibbert finished on the podium.
Ahead, Smalley was celebrating his first victory in the championship. In the process, he added his name to the Ginetta history books as only the second driver ever after George Gamble to be a race-winner in Ginetta Juniors, GT5 Challenge and GT4 SuperCup.
The battle for double-barrelled bragging rights went to Marshall-Birks after a move on Blake-Baldwin after the safety car restart, with Falvey close behind in seventh. Salkeld led in Pro Am from start-to-finish for his second class win, while Lines secured the Am spoils.
The Millers Oils Ginetta GT4 SuperCup next returns to action at Oulton Park in two weeks’ time (22/23 August).
The full race results from the weekend can be found here: https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/203203