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Rowledge Strengthens Ginetta Junior Lead With Thruxton Double

29th August 2022 • Simon Paice

Title contenders Josh Rowledge and Will Macintyre shared the spoils during an action-packed triple header in the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship at Thruxton (27/28 August).

Kanato Le (Elite Motorsport) scored a memorable first pole position in the championship during qualifying on Saturday morning. The rookie edged out Harri Reynolds (Assetto Motorsport) by 0.119s at the top, though the latter secured the race two pole on second best times.

In a close-fought session that saw the top 15 drivers separated by less than a second, Macintyre (Elite Motorsport) finished third fastest overall ahead of Liam McNeilly (Fox Motorsport), Sonny Smith (R Racing) and Maurice Henry (Fox Motorsport).

The first of two races that afternoon started with Le converting pole into the early lead. McNeilly made opening lap progress from fourth to second and those two ran in formation for the first half of the race, before the chasing pack caught up.

Rowledge (R Racing) led them after battling his way through from eighth on the grid to third, however it was Macintyre who breached the defence of the top two first as he picked off McNeilly and Le on consecutive laps to move into the race lead.

Rowledge followed him through and tried to mount a challenge for the win in the closing two laps, but Macintyre held on for his fourth win of the season. Six cars ran nose-to-tail at the front at one stage, with Aqil Alibhai (Elite Motorsport) superbly coming through to third from tenth at the start.

McNeilly eventually came home fourth ahead of Joe Warhurst (Elite Motorsport) and Smith. After running third on lap one, Reynolds slipped into the pack and finished seventh ahead of Henry and Mckenzie Douglass (Elite Motorsport), the latter joining Macintyre and Smith on the rookie podium.

Zac Meakin (Preptech UK) rounded out the top ten ahead of Adam Brown (Ultimate Speed Racing), who gained a place from a seasons’ best 12th on the grid. Ginetta Junior scholar Alisha Palmowski (Preptech UK) and the returning Akshay Bohra (R Racing) were next up.

Ella Lloyd (Assetto Motorsport) finished up 14th ahead of Luke Watts (R Racing) and James Wyres (Assetto Motorsport), while Le dropped out of podium contention on the final lap and ended up back in 17th at the chequered flag.

Race two served up some of the characteristically entertaining, slipstreaming racing that fans and drivers love on the Thruxton circuit. Le ran in front for the opening few laps, before Macintyre and then Rowledge worked their way to the head of the field.

As the race developed, the leading pack grew and grew until ten cars headed onto the final lap nose-to-tail. A superb defensive performance from Rowledge netted him the win, while Meakin emerged from a final corner incident with a great maiden podium finish in second.

Macintyre was one of those to lose time in the late drama, but still managed to bring his car home in third for another rookie class win. McNeilly just missed out on the podium again in fourth, while Watts battled back brilliantly from 12th at the end of the opening lap to finish fifth.

Warhurst rounded out the top six ahead of Le, with Brown making late progress to equal his best-ever result of eighth. Alibhai and Smith rounded out the top ten, while Lloyd completed an impressive day with a career-best result of 11th ahead of Reynolds, who was running in the top three before losing out at the last corner.

The final race of the weekend took place on Sunday afternoon in front of the live ITV4 television cameras. Another action-packed encounter started with Rowledge leading the opening lap before Macintyre worked his way past on lap two.

A high-speed spin heading towards the Complex dropped Rowledge down to eighth, but fierce battles ahead allowed him to fight back into contention. Smith and McNeilly traded the lead around the halfway mark of the race, before Warhurst rose to the fore.

On the penultimate lap however, Rowledge worked his way to the front and edged clear on the final lap to take a crucial seventh win of the season. Smith and Warhurst fought right to the chequered flag, with the former taking second by just 0.083s in a photo-finish.

Smith also took the rookie victory, with his class rivals Macintyre and Watts in hot pursuit as they completed the top five overall. McNeilly was shuffled back in sixth in the end ahead of Douglass, who rose five places across the race.

Henry put in a superb drive to battle through from 18th on the grid to eighth, while an unfortunately tough race for Meakin saw him drop to ninth from a front-row start. Alibhai rounded out the top ten ahead of Reynolds, Palmowski and Luca Hopkinson (R Racing) in a weekend best 14th.

Shravan Shanmugavel (Elite Motorsport) also got his highest result of the weekend in that race in 16th. Liona Theobald (Assetto Motorsport) finished 20th in the opener before being ruled out of the rest of the weekend on medical grounds, while Flynn McHardy (Preptech UK) qualified before missing the races due to unforeseen circumstances.

Two meetings remain in the 2022 Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship season, with a visit to Silverstone on 24/25 September before the Brands Hatch season finale on 08/09 October.

Full race results from the weekend can be found at https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/223403