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March 25, 2017

Paul McNeilly: New Challenges

Paul McNeilly: New Challenges

Making the jump from club level racing to British GT was never going to be easy. This time last year we were turning up to circuits with an Exige on the back of an open trailer, tools in the back of a van and hanging on to awnings in the paddock.

After 5 enjoyable years of racing in Lotus Cup and Elise Trophy I decided it was time to move on to a new challenge. After sampling a round of British GT last year at Silverstone, I decided that was where I wanted to be.

With a few days of head scratching and number crunching we decided to speak to Ginetta about their new GT4 car, we visited the factory and had a nice lunch with Lawrence and decided to go for the G55 GT4.

To race at this level and mix with drivers this talented is a dream come true, so turning up to Oulton Park I was suffering with a bit of ‘pre-race’ nerves. Sitting in the drivers briefing I was approached by Rob Barff who took one look at me and said “Blimey Paul relax will you, it looks like you’re about to take your driving test!”.

Oulton Park is a fantastic circuit, but one that takes no prisoners. So racing a brand new car on a narrow track with limited run off wasn’t going to be easy. During Free Practice the sheer speed of the GT3 cars was worrying, they want to get past and they want to get past now. I found myself diving out of their way on numerous occasions which wasn’t really helping anyone.

For qualifying, things started to improve. I stopped checking my mirrors every 5 seconds and concentrated on getting some decent laps in, which resulted in a quickest lap of 1:47.7 and 8th in class.
The race went well, I lost a position at the start as we went round Cascades but latched on to the back of the pack determined not to let them get away, unfortunately at the pit stop a faulty relay meant we lost fuel pressure and our race was over after the car was stranded on track. Race 2 was better, Jamie managed to put the car P5 for the start, and we finished P8.

Without much of a gap we headed to Rockingham. Jamie spoke to me just before free practice to tell me that we were on the Long Circuit, which meant three of the corners I’d never driven round before, so a few sight-seeing laps were needed to get a feel of the new section.

As this was a 2 hour race, we both had to qualify and our combined times would determine our grid position. We ended up P5 and both very happy with our lap times.
The race started well, I managed to hold position for a few laps before the quicker Aston came through, followed by another Ginetta, but consistent times and looking after the tyres were key, so I kept plugging away trying not to make any mistakes, which resulted in us climbing to P3 at the pit stop. Jamie then took over and was involved in a great battle with the TF Sport Aston for the remainder of the race, we ended up finishing 4th.

We all left Rockingham extremely happy with our performances, the team are learning all the time and becoming more familiar with the car. It’s only a matter of time before that podium comes knocking!

About The Author

Gary Parravani

Gary Parravani is Racing.GT's chief photographer and website manager. The big boss of Xynamic Automotive Photography. Gary originally founded Racing.GT with Chris Partridge in 2013.