Norway’s Aleksander Schjerpen was looking forward to rounds four and five of the 2018 British GT Championship in Snetterton, having had the benefit of further seat time onboard the all new BMW M4 GT4 in advance of the event since his debut in Rockingham.
Weather conditions in Snetterton on Saturday were a far cry from those at Rockingham, with bright blue skies and warm dry track conditions making the challenge of acclimatising to the BMW easier for the crew. Getting their weekend off to a good start, both Aleksander and co-driver Jack Mitchell worked on their setup, initially aiming for outright lap time pace for qualifying but also ensuring they had a strong car for Sunday’s pair of 60-minute shootouts.
Looking good after free practice, the standard series of 10-minute qualifying sessions got underway just after 4pm on Saturday afternoon. First on track was Schjerpen, who struggled to get the most from his package with traffic and a small overshoot compromising his two other best efforts, before finishing the session in P10. Mitchell took over the car for the second part of qualifying, and it appeared the GT4 speed bar was about to be raised even further. With times going under the 1.58 marker set in the first session, Jack put in a flawless performance to secure second and a front row starting position for the second race of the weekend.
Going into Warm-up, it was business as usual for all concerned. Both Aleksander and Jack completed half of the running each and were confident they had a strong package going into the race. Back to the two 60-minute race format for this event, the opening encounter got underway just after 11am. Having taken part in the first part of qualifying, Aleksander was set to start race one. Despite getting a good clean start, during the opening lap, contact from the #86 Toyota GT86 punctured the front right wheel on the Garage15 BMW, requiring an immediate pitstop to replace the damaged Pirelli tyre. Despite a rapid turnaround from the Century crew, Aleksander dropped down the order and two laps behind the main lead pack. The pair completed the race, gaining valuable mileage for the second and final race of the afternoon.
Starting race two from the outside of the front row, an eager Jack Mitchell was keen to make amends for their race one misfortunes and finish the weekend with a top result. A good start was initially halted when the Safety Car was deployed at the end of the opening lap to recover a stricken McLaren. With just one car between him and the GT4 lead, Mitchell was right on the bumper of the pole sitting #62 Aston Martin after the restart and ready to pounce. Waiting for an opportune moment, that chance came on lap seven, with a superb dive down the inside on the brakes into Wilson putting the young hotshot into the class lead.
From there, he set about building his command at the front, and it wasn’t long before he was almost two seconds ahead of his nearest rival. Approaching the half-way mark, Jack dived into the pits to hand the car over to Schjerpen for his slice of the action. A perfect driver change looked set to line the pair up for a return to the lead. However Aleksander’s on time exit from the pitbox was obstructed by another team, costing them over ten seconds and seeing the crew tumble down the order.
With his head down, the Norwegian set about working his way back up the order. However his challenge was hindered with a lengthy battle for position with the #77 Mercedes. Finally finding a way past on lap 26, it became clear from the timing screens just how much his lap times were being effected, as Schjerpen instantly opened a gap in the clear air. However, with only a few laps remaining, there was little time to move much further up the order, eventually taking the chequered flag P8 overall in GT4 and P6 in class.
Aleksander Schjerpen – #43 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4:
“I think we started the weekend off quite good actually, we were on the pace quite early. We made some adjustments during the morning and found a really good setup on the car, so Century Motorsport have done a really good job with the BMW as it’s really great to drive now. In both races today we were just really unlucky. In the first race we got the puncture on the first lap and that was that. In the second race Jack was doing great, but we got blocked in the pitlane during the pitstop. When I finally got past the car I think my pace was good and both myself and Jack had some good lap times. I think we could have had a great result there.”
Silverstone, Northamptonshire, UK – Sunday 10th June 2018.