Will Aspin column: Mission accomplished
I’ve accomplished my pre-season goal of a top-three place in my maiden Ginetta GT5 Challenge so I’m very, very pleased especially considering this year marks only my second full season in car racing.
I’d been in the title hunt for the entire season and finished off the season in style – two victories, which should have been three but that’s another story, I’ll come on to that later!
The seven-event, 18-race season closed out at Croft and Donington Park. I arrived at Croft for the penultimate event in mid-September second in the series and trailing series leader, the eventual champion, Josh Steed by 67-points. But an unusually poor qualifying session, resulting in only eighth and 13th place starts, put me right on the back foot.
I should have been at the sharp end, like I’d been all season, which would have allowed me to fight for wins as had been the norm this year. It was weird. I finished the two races in seventh and 10th and left Croft third in the standings.
The important thing was that I needed to learn from that experience so that it didn’t happen again. Mathematically, I could have still won the title heading to the last three races at Donington but I needed Steed to have a couple of bad races there.
Qualifying at Donington went really, really well, setting the second fastest time for Race 1 and a pole start for Race 2. I led the 12-lap Race 1 from start-to finish only to be disqualified, like a number of other drivers, hours after the race.
I was one of a number of cars pinged by officials for exceeding track limits in a Yellow Flag zone. I went wide due to my car oversteering. Many experienced observers felt that it should have been a Safety Car with a recovery vehicle making its way to collect a stranded car as opposed to localised Yellows.
Not only had I lost out on a big points haul and therefore the title, unfortunately the other driver I was duelling for second in the championship, John Bennett, another Elite driver, inherited the victory despite him finishing third on the road.
But I slept on it and came back to the track the next day and scored two wins. I again dominated, leading every lap of Race 2 in the rain, also claiming the fastest race lap, and win by over six secs. They were very tricky conditions but I just got my head down. The Donington success story – I won my first ever GT5 race at Donington in July – continued in a dry Race 3 but I was under intense pressure throughout the race. There was also some side-on-side contact at times but I came through it to record win number three of the year – my 13th podium of the season. This was probably the most satisfying win of the year as I had to really work for it.
It was a shame I couldn’t fight all the way to the wire for the title after the Race 1 disqualification but I’m still very happy with what I’ve achieved this year. I can get a lot of satisfaction reflecting on how much my driving as a whole has progressed. Croft was a low point but everyone gets those weekends during a season. Overall it’s been a very good year.
Looking back, three “poles” during the season in quali plus four race fastest laps, I ultimately finished 100pts behind Steed and just two behind series runner-up Bennett – that includes me having 20pts deducted for my Donington disqualification and a further 11pts for a dropped score so things could have been a lot different, especially when I think back to the other couple of wins I scored and had taken off me!
I must say a big thank you to Elite Motorsport and all of the people in the background helping me. Additionally, sponsors, my friends and family. A big thank you to them. This year would not have been possible without their support and I’m really thankful.
I’m already looking ahead to 2022. There’s plenty of meetings planned as to the next step in my career and I can’t wait for that challenge whatever it may be. Thanks for following me throughout the season and hopefully www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk will have me back again to keep you all informed.