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James Hedley Stars With Donington Double In Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship

29th April 2019 • Simon Paice

James Hedley was the star of the show in the second meeting of the 2019 Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship at Donington Park this past weekend (27/28 April), taking two wins and a second place finish across a trio of exciting races.

Hedley (Elite Motorsport) made a statement of intent during official free practice on Thursday as he topped the timesheets in both dry and wet conditions, however in qualifying on Saturday it was the turn of one of the exciting group of rookie talents on the grid to make their mark.

Roman Bilinski (In2Racing) put in an astonishing lap of 1m 34.749s in damp conditions to secure a maiden pair of pole positions in the championship by a margin of one second, with Douglas Motorsport pair Zak O’Sullivan and Lorcan Hanafin getting closest to his time.

In the opening race of the meeting later that day, Bilinski put in a blistering first lap to build an immediate 3.5 second lead at the front, however Hedley had risen from fourth to second behind and quickly began to edge close to the leader.

Across the next six laps, Hedley cut that lead down to less than two tenths of a second but was unable to make a move stick in the closing laps. Bilinski took the win on the road, however post-race he was disqualified from the results due to a technical infringement.

Hedley therefore took his first victory in the main series, while O’Sullivan inherited the Rookie class win after running in a clear third on the road throughout. Enjoying a similarly trouble free race was Theo Edgerton (Total Control Racing), who ended up completing the overall podium.

Behind them, a monumental battle was playing out for the remaining positions in the top six. Hanafin, his Douglas Motorsport team-mate Gus Burton, Harry Dyson (Premiership Academy Racing), and James Taylor (Richardson Racing) were amongst those fighting it out.

Taylor emerged in fourth position in the classified results, a remarkable result considering he had started from the back of the grid. Burton fought his way to fifth from Josh Rattican (R Racing with In2Racing) and Casper Stevenson (Richardson Racing).

Hanafin and Dyson both had dramatic moments in their quest for a top six finish and had to settle for eighth and ninth respectively, while a superb drive from Haytham Qarajouli (Total Control Racing) saw him climb from 22nd on the grid to a maiden top ten finish.

The first of Sunday’s two races was an absolute thriller. The tone was set early on as pole-man Bilinski, Hedley and Taylor fought wheel-to-wheel for the race lead, with their dicing then allowing Hanafin and Burton into the mix at the front as well.

The top five places seemed to change hands at almost every corner as they battled it out. Hedley eventually got to the front of the group and caught up with Taylor in the closing laps, with a dramatic finish seeing them run side-by-side across the line.

It was Taylor who emerged with his second win of the campaign, with just 0.024s ultimately denying Hedley a hat-trick of wins. Burton took his first podium finish in the main championship in third, while Edgerton tasted rookie class success in fourth overall. 

Bouncing back after not making it onto the grid for race one, Will Martin (Richardson Racing) took his first top five result of the campaign. Hanafin ended up sixth ahead of rookie class podium finishers Stevenson and O’Sullivan, with Rattican just missing out.

Ethan Hawkey (Total Control Racing) was another to come back strongly after a disappointing opening race to pick up a top ten finish, while Ben Kasperczak (In2Racing) narrowly missed out on that accolade as he took 11th from Ben O’Hare (Premiership Academy Racing).

A third and final race of the weekend took place in front of the live ITV4 television cameras and it was Hedley who made the best start, sweeping around the outside into the lead. With a fierce battle immediately beginning behind, he was able to break clear of the pack.

From there, a supreme performance from the reigning Winter Series champion saw him pull away to a 20 second victory – a winning margin up there as one of the largest in recent championship history. That win has helped him build a 42 point lead atop the standings.

The fight for second took many twists and turns across the races, with four different drivers holding the spot at one stage. Pole-man Taylor was the early occupier, though Edgerton sneaked ahead on lap two before Burton got in front and stayed there for a few laps.

While Edgerton unfortunately retired soon after, O’Sullivan entered the fray and dispatched Burton on lap eight. In the closing laps he traded the place with Taylor, but got ahead coming out of the final corner on the last lap to get his third overall podium of the year and the rookie win.

Taylor completed the podium behind, while Hanafin rose from tenth in the early stages to finish fourth ahead of Burton, Hawkey, Martin and Brands Hatch race-winner Tom Emson (Elite Motorsport), who got his best result of the meeting in eighth.

Stevenson and Bilinski secured top ten finishes and with it the final two spots on the rookie class podium, the latter’s first of the season, while Joel Pearson (Elite Motorsport) picked up an 11th place finish for the second time in the weekend.

Frankie Taylor (SVG Motorsport) enjoyed his best result of the meeting in 13th, while Daniel Gale (Total Control Racing) matched his best of the season so far in 14th. Freddie Tomlinson (Douglas Motorsport) completed a top twenty hat-trick for the weekend ahead of Molly Dodd (Premiership Academy Racing).

Earlier in the weekend in race one, Will Rochford (Total Control Racing) and Bailey Voisin (Douglas Motorsport) took their highest finishes to date in 12th and 13th respectively, while Charlie McLeod (Premiership Academy Racing) followed them for a weekend high of 14th.

Current Ginetta Junior Scholar Ethan Brooks (Total Control Racing) meanwhile put in a superb display in race three as he fought on the fringes of the top ten, but he unfortunately didn’t finish the race. His highest finish was therefore 18th in the second encounter.

Next up for the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship is the fastest circuit in the UK, with a visit to Thruxton in Hampshire in three weeks’ time (18/19 May).