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Hedley Stars With Knockhill Ginetta Junior Double

16th September 2019 • Simon Paice

James Hedley has extended his points lead in the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship with a sensational double victory at Knockhill (14/15 September), while Lorcan Hanafin left Scotland with a maiden victory in the series.

Only six drivers on the grid had raced at Knockhill before heading into the weekend, and it was one of those, Will Martin (Richardson Racing), who used that previous experience to post a double pole position in qualifying on Saturday morning – making it four for the campaign so far.

A close fought session saw only a quarter of a second split the top three drivers, with championship leader Hedley (Elite Motorsport) coming in second quickest ahead of the leading rookie Zak O’Sullivan (R Racing), who had set the pace in both free practice sessions on Friday.

In the first of two races that afternoon, Martin briefly lost the lead to Hedley at Duffus Dip on lap one, before fighting back at the final hairpin. He went on to lead the first five laps, before an unfortunate car issue forced him to pull off into retirement.

Hedley became the new race leader, though his mirrors were filled by O’Sullivan behind. After running nose-to-tail for a number of laps, Hedley edged clear to take the victory, while a late change behind saw Casper Stevenson (Richardson Racing) grab second and with it the rookie win.

Stevenson had been part of a thrilling multi-car battle for the final places in the top six. Gus Burton (Douglas Motorsport) was in the mix throughout and eventually came third on the road, but a time penalty for a false start put O’Sullivan back onto the overall podium.

James Taylor (Elite Motorsport) picked up his best result since Croft back in June with fourth place, while a great performance from Ben Kasperczak (Privateer) earnt him a career best fifth position and with it a first ever visit to the Rookie class podium.

On his first outing with R Racing, Joel Pearson completed the top six ahead of Hanafin (Douglas Motorsport), current Ginetta Junior scholar Ethan Brooks (TCR) and Josh Rattican (R Racing), with Burton having to settle for tenth after his penalty.

Bailey Voisin (Douglas Motorsport) impressively rose from 17th on the grid to 11th ahead of Haytham Qarajouli (TCR), who had recorded a season’s best qualifying result. Frankie Taylor (SVG Motorsport) and Molly Dodd (Premiership Academy Racing) meanwhile took weekend best results of 13th and 17th.

Saturday’s second race began with Martin fending off Hedley on the opening lap, before the latter got pushed back to fourth next time around. Stevenson moved into second ahead of O’Sullivan, with Hedley slotting in ahead of Hanafin, who impressively climbed seven places in two laps.

After a short spell behind the safety car, the action resumed and it wasn’t long before there was a new leader as Stevenson slid down the inside of Martin at the hairpin. With Martin losing momentum, a thrilling moment saw three cars running side-by-side into Duffus Dip for second.

O’Sullivan emerged with the place ahead of Hedley and Martin, with those positions staying the same until the final three laps. The man on the move was Hedley, who moved past O’Sullivan before picking off Stevenson on the penultimate lap for victory.

Stevenson eventually slipped to third on the final tour as O’Sullivan picked up the rookie class spoils. James Taylor came home fourth once again ahead of Burton and Tom Emson (Elite Motorsport), while Pearson completed the rookie class podium with a seventh place finish.

Martin unfortunately slipped back to eighth in the end ahead of Rattican, while Ethan Hawkey (Richardson Racing) completed a tough day in tenth. He had run fifth at one point before dropping to 14th, while in race one he had run as high as third before unfortunately retiring.

Brooks missed out on the final top ten berth by less than a tenth of a second in a photo-finish with Hawkey, while a frustrated 12th was Hanafin after his great early progress. Freddie Tomlinson (Douglas Motorsport) and Ben O’Hare (Premiership Academy Racing) completed the finishers, the latter in his milestone 50th Ginetta Junior race.

The final race of the weekend took place in front of a huge crowd and the live ITV4 television cameras on Sunday afternoon. Hedley led the field away from pole position and it became immediately clear that he would have a battle on his hands for the victory.

O’Sullivan was locked onto the rear bumper of the leader throughout the first few laps, while Stevenson and James Taylor fought over third early on. The pack battling for the final podium position grew almost every lap though, with six cars in contention at one stage.

The man on the move was Hanafin, who rose from 12th on the grid to storm around the outside of Stevenson at the hairpin on lap nine for third. Hot on his heels though were Stevenson, Burton, Hawkey and James Taylor, with their battle going down to the wire

A top defensive drive from Hedley had netted him the win on the road, however a post-race penalty demoted him to third. Hanafin therefore inherited a maiden Ginetta victory, with O’Sullivan taking a 12th rookie victory of the campaign in second, alongside a new circuit lap record from race two.

Burton, Hawkey and James Taylor eventually rounded out the top six, with Stevenson having dropped back to tenth late on. After falling to 13th at one stage, Emson fought back through the field to seventh ahead of rookie podium finishers Pearson and Kasperczak.

The weekend’s results means that when dropped scores are taken into consideration, Hedley holds a 56 point lead at the top of the championship standings from O’Sullivan, who himself is 121 points ahead of Stevenson in the fight for the Rookie title.

The 2019 Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship season continues in two weeks’ time (28/29 September) with three races around the Silverstone National circuit.