Tom Gamble leaves Donington Park at the head of the Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship following a strong weekend which saw him take two wins and a clean sweep of podiums at the Leicestershire circuit.
In qualifying, Daniel Harper took the first pole position of his career with a 1:23.981s lap. It was the rookies who stole the show, with Scott McKenna continuing to impress as he completed the front row, setting a time just 0.187s quicker than third-placed fellow rookie Kiern Jewiss, who had impressed throughout testing in the build up to the weekend. Local driver Tom Wood completed the second row, whilst Gamble – who only posted five laps – still managed to set a time worthy of fifth place.
A blistering start for Harper in the race saw him hang onto the lead into Redgate for the first time, despite an epic challenge from fellow front row starter McKenna. As the pushing and shoving continued down the order, Dineen ended up in the gravel at the first corner and the safety car was scrambled as the cars completed the opening lap.
Things got back into gear on lap four and in usual Ginetta Junior fashion, mini races started to pop up throughout the order. Gamble snatched the lead from Harper at Redgate, forcing the Douglas driver to run wide and drop to fifth. A great recovery saw him recover to third, just behind Jewiss, who had made similar progress following an earlier skirmish.
At the halfway point the top three had stretched a gap to the chasing pack but behind, an awesome fight emerged for the final spots inside the top five with Dyson on a real charge, picking up three spots on lap five.
The rookie racers were equally as exciting, with Luff, Browning and Canning running four abreast with Digby in a bid to snatch the final spots inside the top 10. A dislodged bonnet for Luff sent him for a brief pit visit, during which Samra and Johnson got themselves involved in the scrum.
As the flag fell, Gamble celebrated, with Jewiss finishing half a second behind him to claim second overall and the rookie class honours. Dan Harper completed the main podium, whilst Smalley and Dyson rounded out the Rookie rostrum.
Race two was a much more frenetic affair with only a handful of racing laps taking place following a lengthy safety car period. On the start, pole man Harper maintained his advantage at the head of the field. Last year’s rookie champion continued to be hassled by Jewiss, Wood, Priaulx and Gamble over the opening few laps as the quintet ran nose to tail for the race lead.
A pair of separate incidents called for a safety car situation as six cars retired from the action. By the time the racing got underway once again, there were just seven laps left on the clock and Harper really got his head down. Pulling away from the battle for second, he managed to build a gap of five seconds over the chasing pack.
Meanwhile, Jewiss, Wood, Gamble, McKenna and Dyson continued to squabble over second overall. Carrying too much speed into Redgate, Jewiss lost the rear of the car, tagging Dyson along the way and dropping him down the order.
Over the closing laps, Wood, Gamble and McKenna continued to dice for second place, but it was local lad Wood who took second place at the flag, just ahead of Gamble. McKenna, although forced to settle for fourth overall, claimed the rookie class honours from Dyson and Luff.
The final race of the weekend saw a very tardy start for Harper, which allowed Wood and Gamble to sneak through into first and second. Wood led for a handful of corners, before being nudged wide to led Harper through. The two leaders then stretched their way out front, dropping Wood into the clutches of Jewiss and McKenna.
The majority of the race played out with two distinct battles; one for Harper vs. Gamble and a second with Wood vs. Jewiss vs. McKenna. Both Harper and Gamble traded places for the lead, throughout the session, but ultimately it was Gamble who took the win on the road and on amended times, which saw Harper hit with a five second time
Whilst Gamble took a win on the road, a track limits penalty for Harper dropped him to sixth on corrected times. As a result, the hard racing paid off for Jewiss and Wood, who ended up finishing the final race of the day on the podium after an immense race with McKenna.
The result means Gamble leads the points from Harper and Wood. Whilst in the Rookie class, Dyson leads Jewiss and Smalley. The championship now takes a short break before the next meeting at Thruxton Circuit on 6/7 May.