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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.

Wednesbury’s Total Control Racing will field an expanded three-car line-up in the Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge at Silverstone this coming weekend, 8th/9th September, after agreeing deals with series regulars Graham Johnson and Neil Delargy for the final two events of the 2012 season.

Joining championship contender and multiple race winner Mike Robinson, who is currently second in the driver standings, Johnson and Delargy will contest the three Silverstone races with TCR along with the season finale at Donington Park at the end of the month.

“It’s fantastic to have Graham and Neil onboard”, said team principal Lee Brookes, “We’ve been keen to expand our team in the Ginetta Challenge so we’re really looking forward to going out there at Silverstone with three cars for the first time in this championship.

“Mike [Robinson] and Graham have known each other a long time and, along with Neil, they should all work really well together and push each other on. Hopefully all three can have a really strong end to the season, we’re confident we can help Graham and Neil take their best results yet.”

Johnson, who resides in East Horsley in Surrey, has raced in the Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge for the past two seasons and is currently sixth in the championship with best results of fifth place at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit.

Having been somewhat frustrated not to have been on the podium this year, the 38-year-old is more determined than ever to challenge for top three results during the final two events of the campaign, beginning at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit this weekend.

“First and foremost I want to get a dependable and reliable car and I know TCR will give me that, it’s such a professional team”, said Johnson, “I’ve not had the best results so far this year and I’ve been sitting there watching what Mike [Robinson] has been doing…and I want some of that!

“I’m very good mates with Mike, we’ve known each other since he was 13, so it’ll be fantastic being team-mates again as we started out racing together in karts. I don’t want to speak too soon but I think I can guarantee I’ll be more competitive this weekend than I have been all season.”

Delargy, from Acton in London, returned to competitive action last season after a 16 year hiatus from the track due to business and family commitments. Having originally raced Caterhams in the mid 1990s, Delargy never lost the motorsport bug and after a lunch meeting with good friend Clive Richards – 10 years since they’d last met-up – they both decided to purchase a Ginetta.

Now following Graham Johnson to TCR from their previous team, Delargy is bidding for a marked upturn in performance but more than that he wants to enjoy a greater level of confidence at the wheel of his G40.

“I’ve been lacking confidence with the car and that’s what I need to change, TCR has already given me some great feedback and it’ll be just nice to drive a car that’s good”, he said, “The main thing for me is to be able to drive with more confidence, that’s been lacking with some of the problems I’ve experienced this year.

“I’ve seen what the team can do, Mike [Robinson] is obviously a very good peddler anyway, and they’re a great bunch of guys. We’ll see how the last two events go, I’m sure it’ll be an enjoyable time, and then I might be back for more next year!”

Erstwhile championship leader Robinson will arrive at Silverstone 44 points shy of the top of the table due to a couple of mixed weekends at Cadwell Park and Snetterton. Even so, with a total of 10 podiums from 14 races – including four race victories – the Effingham driver’s credentials are proven and with well over 200 points still up for grabs to any one driver, his title bid remains on track.

Following qualifying at Silverstone at 10.10 on Saturday, 8th September, the first Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge race of the weekend will begin at 15.55. On Sunday, 9th September, race two will get underway at 09.55 with race three following at approximately 17.40.

Provisional 2012 Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge – G40 Challenge Standings (after Rd14):
2nd Mike Robinson, 389pts; 6th Graham Johnson, 200pts; 13th Neil Delargy, 88pts