A whole new championship lay in wait for Barnsley’s Wilson Racing last weekend. Having competed successfully in the Moto3 standard class of the British Superbike series, and taking the championship title in 2017, Gary Wilson entered the team into the European Talent Cup (ETC).
The ETC is a standard Moto3 championship, based predominantly in Spain, and is seen by many as a stepping stone for riders that will eventually go on to MotoGP level. Both his riders come from the UK. Jack Hart raced in the championship a few years back and has some experience of the set up and the tracks. For Fenton Seabright most of the tracks are new, although he grew up in Spain and raced with some of the riders when he was younger.
The conditions for the first round of the 2019 championship were far from ideal. One could be forgiven for thinking the first round at Estoril in Portugal might be bathed in sunshine but it couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Due to the number of riders in the ETC qualifying was split into two groups. Jack Hart was in Group A and Fenton Seabright in the second. From the two groups the fastest rider is put on pole position then the fastest rider from the other group is placed second. Then they take alternate picks from the groups to fill the grid. As conditions did vary from each group in qualifying it was the fairest way with so many riders. The first 38 riders would go into the main race. The others would take part in a serie two race.
Throughout qualifying the riders had to contend with heavy rain, a wet track, brief sunshine and some strong winds.
In qualifying one, Hart had to deal with a wet track after an earlier heavy rain shower had left its mark. Although the sun did come out later in the session, the track remained wet. Hart ended a positive Q1 in the top 15 of his group. In Q2 the conditions had improved and Hart set about reducing his lap time. He managed this but slipped in the overall positions to finish with the 20th best lap time. Unfortunately, for Hart this meant he had failed to qualify for the main race. But it left him on pole position for the series 2 race.
Seabright was next in Group B. Despite still learning the track he came in delighted after posting the fifth best time. The track conditions were better in the second qualifying session for Fenton Seabright and he made the most of them. He continued to reduce his lap times throughout the forty-minute session eventually topping Group B as the chequered flag came out.
Whilst the weather had been changeable throughout qualifying on the Saturday there was a constant drizzle throughout most of Sunday. There was drama on the grid as the pole-sitter had a problem and was removed from the start before the warm up lap. This left Seabright effectively on pole position. He made a cautious start to race one in difficult conditions. On the second lap, he moved up into third place but the race leader Ivan Ortola and Diogo Moreira had already opened a gap at the front. With each passing lap, Seabright began to gain in confidence and push harder.
He started to close in on the second place rider and with 12 of the 16 laps remaining; he pushed through into second place. He still had work to do though as Ortola, who led the race, was now over four seconds down the road. Seven laps remained and the gap was down to 2.2 seconds.
Over the following two laps he clawed all of that back and took the lead going into turn one. Fenton Seabright was the first British rider to lead a European Talent Cup race. Ortola had not given up and fought back at turn six.
The closing laps saw the two battle wheel to wheel. Whilst Ortola was quicker in the first half of the lap, Seabright was faster in the second part. On the final lap, they both pushed really hard and coming out of the final corner Fenton Seabright had a small advantage.
Ortola got better drive and managed to get alongside Seabright as they came towards the line. Then there was huge drama as the two touched and whilst Ortola took the victory Seabright fell crossing the finish line and slid the length of the pit lane. It was a dramatic end to a superb race. Both riders gave it everything and neither was going to give an inch. Seabright missed the victory by 0.018 seconds. Nevertheless, what a way to get your rookie European Talent Cup campaign underway.
The team had worked hard in the couple of hours between the races to get Seabright’s bike back in racing order. The rain had stopped but the track was still wet. He lost a few places in the opening few corners and managed an out of the seat moment on the first lap.
It was a competitive race with around thirteen riders in the front group and the positions changing almost every corner. Seabright was in the thick of the leading group. At one point he was running in sixth position. The leading group was separated by around a second and any one could have been on for a podium finish. In the closing stages, the front four managed to open a gap and Fenton Seabright was in a battle from fifth down to eleventh.
The number 47 went on to cross the line in tenth place to add to his superb podium finish in race one.
Series Two race
Hart started on pole position for the series 2 race of the European Talent Cup. He made no mistake from the start as he took the holeshot. Hart led the race for the first three laps. Another rider then overtook him but the two continued to pull-away from the rest of the field. Jack Hart went on to finish second with a gap of over eleven seconds on the rider in third place.
Wilson Racing wrapped up a very successful start to the European talent Cup in Portugal. Jack Hart and Fenton Seabright are out on track again this week in the official British Talent Cup test in Valencia.
The Wilson Racing team is back on circuit at the second round of the ETC also in Valencia at the end of the month.
Gary Wilson said,” I’m delighted with our performances this weekend. We definitely surprised a few of the big teams in race one and to get a podium and a top ten finish in the first round was fantastic reward for Fenton and the whole team. Jack was unlucky to miss out on the full races but showed he doesn’t give up by putting in a great performance and standing on the podium in the Serie 2 race.”