Tom Gamble claimed the 2017 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship with a race in hand at Brands Hatch this weekend (30 September – 01 October 2017) as one of the most action-packed season drew to a close in Kent.
After a fairly wet test day, qualifying for the Juniors was one of their first real dry sessions of the weekend. Priaulx was the man to beat, setting his best time of 1:48.186s on his second lap, which no one could top. Title rivals Gamble and Harper gave it a good go, but eventually qualified second and fourth respectively, with King splitting the pair.
Gamble, with a strong lead, had one hand on the championship heading into race one from the front row. However, a trip through the gravel at Paddock Hill on the opening lap dropped him to the very back of the field whilst his main rival, Priaulx took up the lead.
A safety car was scrambled after Digby spun and needed recovery, allowing the field to bunch up. Priaulx was up front with King, Jewiss, Smalley and Wood behind. Kudos too to Green, he climbed from tenth to sixth and Johnson, who climbed seven spots on the opening lap.
Action got back to full speed on lap four and King swept into the lead at Druids. Harper, who had dropped to eighth in the Gamble / Paddock Hill melee was soon climbing the order and up to sixth by the end of the first full racing lap.
As rain started to fall and the final lap got underway, Priaulx threw everything he had at King and moved into the lead as they dashed towards the line. Harper meanwhile, had recovered to fifth and Gamble an impressive seventh. Priaulx’s result though, was enough to bring him within 26 points of leader Gamble.
Race two was a much more action-packed fight for the title. King and Gamble locked out the front row thanks to their second fastest qualifying times, with Priaulx behind in third. Gamble got the lead off the line with Harper slotting into second from fourth on the grid.
Contact between Smalley and Green brought out the safety car on lap one, so it wasn’t until four laps in that the action really got underway. Soon it was a two car fight for the lead between Harper and Gamble, with the pair swapping positions at almost every corner. The battle allowed King, Jewiss and Priaulx to get into the mix, before it became an eight car fight for the win on the final lap, as Del Sarte and Canning got in on the action.
Try as he might, Gamble couldn’t pass Harper, but second place was enough to secure him the title, with Priaulx having to settle for sixth on the road. The pair was joined on the podium by King, whilst Jewiss won the rookie class from Del Sarte and Canning.
The third and final race was all about who finished second and third in the championship. It was pole man Harper who was looking to leapfrog his season-long rival Priaulx for the points advantage. The pair were nose-to-tail for the race lead through much of the opening stages of the race, but Priaulx got a wheel on the grass, lost the rear and ended up driving through the gravel, dropping him to sixth.
With Harper then enjoying an untroubled victory, it was up to Priaulx to claw back the positions in order to hang onto second in the points. After some frantic racing with Jewiss, King and Wood, Priaulx tried to make a move for position on Wood, distracted they left the door open for King to drive around the pair of them and bag second at the flag. It was enough for Priaulx though, as fourth position was enough to secure him second overall by just two points.
Jewiss, who had a phenomenal race for a final overall podium, finished fifth – but as top rookie – and compounded his Rookie title. Smalley, who was collected in a start line incident with Linscott, failed to finish, but hung onto second in class, with Ruben Del Sarte finishing the both the race and the season third in the rookie class. Kudos too to James Hedley, he picked up another rookie podium with second in class after making a real impression since joining the championship at Silverstone.
If you know someone who has what it takes to join the Championship in 2018, there are five places remaining in the Ginetta Junior Scholarship. Drivers can apply via http://www.ginetta.com/scholarship.php