Irish teenager Niall Murray rounded-off the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship season with an extremely hard-fought win during round 20 at Silverstone National Circuit, Sunday, 16th October – taking the victory a mere 0.096 seconds clear of champion Seb Morris.
The second half of the season has undoubtedly been incredibly strong for Murray and his Beacon Racing team and after a run of six straight podiums, the younger brother of former British Touring Car Championship racer Eoin concludes his rookie campaign on the mainland fourth in the standings.
Second place for Hillspeed driver Morris, added to third from Saturday’s race, boosted his amazing podium tally to 16 for the season from 20 races. HHC Motorsport’s Charlie Robertson, meanwhile, took third to end his maiden season in cars on a high as Vice-Champion – aged just 14-years-old.
Murray led away at the start from second on the grid ahead of pole-sitter Brad Bailey while Morris moved into the top three past round 19 winner Sennan Fielding. Morris quickly took second place at Becketts but Fielding’s race was ruined by a lurid slide exiting Brooklands which triggered a fair amount of chaos as others strived to avoid making contact.
Murray and Morris ran nose-to-tail into lap two and the scene was set for a titanic battle between the pair, resuming their close quarters action from Brands Hatch two weeks prior. Bailey too wanted a piece of the action though in his TJ Motorsport entry and with the constant switching of positon at the front, so others were able to tag on to the lead train – including Max Coates and George Gamble.
Lap after lap, Murray and Morris traded the lead with more than a little bit of paintwork exchanged but the decisive moment came on the penultimate tour, lap 10, when Murray moved back into the lead at Becketts. From there, he kept a very tight line and managed to repel Morris’ attack to take the chequered flag just 0.096 seconds to the good.
“I’m absolutely delighted, hopefully we can continue this podium streak into next season if I get to come back and go for the championship – that’s the plan at the moment”, said Murray, “The result today is fantastic but it was the toughest race I’ve ever driven, and the most exciting.
“When he (Morris) came up behind me a few times, I wouldn’t say a let him through but I didn’t really fight it as I knew I had the pace to come back at him again. With two laps left I said to myself, right I’m not letting him past again so I held the inside line for every corner and didn’t give an inch. I really am very happy.”
Two more podiums this weekend for Morris puts the icing on the cake of a marvellous season in which he has proven to be ultra-quick. Of the 20 races contested this year in Ginetta Junior, the Welsh driver has won more than half...a tremendous total.
He said: “It was really tough racing today, perhaps a bit too tough at times, but I did the best I could. It was a great race and just a shame we didn’t take the win, it really would have been fantastic to finish off the season back on the top step of the podium. I’ve taken 11 wins though this year so I think I’ve had my fair share!”
Bailey’s deserved bid for the podium came to a bitterly disappointing end on the very last lap when slight contact from Gamble as they rounded Becketts led to a multi-car incident. Through it all came Robertson who, at one point, was down in 11th place following the earlier mix-up which arose after Fielding’s opening lap spin.
Gladly accepting third place, his ninth podium of his maiden year in cars, Robertson finished a second clear of the returning Struan Moore with William Foster fifth – he also posted the fastest lap of the race – and championship newcomer Andrew Watson starring with a remarkable top six finish.
Robertson commented: “We got a pretty bad start to the second race, I ended up in about 10th or 11th place but we managed to work our way back through the pack. Then the four people in front of me had a coming together on the last lap which put us up into third – I wasn’t expecting that at all!
“I could see Seb (Morris) and Niall (Murray) battling hard in front of me and I hoped they might make a bit of a mistake too which would put me through for another win. That wasn’t to be but we ended up third which is great for the last round of the championship, I’m really pleased.”
Provisional 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship Positions (after Rd20 – inc. drop scores):CHAMPION: Seb Morris, 562pts; 2nd Charlie Robertson, 437pts; 3rd George Gamble, 383pts; 4th Niall Murray, 356pts; 5th William Foster, 310pts; 6th Max Coates, 309pts