We sent Bri­tish GT star Nathan Freke to Don­ing­ton Park to try the G57 P2 first-hand

Motor Sport News - - Ginetta G57 Track Test - Pho­tos: Mick Walker

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.

Han­dling of race-prepped car (left) felt much stiffer In­te­rior gives the driver plenty of space and great vi­sion Freke gets a brief from team head Ju­lian Simp­son-smith Nathan Freke didn’t get claus­tro­pho­bic in G57-P2’S cabin

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