Ginetta graduates have once again taken motorsport by storm in 2023 race season. Former Ginetta drivers have enjoyed notable successes in leading championships in the UK and around the world.
Ginetta’s ladder of championships provide a natural path for drivers to graduate into leading GT championships both in the UK and further afield. This is particularly prevalent in the British GT Championship, with no less than 25 alumni making appearances in the series this year.
For the first time in six years, the headline GT3 drivers’ title was won by Ginetta graduates. 2016 Junior scholarship winner Dan Harper and Darren Leung secured top honours, the latter doing so in just his third season of car-racing after progressing through the GT Academy and GT4 SuperCup. The Silver-Am class title was won by 2016 Junior champion Will Tregurtha and ex-G40 Cup racer Mark Sansom.
Darren Leung said of the season: “What I couldn’t comprehend was how much racing in Ginetta’s GT Academy would teach me about car racing. As a total novice, it gave me a friendly, safe environment to really learn and understand something completely different – the fundamentals of car racing. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and to anyone thinking of giving it a go, do! The GTA gave me enough confidence to make the jump to GT4 Supercup with Assetto Motorsport.”
While an 11-year streak of the overall GT4 drivers’ crown going to at least one Ginetta graduate came to an end, there were plenty of former drivers starring in the category. That group included 2019 G40 Cup champion Chris Salkeld and 2022 GT Academy racer Michael Johnston, who won the Pro-Am title.
Amongst the other drivers to score GT4 silverware were the last two Junior champions Josh Rowledge and Aston Millar, fellow Junior graduates Josh Miller, Seb Hopkins, Freddie Tomlinson and Stuart Middleton, plus 2016 GT4 SuperCup champion Tom Wrigley.
Three drivers who started their careers in the Juniors were race-winners in the GT4 European Series this year, Josh Rattican, Tom Emson and Tom Edgar. Another ex-Junior, Tommy Pintos, secured championship glory in the McLaren Trophy.
In endurance racing, three alumni were on the grid for the historic centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans; Olli Caldwell, Casper Stevenson and Tom Gamble. In the Nürburgring 24 Hours meanwhile, one-time GT5 Challenge and GT4 SuperCup racer David Pittard took a stunning overall race victory.
Ginetta graduates have long enjoyed great success in one-make Porsche competition, and 2023 was no different. Former Junior and GT4 SuperCup champion Adam Smalley added another title to his glittering CV as he won the Carrera Cup GB crown.
James Kellett and Josh Malin, previous champions in the GT4 SuperCup and GT5 Challenge respectively, completed the top three in the CCGB standings. 2021 Junior scholar Robert de Haan and 2020 GT4 SuperCup runner-up Gus Burton were also race-winners in the series, while one-time Junior racer Max Bird secured the Pro-Am class honours. De Haan enjoyed huge Porsche success abroad too, taking title glory in both the Carrera Cup Benelux and Sprint Challenge Southern Europe.
2019 GT4 SuperCup champion Harry King enjoyed another superlative season with race victories in the F1-supporting Porsche Supercup and the domestic Carrera Cup series in Germany and Australia. Ex-Junior star Will Martin impressed in Carrera Cup North America with multiple race wins, with 2014 Junior scholar Alex Sedgwick also featuring on the podium.
Harry King said: “It’s a credit to the Ginetta Junior Championship which allowed myself and others alike to discover and learn in a competitive environment. The racing was always fierce, close and emotional, which taught you lots as a young teenager not just inside, but outside of a car – to which ultimately I still use those lessons to this very day, even after many championship successes and wins.”
In the Sprint Challenge GB meanwhile, Joe Warhurst secured Cayman championship glory in his first year out of Juniors. Fellow alumni Steve Roberts, Max Coates, Will Jenkins and Toby Trice were also race-winners, as was triple Ginetta champion Marc Warren as he secured another title with the Am class crown.
