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Ginetta Junior Title Contenders Take Victory Apiece At Thruxton

19th August 2019 • Simon Paice

Championship leader James Hedley and his chief title rivals Zak O’Sullivan and Will Martin each took home a race victory in the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship’s second visit of the year to Thruxton (17/18 August).

In the first outing at Thruxton back in May it was Hedley (Elite Motorsport) who came away from qualifying with a double pole position, and three months later it was a repeat performance as he topped the timesheets once again to make it six poles for the campaign.

Lorcan Hanafin (Douglas Motorsport) qualified in the top two for the second time this season and a great start to the opening race saw him move to the front on lap one. Heading the pack through an early safety car period, his lead was short-lived as the action resumed.

Team-mate Gus Burton grabbed the advantage into the chicane on the restart lap, with a hotly-contested race seeing a pack of drivers in hot pursuit. Having slipped to third, Hedley fought his way back to the front with three laps to go and broke clear for a fourth win of the year.

Rookie leader O’Sullivan (R Racing) worked his way up to second overall and with it the class victory, while Hanafin came home third for a long-awaited second podium finish of the campaign. Joel Pearson (Elite Motorsport) was fourth meanwhile for his highest result of the year.

A huge battle for fifth place was ultimately decided after plenty of position changes on the final lap, with Ben O’Hare (Premiership Academy Racing) taking the spot for his career best finish in the series. Casper Stevenson (Richardson Racing) completed the rookie podium in sixth overall

Two more drivers in the top ten enjoyed their season’s best results, with Bailey Voisin (Douglas Motorsport) and current Ginetta Junior scholar Ethan Brooks (TCR) coming home seventh and eighth respectively – the latter celebrating his 16th birthday in style.

Ethan Hawkey (Richardson Racing) and Tom Emson (Elite Motorsport) rounded out the top ten, while Frankie Taylor (SVG Motorsport) converted his best qualifying performance of the campaign into 11th ahead of Haytham Qarajouli (TCR) and a frustrated Burton.

After an unfortunate incident led to a red flag stoppage in the original start of race two, the action restarted with O’Sullivan rising from third on the grid to take the race lead on the opening lap ahead of Martin (Richardson Racing), who was bouncing back from a disappointing race one.

He challenged for the lead on lap three, but ended up slipping back to fourth. Hedley was successful in his attempt a lap later though, but O’Sullivan fought back ahead at the chicane on lap six and edged clear to a 1.8 second victory, his third overall success of the year.

Hedley was left to scrap for second with Martin and a close battle culminated in just five hundredths of a second separating them at the chequered flag as Martin grabbed the spot. Behind Hedley, Stevenson emerged from a fiercely contested pack in fourth.

Pearson capped off a standout day in fifth overall and third of the rookies, with Josh Rattican (R Racing) completing the top six. Brooks improved on his race one effort with seventh ahead of Burton, who had run as high as third at one stage, and Voisin.

James Taylor (Elite Motorsport) and Ben Kasperczak (Privateer) came back from race one retirements to finish 10th and 11th, while Freddie Tomlinson (Douglas Motorsport), debutant Zak Taylor (Alistair Rushforth Motorsport) and Molly Dodd (Premiership Academy Racing) took weekend best results of 13th, 15th and 16th respectively.

The final race of the meeting took place on Sunday afternoon in front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a huge trackside crowd, with Martin and O’Sullivan putting on a show with a sensational slipstreaming duel at the front of the field.

The duo broke clear at the front and commenced battle for the victory, with stunning action seeing them run side-by-side at almost every corner on the fastest circuit in the UK. Swapping positions throughout, the destiny of the race lead wasn’t clear until the last lap of the race.

Martin eventually edged clear to record his seventh win of the season, and his second at Thruxton having taken his maiden win back in May. Second place for O’Sullivan completed a rookie victory hat-trick for the meeting, making it five consecutive class successes for him.

Hedley had run in the top three for the first few laps before suffering an unfortunate first retirement of the campaign. In his place was an incredible multi-car battle for third, with Hawkey and Hanafin holding the spot at points before Burton grabbed it at the final corner on the last lap.

From 17th on the grid, Hanafin was a brilliant fourth ahead of rookie podium finishers Stevenson and Rattican. Emson put in a great drive to climb from 18th to seventh place, while Hawkey was classified eighth after a five second track limits penalty cost him two positions.

The 2019 Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship continues next month (14/15 September) with a trip across the border to Scotland and the picturesque Knockhill circuit.