There was an exciting, fresh start for the series heading into the opening rounds, with 16 of the top 20 drivers from last season having moved onto pastures new and no driver on the 2020 grid having previously taken a race win, podium finish, pole position or fastest lap in the main championship.
After two free practice sessions on Friday, the competitive action started with qualifying the following morning. It was Ginetta Junior Scholarship winner Tom Lebbon (Elite Motorsport) who had the honour of taking the first pole position of the campaign.
In a close fought session that saw the top 15 split by less than a second and a half, five of the next six drivers on the timesheets were from R Racing; Voisin (R Racing), Aston Millar, Joel Pearson, Josh Rattican and Freddie Tomlinson. Splitting them in third overall was Dimitrov (Richardson Racing).
The class of 2020 went on to serve up a sensational season opener in the Leicestershire sunshine. Following a frenetic opening couple of laps, a train of seven cars settled at the front of the pack with Voisin at the front from Dimitrov and Pearson.
The close racing was briefly paused due to a safety car period, but when the action resumed there was a brilliant three lap shootout to the flag. Rattican had stormed into second place just before the stoppage and loomed large in Voisin’s mirrors, though he had company of his own behind.
On the final lap, Dimitrov slipped down the inside of Rattican for second place. He went on to hold the spot until the final corner, when Lebbon completed a strong comeback drive from seventh place by diving down the inside into the chicane.
Ahead, Voisin celebrated a hard-earned maiden victory in the championship. Lebbon had taken the rookie win, however a post-race time penalty for a safety car infringement meant that honour went to Dimitrov, who finished second overall ahead of Rattican.
Pearson made it three R Racing cars in the top four ahead of Lebbon, while William Vincent (Elite Motorsport) picked up a top six finish on his debut. Millar was next ahead of Tom Edgar (TCR), who produced a fantastic drive from 15th on the grid to eighth.
Josh Miller (Elite Motorsport) and Zak Taylor (Alistair Rushforth Motorsport) rounded out the top ten from Will Jenkins (Privateer), Tommy Pintos (Elite Motorsport) and Tomlinson, while Liam McNeilly (Fox Motorsport) rose five places from his grid position to 14th.
The drivers’ second best times in qualifying set the grid for race two and it was Lebbon on pole once again, however a superb launch from Dimitrov put him into the early race lead. After being closely followed for a couple of laps, he was soon able to crucially break the tow and pull clear.
Lebbon soon joined him in getting away from the pack, with their efforts aided by a mammoth battle behind. Pearson, Rattican and Taylor initially fought it out, before Millar entered the fray and battled past them all in the closing laps for the final podium place.
Dimitrov, Lebbon and Millar therefore completed a rare feat in the championship of the top three positions overall being occupied by rookie drivers. The last time it had happened was in the 2014 season finale, when Lando Norris led home Jamie Caroline and Dan Zelos.
Taylor secured a maiden top six finish behind Rattican and Pearson, while Seb Hopkins (Elite Motorsport) bounced back from a race one retirement to finish seventh ahead of Tomlinson and Elite trio William Aspin, Miller and Pintos.
The final race of the weekend took place in front of the live ITV4 television cameras on Sunday afternoon and the class of 2020 served up a thriller for the viewers. Following an early safety car period, poleman Dimitrov found himself heading a train of cars desperate for the win.
Pearson briefly fought his way past, but after the two traded places a couple of times, Dimitrov emerged back in control. Crucially for him, the battling intensified behind and he could break clear for his second overall win and a clean sweep of the rookie class victories.
Tomlinson had risen to third at one stage and was battling with Lebbon before both dropped down the order, with Taylor and Pintos rising to podium contention. Pearson was able to hold them off for second, with Taylor joining him in taking their maiden Ginetta podiums.
Millar fought through to fourth on the road, but a five second penalty for track limits gave fourth to Pintos after a great drive from 11th at the start. Millar settled for fifth ahead of team-mates Voisin, who stormed through from the back of the grid to the top six, and Tomlinson.
Edgar was eighth for his second top ten finish of the weekend ahead of Elite Motorsport trio Lebbon, Aspin and Hopkins, while behind McNeilly and Trennon Bettany (Richardson Racing) picked up their best results of the meeting in 12th and 14th respectively.
Another Richardson Racing rookie Rowan Vincent had enjoyed a high of 12th in race two, while fellow debutant Joe Wheeler (Assetto Motorsport) was 16th in the final encounter. Will Rochford (TCR) meanwhile came home with a best finish of 15th on two occasions.
The 2020 Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship season continues next weekend with three races around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
Full race results for the weekend can be found here: https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/203103