Switching to touring cars and there was once again a large alumni presence on the BTCC grid. Leading the way was triple Ginetta champion Tom Ingram, whose defence of his 2022 BTCC crown saw him take the title fight to the season finale before finishing runner-up.
His 2010 Junior title rival Jake Hill joined him in the championship top three, while ex-Junior and GT4 SuperCup race-winner Andrew Watson secured the Jack Sears Trophy title in his debut year after an exciting season-long battle with team-mate Mikey Doble, the 2022 GT5 Challenge champion.
This season’s TCR UK title went the way of 2018 GT4 SuperCup runner-up Carl Boardley, as he overcame a competitive field that included fellow GT4 SuperCup alumni Jac Constable, Adam Shepherd and Joe Marshall. 2017 GT5 Challenge champion Lewis Brown was a race-winner in both TCR UK and Spain, while 2015 GT4 SuperCup champion Tom Oliphant won in TCR Australia.
Back on home tarmac, Dan Zelos secured an historic second MINI Challenge UK title, superbly winning 10 of the 20 races across the season. Will Orton made the jump from the GT5 Challenge to MINI’s this year and excelled, finishing as overall runner-up and Rookie Cup champion. Another ex-GT5 racer in Sam Smith was a double race-winner, as was former Junior Jamie Osborne who took the Graduate Cup title.
Ginetta’s impact in the single-seater world has once again been led by Lando Norris, as he contests his fifth consecutive season in Formula 1. The 2014 Junior rookie champion has enjoyed his most successful season to date with McLaren, scoring seven podium finishes this season.
Hotly-tipped to be potential British F1 stars of the future are Zak O’Sullivan and Luke Browning. 2019 Junior rookie champion O’Sullivan sensationally won four races and finished runner-up in FIA Formula 3 and made his F1 driving debut in FP1 at Abu Dhabi with Williams, while Luke Browning scored a podium finish in the same championship and won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix.
Junior race-winner Callum Voisin has followed in the footsteps of O’Sullivan and Browning. He became the third consecutive Ginetta graduate to win the GB3 Championship title. 2019 Ginetta Junior champion James Hedley was also a race-winner in the series. Ex-Juniors Liam McNeilly and Harri Reynolds took victories in the GB4 Championship.
In Formula 4, 2022 Junior rookie champion Will Macintyre enjoyed a phenomenal debut season in the British Championship as he secured the runners-up spoils. Fellow Junior alumni James Higgins, Kanato Le, Aqil Alibhai and Sonny Smith also won races in the series.
Fresh from being crowned the 2023 Ginetta Junior champion, Freddie Slater immediately transitioned to single-seaters. He won in the Euro 4 Championship at Monza. Leo Robinson became the youngest ever race-winner in Junior history earlier this year! Leo has since switched to Danish F4 and scored 10 podium finishes. Another Junior graduate, Akshay Bohra, secured podiums in Euro 4 and Italian F4.
Stateside, Devlin DeFrancesco continued as the only Junior graduate to have reached IndyCar. He scored a best result of 12th in his second season. In the Indy NXT feeder series, 2019 Junior rookie champion Louis Foster was a multiple race-winner. Jamie Chadwick, who started her career as a Ginetta Junior scholar, was among his competition.
In the F1 Academy meanwhile, a new championship has been introduced this year for female single-seater talents. One-time GT5 Challenge racer Abbi Pulling made seven visits to this podium!
Kelly Edmund is Ginetta’s Events Manager. She said: “Every year we are immensely proud to see our former drivers enjoying phenomenal success in their careers. This year has been particularly impressive with notable achievements across such a wide range of championships.
“To see our graduates winning titles and picking up silverware in GT racing, touring cars, single-seaters and prototypes both domestically and globally is brilliant, and it’s a testament to our motorsport ladder and our continued philosophy of promoting young talent.”
Story written by Simon Paice.
Watch some of the 2023 Ginetta grid try to name Ginetta graduates in other series!