The second half of the 2019 season began with a bumper weekend in Norfolk, as the addition of the previously postponed Round Nine from Croft to the schedule meant that the talented 14 to 17 year old racers tackled four races across the meeting – the first such occurrence in series history.
O’Sullivan (R Racing) set the pace in both of Friday’s official free practice sessions, however he was left to settle for second in qualifying as Martin (Richardson Racing) topped the timesheets for the second consecutive meeting. O’Sullivan did pick up the race three pole though.
Martin maintained his lead on the opening lap of race one, however the next time around O’Sullivan managed to squeeze past at the Wilson hairpin. The rookie’s advantage was short-lived however, as he dramatically dropped to 11th on the next lap before the safety car emerged on track.
The action resumed with a two lap shootout to the chequered flag and it was championship leader James Hedley (Elite Motorsport) who led the charge to Martin. Unfortunately for him, an attempted challenge at Brundle resulted in a moment across the grass and a loss of five positions.
Martin therefore led unchallenged to the flag for victory ahead of team-mate Casper Stevenson for Richardson Racing’s first one-two finish of the season. A great drive from Gus Burton (Douglas Motorsport) meanwhile saw him climb from eighth on the grid to the final podium spot.
O’Sullivan superbly rose five places on the final lap alone to finish fourth overall, while from 13th at the start Lorcan Hanafin (Douglas Motorsport) got up to fifth. Hedley completed the top six meanwhile, a strong result in his milestone 50th start in Ginetta Junior competition.
Ethan Hawkey was seventh in his first race since joining the Richardson Racing team, just ahead of Joel Pearson (Elite Motorsport) and new team-mate James Taylor, who impressively climbed ten places across the race to finish ninth ahead of Ben Kasperczak (Privateer).
Theo Edgerton (TCR) was running in fourth heading onto the final lap before some late drama dropped him to 11th, one spot ahead of team-mate and current Ginetta Junior scholar Ethan Brooks. Josh Rattican (R Racing) was a frustrated 13th meanwhile, having qualified in a season’s best fifth.
The second race of the day was the rescheduled Croft encounter, which used the original grid from that weekend. Hedley therefore lined up on pole position, however a rapid launch from Martin ensured he led the field into Riches for the first time.
That move proved to be the pivotal moment of the race, as despite Hedley’s best efforts the lead didn’t change hands again and Martin came through for his five consecutive victory. Hedley was less than two tenths of a second behind at the flag as he picked up his 10th podium of the year.
Stevenson ran third throughout to record his second rookie class victory of the day, having been joined by O’Sullivan and Pearson in race one. It was once again O’Sullivan who finished second in class this time around, having finished fourth overall.
The final class podium finisher was Roman Bilinski (Alistair Rushforth Motorsport), who completed the overall top six behind Burton. Hot on his heels meanwhile were the trio of Tom Emson (Elite Motorsport), Edgerton and Hawkey, with James Taylor rounding out the top ten.
The close-fought nature of the midfield pack was shown by less than three seconds separating the cars from sixth to 12th in the final result, with that pack also including Kasperczak and Rattican, while the next group featured Hanafin, Brooks, Tom Ward (Elite Motorsport) and Pearson.
Sunday’s opening encounter saw O’Sullivan lead the field away from pole position and never look back. Pulling clear of the pack behind, he secured a long awaited maiden overall victory by over five seconds, having previously finished second on five separate occasions.
Stevenson followed him throughout for a seventh consecutive outright podium finish, while the main action of the race came in a thrilling battle for third. The place eventually went to Hedley, who produced a sensational performance to fight through from 17th on the grid.
Burton emerged in fourth position, while a battling performance from Martin netted him fifth after a late move on Bilinski. A five second track limits penalty for Bilinski cost him another position, with Rattican rounding out the top six ahead of him.
Kasperczak secured eighth ahead of James Taylor, who impressively rose from 18th at the start, Brooks and Hawkey. Ben O’Hare (Premiership Academy Racing) matched his best result of the season so far in 12th meanwhile.
The fourth and final race of the weekend took place in front of the live ITV4 television cameras, with Stevenson taking the lead off the line. Poleman O’Sullivan got back ahead on lap two, before Stevenson’s challenge for the podium ended soon after following a moment at the final corner.
O’Sullivan wasn’t troubled from there and posted the fastest lap of the race on his way to a second win of the day. Martin moved into second early on and held it comfortably to the finish, however a five second track limits penalty dropped him to fourth at the finish.
Hedley was promoted to second and Bilinski came third for his maiden outright podium finish in the championship. Rattican capped off a great weekend in fifth, while Burton finished sixth on the road before a time penalty put him back to 11th in the results.
Hawkey put in a good drive to work his way through from 11th on the grid to sixth, with Kasperczak picking up his best result of the season so far in seventh ahead of Pearson. Hanafin gained no less than 13 places during the race to secure ninth, with James Taylor rounding out the top ten.
Aston Millar (R Racing) was one of three debutants this weekend and put in a superb drive from 21st to 12th in the final encounter. William Aspin (Elite Motorsport) took a best of 18th in the same race, while Nat Hodgkiss (Race Car Consultants) sadly had to sit out Sunday after a race one incident.
Frankie Taylor (SVG Motorsport) enjoyed a best of 15th in race four, with Freddie Tomlinson (Douglas Motorsport) and Haytham Qarajouli (TCR) taking highs of 16th and 17th in the opener. Bailey Voisin (Douglas Motorsport) took a pair of 18th’s over the weekend, with Molly Dodd (Premiership Academy Racing) coming in 20th twice on Sunday.
The 2019 Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship continues in two weeks’ time (17/18 August) with a second visit of the season to the fastest circuit in the UK, Thruxton.