We sent British GT star Nathan Freke to Donington Park to try the G57 P2 first-hand
I’ve waited years to get my hands on a proper Le Mans Prototype, so when Motorsport News offered me the chance to try Ginetta’s newest model, couldn’t say no.
I’m no stranger to Ginetta’s product range – I’ve tested its GT3 car and regularly race GT4 machinery via my Century Motorsport team, so the step up to a full-blooded prototype was interesting because I’ve grown accustomed to the more production-based GT4 category in recent years.
Heading to the circuit I had a few reservations. Firstly about whether or not I’d feel claustrophobic in the small, enclosed cockpit, and secondly about my own performance. I’ve driven my fair share of race cars, from Formula Fords to Formula Renault 3.5 and Indy Lights before moving into GT4. I know the Ginetta guys well, but what if the G57-P2 prototype was a bit too different, too radical for me to get decent lap times out of ? It was a bit out of my comfort zone, or so I thought.
Simpson Motorsport was running two cars during the day – one with an amateurfriendly softer set up, and one with a more ‘racey’ feel to it as Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson and works driver Mike Simpson had been competing in it.
First job was to simply get comfortable, starting off in the am-friendly car. Slipping into the cockpit is easy and once you’re in it’s a cosy place to be. Everything is within reach and the concerns I had about claustrophobia were soon relieved. You sit very low in the chassis and there’s ample room for even the largest of drivers.
Vision is also excellent, and Ewan Baldry tells me this is something Ginetta worked hard on with the G57-P2 and the LMP3 chassis. All P3s have to have a steel rollhoop structure, but Ginetta’s design places it further back than most, meaning there’s no huge A-pillars in front of you to obscure your mirrors or views of the apex. In the G55 GT4 I usually race you have to learn to almost look through the A-pillars into some corners. The G57-P2 is like being sat in a goldfish bowl in comparison.
Once rolling, the differences between GT racing and prototypes become apparently clear. The chassis talks to you really well with feedback through the steering, which is electronically power assisted with adjustable settings. The steering is heavy, but for good reason as it’s just the right weight to tell you if you’re sliding or about to have a moment.
The chassis didn’t feel as stiff as a big, powerful single-seater. It’s more a mid-ground between that and a comfortable GT car, but the responsiveness is night and day different.
As soon as you turn the wheel you get a reaction from the front end, which almost takes me by surprise at points. It almost feels too direct. Because the first car ran a softer set up there were a few moments when I’d turn in a bit quicker each time and it didn’t feel like the rear was going to follow, but it always did.
It’s about resetting your parameters with the G57-P2. It sounds funny, but whatever Ginetta you race the reference points for braking and turn in are essentially the same, the main difference is the speed you’re carrying.
Take the Craner Curves for example. A GT4 car has almost no aero, so can be quite twitchy on the limit and you have to use a lot of steering lock down the Craners to get the car turned in and settled before a big brake and a downshift for the Old Hairpin. In the G57-P2 you use a small amount of lock, give it a small brake and turn in, using the massive amounts of aero to push the car into the ground to give you that extra grip. It’s the point when mechanical and aero grip work together to really move the G57-P2 into its own performance plane.
There’s a lot more grip in that corner than many give it credit for, but it’s only when you commit to letting the car do the work and trust the aero that you realise quite how far from the limit you actually are.
The engine is great too. Having the rumbling Chevrolet unit behind you gives a great noise, but it’s also been very sensibly chosen for this car as it gives usable power everywhere. It has mountains of torque, and that makes it ideal for amateur drivers as you’re grabbing gears less and the entire car is less sensitive as a result.
For corners like Redgate and the chicane I was going in using third and using the torque to pull me out. Some higher-tuned engines would demand much more precision on gear changes, but probably wouldn’t be quite as much fun.
I did find the softer car bobbled about a little at high speeds on the straights, perhaps as I wasn’t making full use of the aero by pushing enough, but that issue was resolved when I tried the racehoned chassis. The rear also felt better connected in that one. The whole package was more comfortable for me. I pushed the limits a few times and had a silly lock-up into Coppice when I downshifted too early and had a bit of a slide, but the chassis was so progressive that it was easy to catch and correct.
Perhaps the biggest adaption for me was the brakes. In a GT4 car you don’t have the downforce helping to slow you, so you can’t be too hard on the brakes as we focus more on minimum corner speed than making up time in a braking zone. In the G57-P2 it’s the other way around and you really can stamp on them to brake late and hard. The harder set up also gives you the stability and confidence to push the car both into, and through, the corners. The key isn’t applying the pressure to the brakes though, it’s releasing the pedal to ensure you’ve decelerated enough to make the corner and not locked up, or slowed too much. That all comes with seat time as it can be easy to carry too much speed into corners as the car is so comfortable you become quite oblivious to how fast you’re actually going.
The G57-P2 is amazingly easy to drive, despite its intimidating looks, but tough to get those final few tenths from. Unlike many cars, though, it’s obvious where the time comes from, and that’s in learning to trust the chassis and the aero.
Prototype racing is booming right now and, while the G57-P2 is a bit of a step up for somebody who’s only done GT4, it’s not inaccessible at all and is pretty much like-for-like with GT3 in terms of the physical demands of driving it.
I waited a long time for my first prototype experience, hopefully my second won’t be so far away.