Declan Jones endured a rollercoaster weekend during the sixth event of the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Zandvoort in the Netherlands last weekend (September 6-8), but still came away with a podium - and closed up on his main rivals in the battle for the GT4 title.
The 18-year-old Liverpool-based teenager, who is the youngest driver in the series this season, travelled out to Zandvoort with a 27.5 point deficit to championship rivals, Optimum's Ryan Ratcliffe and Rick Parfitt Jnr.
With Declan's former Century Motorsport team-mate, Zoe Wenham sitting out the remainder of the season due to extenuating circumstances, the Halewood-based youngster was teamed with Nathan Freke, the team's owner, which meant they picked up a ballast penalty of 40 kg. The duo began the event promisingly in their Ginetta G50 GT4, setting the second best time in opening practice on Friday, before then leading the way in FP2.
On Saturday, Declan put in a brilliant time to secure the GT4 pole in qualifying 1, and despite using slick tyres on a damp track, was around 3.8 seconds up on his closest class rivals, and also ahead of all four GT4D cars on their home circuit – and the GTC Ferrari. It left him a remarkable 15th overall. Nathan also went well in qualifying 2 and secured second.
The opening race – round eight in the Championship – proved difficult, however, and early on Declan and the Optimum car touched in the first corner, the incident later drawing the attention of the stewards due to a protest by Optimum, although the stewards ruled it was a racing incident. Nevertheless though, despite car issues, Declan and Nathan still managed to finish third and with the Optimum Motorsport car not making it to the chequered flag, the 15 points gained for P3, slashed the deficit to just 12.5 points.
Sunday saw competitors line up for the second race – round nine in the Championship – and despite losing time early on, when Nathan lost drive and had to stop to get the car going again, he and Declan fought back, the latter taking over for the second stint and charging back to take the victory.
Unfortunately though, post-race checks revealed a problem with the catalytic converter element and the #43 car was excluded.
“What a weekend - it has just been full of ups and downs,” said Declan. “It was great to get the pole on Saturday. Qualifying was obviously fantastic and I hooked it up perfectly – it was a super lap. Then Nathan's qualifying went fantastic too.
“In the first race we got third and we were pretty happy with that, especially as we were down on power. The incident with Rick Parfitt Jnr was a strange one. He tried to overtake and I was letting him go, but he just cut across my nose under braking into the first corner and I had nowhere to go. He then ended up putting it in the barriers a few laps later. The pressure just seemed to get to him...
“On Sunday we had a problem at the start for race two. Nathan lost all drive and had to stop and re-start it. We lost a lot of time because of that, but he pulled it back and when he passed it back to me, it went great. Everyone else's pit-stops weren't as good. I came out and within three laps had caught second and then after another 5-6 laps, I had caught first and pulled away, finishing around 15-17 seconds ahead. It was fantastic and again we couldn't get full throttle. We only had about 85-90 per cent throttle, but to come away with that result was absolutely brilliant. To get excluded after was bitterly disappointing. Nevertheless we are still very much in with a championship chance and certainly won't be giving up without a big fight.