Jem Hepworth takes first class win in McLaren Trophy Europe
Updated: Aug 3
With a perfect podium record after the first three rounds, Jem Hepworth took her first class win in the brand-new McLaren Trophy Europe at the Nürburgring - now moving into second place in the 570S overall championship standings, just two points off the lead.
Jem Hepworth secured her first class win of the season in the brand-new McLaren Trophy Europe series, as the Greystone GT driver - who shares the #14 570S McLaren with Rafael Martinez - made a further step forward after a stellar start of the season which saw the duo maintaining a 100% podium record after three race meetings. Following a successful debut at Paul Ricard, Martinez and Hepworth were back on the rostrum at Spa Francorchamps, where very challenging weather conditions shortened the weekend to a single race. The McLaren Trophy Europe championship returned to the track at another iconic circuit, the Nürburgring GP layout, again in changing weather conditions. Both previous rounds had in fact featured wet races, in an extra challenge for the bronze rated drivers. Sportscar rookie Rafael Martinez was tenth overall in Q1, with a fastest lap of 2:07.100; a penalty, though, dropped him to the back of the grid ahead of the first contest of the weekend. Conditions remained tricky before the start, with a few raindrops spotted just before the formation lap. All drivers remained on slicks, but the cold temperatures made for a difficult first few laps. Rafael Martinez had a smart start and took no risks into turn 1, in an overall very clean first lap for the whole field. Hopton spun on the second lap but managed to rejoin without damage, having lost a few positions. De Andres kept the overall lead, while Al Khalifa made a bold move stick for second overall on Surgent. Martinez overtook Pendrigh for position in class on lap 3, then immediately pulled away, opening a 1.5 second gap. A brilliant battle for second, third and fourth in the Artura class saw Surgent fighting back and reclaiming second from Al Khalifa, with the recovering Hopton also back in the mix. Having run third in the 570S ProAm class throughout his stint, Rafa Martinez climbed the order when Foster and Henrey collided at turn 2 when battling for the second place of the 570S class. Foster's One Motorsport McLaren retired on the spot, while Henrey continued. Rafael Martinez pitted with 19 minutes to go and handed over the #24 Greystone GT McLaren 750S to Jem Heptworth, who was back out in the class lead after a flawless pit stop, making the most from other's success penalties. After the round of pit stops, Hepworth was eighth overall and leading the ProAm class among the 750S entries, preceding White and Henrey - who had another off at the final corner but made it back on track. The Greystone GT sister car of Stuart White was the fastest car in class and made up a few seconds as the South African attempted to catch Hepworth; the British driver, though, made it across the finish line with over a second gap to White, perfectly managing the pressure and taking her first win of the season in the McLaren Trophy Europe.
A third place in the 570S class in Q2 meant that Jem Hepworth took the start from ninth overall on the grid for Sunday's race, in colder but dry contest. Hepworth had a strong start and cleared White early in the first lap, then chased Ellis closely - as the top three of the 570S category ran within tenths of each other throughout the opening stages of the race. Jem started to put heavy pressure on Ellis and attempted a pass on lap 5, but One Motorsport's Ellis defended - as Hepworth also had to watch her mirrors from Stuart White. Ellis was the first driver to pit once the pit window opened - leaving Jem Hepworth in the class lead, having brilliantly defended from White. Jem went longer in her driving stint, before handing over to Rafael Martinez with 30 minutes to go. The owner of Rafa Racing Club rejoined in second place among the 570S entries after the pit cycle, with David Foster now at the wheel of the #11 One Motorsports McLaren. Foster kept chipping away, slowly building a gap as Martinez was under pressure from Danny Henry - who found a way past on lap 15, albeit positions in the ProAm class remained unchanged. Martinez in fact enjoyed a 25 second advantage to Shaun Pendrigh - a gap that continued to widen as the stint progressed. By lap 19, Martinez's safe margin to Pendrigh had been extended to over 40 seconds - proof of the American's quick development at the wheel of the #24 Greystone GT machine in his first ever season in the sport. In a quieter second half of the race, Thomas Surgent hunted down Mark Hopton for second in the Artura class, but no one could challenge Gonzalo De Andres, who took the overall victory after 24 laps around the 5.148km Nürburgring GP track. David Foster claimed victory in the 570S class, with Rafael Martinez and Jem Hepworth second in the 570S ProAm category. Sunday's result was enough to put them second in the 570S overall championship standings, just two points off the lead.
“Everything came together for us as a team at Nurburgring, we knew a win was on the horizon and it was awesome to make it happen there", Hepworth commented.
"We now plan to take this momentum into the next race at Hockenheim, to try get that championship lead.”
Three rounds in, Jem Hepworth and Rafael Martinez therefore showed yet another strong progression and their first class win will be a big confidence boost coming into the final two rounds of the season; the Hockenheimring is set to host the fourth and penultimate double-header on 01-03 September.