Ginetta Junior Championship front-runner Charlie Robertson enjoyed a fantastic conclusion to the eighth race meeting of the year at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on Sunday, 18th September, by taking the second victory of his debut campaign during round 16 of the season.
Lifting the 14-year-old Surrey sensation into the runner-up spot in the driver standings on overall scores, his terrific pace was evident from the beginning of the weekend after heading the timesheets during pre-event practice and then going on to seal his fourth and fifth pole positions in qualifying.
Although round 15 on Saturday, 17th September, didn’t go according to plan when he was forced off the circuit on lap one, the Whyteleafe-based youngster battled back superbly into ninth place and also posted a new circuit record for Ginetta Junior with a time of 1m36.890 seconds (72.08mph).
Post-event, this became eighth position when Brad Bailey was penalised for causing the collision which resulted in Charlie’s excursion at Yentwood. Such was the HHC Motorsport driver’s speed and performance, there’s no question he would have been battling for the win in the opening race too.
As it turned out, the live televised 16th round of the season would be Charlie’s only chance to fight for victory which he grasped with both hands. Serving up a spectacular drive, he not only confirmed his undoubted pace but also coped with huge pressure from more experienced rival Niall Murray.
When the lights went out to signal the beginning of Sunday afternoon’s encounter, Charlie had to slot in behind Murray off the line and after a tight run through Deene Hairpin for the first time the pole-sitter emerged in second place.
Thankfully well ahead of a multi-car incident that occurred at the third corner, Yentwood, the Surrey driver piled on the pressure to Murray and into lap two only 0.3 seconds separated the pair. Running close behind the Irishman and keen to make his way past, Charlie seized his chance with a fantastic move into Brook Chicane at the end of the lap to grab the lead.
Initially under pressure from Murray, the leader soaked up the attention without drama and into lap five he had edged out a gap of almost a second after posting the fastest lap on the previous tour. His lead remained at just over half a second as the race entered its closing stages and although Murray was ever-present, Charlie had everything in hand and drove faultlessly to take an excellent victory.
“It’s a really good result for me and the team”, he commented, “I just managed to hold Niall off over the last few laps – that was the biggest thing on my mind as he was pretty close. We had the pace to win though, the car felt really good and I really like the track – Rockingham is one of my favourites, especially with the massive crowds we’ve had this weekend.”
Notching up the seventh podium of his rookie season with win number two of the campaign, the youngest racer on the entire Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship package now heads into the final two events of 2011 second in the standings on overall scores.
With the category’s double ‘drop score’ ruling in play though, Charlie slips back behind George Gamble into third place. Therefore, rounds 17 and 18 at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent two weeks from now, 1st/2nd October, could be vital for the Caterham School pupil’s hopes of finishing the year in the coveted Vice-Champion’s position.
Charlie added: “I’m really looking forward now to Brands Hatch, I have tested there and the GP track is mega. I’m confident we’ll have the pace there, we’ll work hard to find a good set-up as we always do and try and take two good results.”
Provisional 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship Driver Standings (after Rd16 – overall scores):1st Seb Morris, 494pts; 2nd Charlie Robertson, 363pts