Mike Robinson - Silverstone GP PodiumTotal Control Racing’s hopes of taking the Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge title battle to a final event decider later this month all but ended at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 9th September, after a shocking catalogue of mechanical problems wrecked Mike Robinson’s weekend.

Although able to secure his 11th podium of the campaign during round 16 of the season on Saturday, 8th September, the Effingham 29-year-old’s engine failed in the first of Sunday’s two races – causing a dramatic spin from second place – and the new replacement powerplant also failed in round 18.

Arriving in Northamptonshire just 44 points shy of the championship lead, Robinson departed the GP venue with a provisional 109 point deficit to Sean Huyton with just one race meeting remaining on the series calendar at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit three weeks from now.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare”, said TCR team principal Lee Brookes, “Mike had a new engine in for the third race and we can’t believe it let go. We thought if we go down that route, put a full new engine in, we’d be OK and have everything covered but there was oil everywhere. It’s even more frustrating when things happen that are completely out of your control, we’re very disappointed.”

Producing good pace in pre-event testing, and qualifying in the top three for race one, Robinson was shuffled back to fourth at the start of round 16 but remained firmly in touch with the lead trio. Then, on lap two, he was able to slice his way into second at Brooklands – after contact between William Burns and Rick Parfitt Jnr as they disputed second place – and remained there to the finish.

Sunday morning’s 17th round initially went well for the TCR racer as he nosed ahead of pole-sitter Huyton through the exit of Copse to grab the lead. Although elbowed back to second on lap two, Robinson remained tight behind his rival but on the final lap the engine in his Ginetta G40 expired with leaking fluid causing a spin, a major loss of power and an eventual 15th place finish.

Confident of a strong climb up the order in round 18 with a brand new engine installed in his car, Robinson’s hopes were quickly dashed when it became apparent the fresh powerplant also had a fault. Climbing from 15th into 10th by the start of lap two, a spin at Copse, as a result of the engine woes, dropped him back to 23rd. Somehow, despite a lack of power, he climbed back into 13th place.

Mixed fortunes for Johnson & Delargy
The weekend marked the first in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge for TCR in which the team fielded more than one car, three to be precise, with series regulars Graham Johnson and Neil Delargy switching to the team for the final two race meetings of the year.

Johnson, from East Horsley, had the most straightforward run of the three team-mates throughout the event although each race proved to be a major battle with incredibly close action at the tail of the top 10.

Starting eighth for the first encounter, Johnson raced well and although slipping to ninth at one point he regained eighth on what proved to be the final lap of the race – lap six – when the action was red flagged one lap early due to stray bodywork on the track.

Delargy endured a disappointing first race with an alternator problem forcing him to retire to the pits at the end of the second lap. He hit back with a strong performance in race two though to post a 13th place finish despite being dropped to 14th early on.

On lap five, the Acton-based driver benefitted from a moment for Diego Guggiari to move back into 13th place and although the South American recovered to get back ahead of the TCR driver, Delargy inherited 13th again on the final lap due to team-mate Robinson’s engine-failure induced spin.

Johnson started race two from eighth once again but slipped to ninth on lap one in another closely fought contest. Moving back into eighth on lap four, following the Guggiari excursion, he worked hard to fend off Ben Constanduros over the next couple of laps before dropping to ninth once more.

Unbelievably, in the third and final race, alternator woes again struck Delargy’s car and he was forced to retire two laps from the finish having been going well in 13th place. Johnson was again the highest placed of the TCR trio with a battling 11th position – having run as high as eighth.

“Graham and Neil have been great to work with this weekend, as we knew they would be”, said team boss Brookes, “Neil’s been really pleased with the way his car has handled this weekend and he’s gone quicker than he ever has before which is great, it’s just a shame we had more mechanical problems with his car that were out of our control.

“We know Graham has got the pace to be up in the top six regularly, he was involved in a lot of tight battles in all three races but he did well to come through unscathed and pick-up good, consistent points. We’re confident all three drivers will be strong at Donington, we’re determined to hit back stronger than ever after all the problems that have hit us this weekend.”

The season finale of the Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge will take place over the weekend 29th/30th September at Donington Park in the East Midlands. One week before then, TCR will be in action at Rockingham in Northamptonshire for the latest rounds of the AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup and Michelin Ginetta GT Supercup.

Provisional 2012 Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge – G40 Challenge Standings (after Rd17):
2nd Mike Robinson, 433pts; 6th Graham Johnson, 236pts; 17th Neil Delargy, 96pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.