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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Charlotte Gilbert achieves two race victories at Brands Hatch

Topcats Racing driver Charlotte Gilbert continued her brilliant start to the GT Cup Championship season by claiming pole position in her solo qualifying session and two Group GTC victories at Brands Hatch.


Charlotte Gilbert, GT Cup Championship, 2024 Brands Hatch
Photo credits: GT Cup Championship

Topcats Racing driver Charlotte Gilbert continued her brilliant start to the GT Cup Championship season by claiming two Group GTC victories at Brands Hatch. Teaming up with Tom Rawlings, the pair won both pit stop races on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit while continuing to establish themselves as the team to beat. Rawlings also claimed outright victory in his solo race on Saturday, before Gilbert led laps on route to a fourth-place Group GTC result in her solo contest on Sunday.


It was a phenomenal start to the season for Gilbert at Donington Park who opened her Group GTC title defence in excellent fashion. Claiming three class victories while challenging the Group GT3 drivers for overall victories, Charlotte firmly solidified her place as a leading light in the GT Cup Championship. Her partnership with Tom Rawlings yielded much success in the first round and replicating this dominance was the task ahead on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.


In customary GT Cup Championship fashion, the competitive race weekend began with a free practice session on Saturday morning ahead of the first qualifying session. As a Pro Sporting driver, Tom would drive in the first sessions of the event and topped practice in Group GTC. This was backed up by an excellent qualifying session for the Topcats Racing driver in which Rawlings claimed pole position in both Group GTC and in the overall classification.


Tom started the first sprint race of the event from pole position and made an excellent start to hold the overall lead. Immediately setting the fastest lap of the race, Rawlings was outpacing those in both Group GT3 and Group GTO in his Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo. By lap four, the overall lead had built to over five seconds as the drivers behind fought for position. It was an untroubled race for the Topcats Racing driver who claimed victory by over 11 seconds while claiming maximum points in Group GTC.


Due to the delays in the schedule earlier in the day, the first pit stop race of the weekend would run for 40 minutes, with Charlotte getting behind the wheel for the first time. Starting the race from pole position courtesy of Tom’s fastest race lap in the sprint contest, Gilbert held the Group GTC lead after lap one. As she got herself up to speed, some of the Group GT3 and Group GTO competitors moved ahead, with Group GTC rival Miles Rudman directly behind her on lap three.


Gilbert was now into her rhythm and began managing the gap to Rudman, before pulling out an advantage over the Porsche 911. By lap seven, the Topcats Racing driver had built the lead to three seconds and with Rudman now receiving a track limits penalty, her true advantage was larger. At the end of her stint, Charlotte was in control of Group GTC and handed the car over to Tom.


Due to the success of the duo in the previous pit stop race, combined with the Pro Sporting rating of Rawlings, the team had to serve extra success time in the pits. As a result, he rejoined the race around eight seconds behind Rudman but quickly made inroads on the new Group GTC leader. Following a series of personal best times, Rawlings cut the gap and made the overtake on lap 19 to regain top position. Tom completed a flawless day for Topcats Racing by taking the checkered flag by a margin of over 30 seconds.


Charlotte Gilbert, GT Cup Championship, 2024 Brands Hatch
Photo credits: Eric Barnes Photography / GT Cup

Sunday morning’s action began with a free practice session, before Gilbert would take part in qualifying. Once again the class of the Group GTC field, Topcats Racing topped the opening practice session while setting the fourth fastest time overall. Charlotte was able to replicate this result in her solo qualifying session to claim another pole position by a margin of over two seconds by Rudman.


The first race to take place on Sunday was the pit stop race, this time ran over the regular distance of 50 minutes. Charlotte took the start from the lead of the class and dropped behind Rudman after the opening lap. She knew she could be patient behind her rival, however it was clear that Gilbert had superior pace compared to her Group GTC rival. On lap seven she made a smart move for the race lead and immediately began pulling out a gap on her rival.


On lap 10, three laps after Gilbert passed Rudman, the margin was now six seconds as the Topcats Racing driver was able to set a series of personal best lap times. Two laps later, Charlotte had a high-speed spin on the Grand Prix loop and although this cost her a sizable amount of time, the car was undamaged and she was able to continue. Running a personal best lap time directly after, Gilbert’s confidence remained high and she cut the gap to Rudman from 25 seconds to 10 seconds prior to the pit stop.


Following the success of the Topcats Racing crew in Saturday’s pit stop race, the team would have to serve a longer stop than their rivals. As a result, Rawlings rejoined the race just over 30 seconds behind Rudman, with just over 17 minutes remaining in the race. Tom’s pace was phenomenal despite the worn tyres and with ten minutes remaining, the gap had been slashed to just 15 seconds. At this rate, Rawlings was set to catch Rudman, however lapped traffic was sure to play a part. On lap 28, Tom overtook his rival and continued to push on which saw him claim the Group GTC victory by 19 seconds. It was an excellent recovery drive which maintained the 100% record for Topcats Racing at Brands Hatch.


GIlbert had the chance to ensure the team claimed all four Group GTC victories at Brands Hatch as she got behind the wheel for the final solo race. Starting from fourth overall, first in Group GTC, it was an interesting opening lap as a large jump start by Rudman put him to the front of the field. Charlotte was also defending stoutly from her husband Warren, with the fellow Topcats Racing driver showing strong pace in the early exchanges.


Despite Rudman’s advantage at the start, Charlotte’s pace had allowed her to reclaim the Group GTC lead by the end of lap one, with Rudman and Warren Gilbert directly behind. By the end of lap three, Warren Gilbert had moved into second and was just two tenths of a second behind Charlotte. The husband-and-wife racers continued to battle hard at the head of Group GTC and on lap ten, Charlotte spun exiting Druids and dropped to fourth. Despite having lost the chance of a momentous fourth victory, Charlotte pushed on in the closing stages and took the checkered flag in ninth position overall, fourth in Group GTC.


Despite missing out on a perfect record at Brands Hatch, it was another excellent weekend for Charlotte and the Topcats Racing team. Gilbert displayed fantastic speed and this allowed her to claim pole position in her solo qualifying session while handing over to Rawlings in strong positions.


The duo will now be looking ahead to Snetterton on the weekend of June 1st/2nd where they will be aiming to replicate this success.

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