Jem Hepworth returns to the podium at Spa-Francorchamps
"Our progress as a team is building each race and we’re looking for more strong results at some of our stronger circuits coming in the next few months” - With a third place finish in the 570S ProAm category of the new McLaren Trophy Europe, Jem Hepworth maintained a 100% podium record for to start the season.
Jem Hepworth has maintained her superb start to the McLaren Trophy Europe season with a third successive podium finish, this time coming at Spa-Francorchamps. Teaming with with Rafael Martinez for Greystone GT, the pair took the third step on the podium in another impressive performance for the duo. Contesting the highly competitive 570S class, Hepworth and Martinez continue to be one of the teams to beat and will be searching for their first victory at Nurburgring.
Following a successful opening weekend at Paul Ricard where Hepworth and Martinez finished on the podium in both races, they were targeting further progress at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The McLaren Trophy Europe prioritises the bronze rated driver and therefore teams are given four practice sessions across the weekend, including two directly prior to the pair of qualifying sessions.
The weekend got off to a positive start for the Greystone GT pair who ended opening practice fourth overall in the 570S Trophy class, just one second away from the fastest time. After setting the sixth fastest time in second practice on Friday, the following day would bring a further two practice sessions, two qualifying sessions for Rafael and the opening race.
In the short practice session ahead of first qualifying, Martinez set the fifth fastest time on a drying track. With improved track conditions for qualifying, Rafael improve his times significantly which led to a fourth place starting spot among the 570S entries for race one at Spa-Francorchamps.
With the McLaren Trophy Europe featuring a standing start procedure, this provides an extra challenge for the bronze-rated starting drivers. Rafael made a clean start to race one, falling to sixth after the opening lap. After passing Ron Trenka on lap three, he began to close in on David Foster and made good progress against the One Motorsport driver. By lap 10, Martinez was just three tenths of a second behind his rival and two laps later he handed over to Jem still inside the top-5.
Due to their success from the opening meeting at Paul Ricard, this meant the Greystone GT pair had a pit stop success penalty which meant Hepworth lost touch with the drivers ahead following the mandatory stop. Nonetheless, Jem attempted to close the gap and was extremely consistent during her stint. Despite being unable to close the sizeable deficit, Hepworth’s fastest lap was only just over a second away from the fastest in the 570S class, highlighting her speed and potential. A fifth place finish among the 570S entries in the opening race was also third in the ProAm category, as the Greystone GT drivers Hepworth and Martinez maintained a 100% podium record for to start the season.
“I’m extremely happy with our third position finish at Spa Francorchamps", Hepworth stated. "Rafa put in a great first stint and handed the car over to me for me to then bring the car home in P3."
Saturday evening brought about fourth practice and second qualifying, with Rafael solely driving in both sessions. A fifth place result in practice was backed up by another strong qualifying effort of fifth, once again in position to challenge for the podium. Due to worsening track conditions on Saturday morning, the second race was cancelled preventing Hepworth and Martinez from adding to their impressive podium tally.
Beginning the season with three podium finishes from the opening three races is a fantastic start for Jem who has comfortably stepped up into McLaren Trophy Europe competition. The responsibility on Hepworth as the professional driver in the line-up has been something she has embraced, forming a formidable partnership with Martinez.
"Our progress as a team is building each race and we’re looking for more strong results at some of our stronger circuits coming in the next few months” - Jem concluded.
Following an impressive start to the season, the pair will be aiming for their first 570S class win when the McLaren Trophy Europe heads to Nurburgring on the weekend of 29th/30th July.