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Alibhai And McNeilly Share Race Wins As Rowledge Secures Winter Series Title

14th November 2021 • Simon Paice

Josh Rowledge has been crowned the 2021 Ginetta Junior Winter Series champion, as Aqil Alibhai and Liam McNeilly enjoyed a win apiece on the second day of action at Brands Hatch.

A dominant Saturday, in which he converted a double pole position into two lights-to-flag wins, meant Rowledge (R Racing) held a 20 point lead overnight from McNeilly (Fox Motorsport), with Harri Reynolds (Assetto Motorsport) one point further back.

Click here to read our report on Saturday’s action.

It was Tom Edgar (R Racing) who led the way in qualifying on Sunday morning, finishing almost four tenths of a second clear of Elite Motorsport’s Alibhai and Joe Warhurst. Maurice Henry (Fox Motorsport) made it two strong qualifying performances for the weekend in fourth.

Rowledge could only post the eighth quickest time meanwhile and there’d be further frustration on lap one of race three, as he got caught out by a spinning Sonny Smith (R Racing) exiting Druids and spun himself down to 18th position.

Ahead, Edgar had led the field from the start as Henry briefly dived into second place, before dropping back through Druids. It was Max Dodds (Assetto Motorsport) who ultimately emerged at the head of Edgar’s chasing pack, with McNeilly grabbing third from Alibhai on lap two.

Next time round Dodds ran wide at Graham Hill Bend though, dropping him to fourth, before Alibhai took second from McNeilly at Druids on lap four. By this point Edgar was almost three seconds clear, but Albhai quickly set about closing that gap.

Nine laps later and Alibhai was mounting a challenge for the lead. Edgar looked to have fended him off, however a sudden mechanical problem on the final lap forced him to pull off circuit into retirement, which opened the door for Alibhai to secure a maiden Ginetta Junior win.

A mid-race move into Paddock Hill Bend ultimately secured Dodds second ahead of McNeilly, while a great drive from Ian Aguilera (R Racing) saw him pick his way through the field from 11th on the grid to fourth position ahead of Henry – both securing career-best finishes.

There was a thrilling battle for sixth meanwhile, with Reynolds eventually leading home Warhurst and Jacob Hodgkiss (Fox Motorsport) after the trio changed places multiple times in the closing laps. Jack Sherwood (Elite Motorsport) and Max Hall (Assetto Motorsport) rounded out the top ten.

Rowledge ended up recovering to 11th position, while team-mate Smith was able to fight back to 12th and with it the rookie class victory. Joining him on the podium were Elite Motorsport duo Will Macintyre and McKenzie Douglass, two of six drivers on their debut weekends.

The others followed them past the chequered flag, with Oliver Cottam (Breakell Racing) leading James Wyres (Assetto Motorsport), Luca Hopkinson (R Racing) and Liona Theobald (Assetto Motorsport).

Heading into the final race of the weekend, five drivers were in with a mathematical chance of winning the title. None of them would start on the front row though, with Edgar and Warhurst leading the field away in the wettest weather of any of the races over the weekend.

Unfortunately the tricky conditions caught out some drivers, leading to a lengthy mid-race safety car period and an early finish due to a red flag stoppage. In the limited racing laps that took place, Edgar and Warhurst weren’t troubled as they took the chequered flag first and second.

Post-race however they were handed 10 second time penalties for safety car infringements, which dropped them outside the top ten. It was McNeilly therefore who was promoted to the race win, having passed Alibhai off the start line to get third on the road.

Unfortunately for McNeilly, that result left him just one point shy of the title once dropped scores were applied, with fifth place being enough for Rowledge to secure him a maiden Ginetta title. Winning the rookie crown meanwhile was Smith, who took a clean sweep of class wins for the weekend in a brilliant third overall.

The revised race result put Alibhai in second, earning him third in the final points, with Assetto pair Dodds and Reynolds in fourth and sixth respectively. Aguilera and Henry completed strong weekends behind, with Sherwood and Hodgkiss rounding out the top ten.

The final prize of the weekend was the Hard Charger award for the driver who gained the most places from their grid slots over the course of the weekend, with Sherwood earning that accolade after rising 20 positions in four races.

 

All four races from across the weekend can be watched back on the BARC’s live streams:

Saturday – skip to 04:25 and 1:57:50 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ad_xMSY2Kqg

Sunday – skip to 28:25 and 3:15:50 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNQVz9KEyro

 

Full session results can be viewed at https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/214521