George Gamble is the 2011 Ginetta Junior Winter Series Champion after a consistently strong weekend at Snetterton 300 Circuit – second place in the final round this afternoon, Sunday, 6th November, enough to seal the TJ Motorsport driver the title by just five points.
Following a runner-up placing and victory on Saturday, coupled with fastest lap in the opening two races, Gamble held a 21 point advantage over Jake Giddings and Max Coates. For Giddings, an oil leak prior to the beginning of round three wrecked his hopes of glory but Coates’ challenge gathered momentum over the two days and a last round win got him within touching distance of the title.
Gamble played things safe though and, without taking any risks, he was able to finish on the podium as he needed to in the last race to make sure of the title. The action was quite frenetic at points with Giddings, Charlie Robertson and Niall Murray dicing hard but Gamble came through unscathed.
“It’s amazing, it’s great to win the championship at Snetterton with it being TJ’s local track – I don’t know what to say about it, I’m just over the moon”, said Gamble, “When I saw Jake (Giddings), Charlie (Robertson) and Niall (Murray) together I knew I had to play it safe and get the points. We’ve got a few options to look at for next year but I’d definitely enjoy being back in Ginetta Junior.”
With two victories from the four races, Robertson deserved more than third place in the overall standings but his championship bid was derailed on day one when clutch failure – initially thought to be a gearbox problem – forced retirement from race two. Even though he bounced back with a tremendous win in round three this morning, the points gap was too much to bridge.
In qualifying Giddings secured the round three pole position by an impressive 0.3 second margin but he wasn’t able to even take the start due to the aforementioned oil leak, the result of a breakage to the alternator bracket which then punctured the oil filter.
Pushed off the grid prior to the start, all the FML driver could do was watch from the side of the track when the action got underway as Ollie Chadwick took an early lead from the outside of the front row followed by Robertson, Coates, Gamble and Declan Jones. Unfortunately, a spin at Agostini dropped the latter out of contention on lap one.
Chadwick’s pace wasn’t a match for that of his pursuers but they struggled to find a way by as the JHR driver defended well. As the leader fended off Robertson and Coates, the delay enabled Gamble to come into the picture. On lap three though, Robertson made his move to pass Chadwick down Bentley Straight and he pulled away to an unassailable lead and a new lap record.
“That was definitely one of my best wins yet”, said the HHC racer, “I got quite a good start, slotted in behind Ollie (Chadwick) but then he got away a bit when I had a battle with Max (Coates). I caught him back up and passed on about lap three and then managed to get away and pulled out the gap.”
Coates and Gamble finally usurped Chadwick at the hairpin on lap five but the erstwhile leader fought back to push the champion-elect back to fourth. Coates pulled clear to take a comfortable second place while Murray grabbed third on the final lap when Gamble and Chadwick were delayed at the Esses and into the Bomb Hole as they contested position.
Coates and Giddings lined up on the front row for the decisive fourth and final round of the weekend, the pole-sitter maintaining his advantage as Robertson followed him on the inside at Riches to take second from Giddings. However, Murray made the most of a superb start from sixth on the grid to grab second at the hairpin.
Into the Esses though, Robertson produced the undoubted move of the event when he sliced past Coates and Murray to go from third to first but at the same piece of track two laps later the leader got slightly out of shape and it was enough to allow Coates through into first place.
Into lap four, Coates, Robertson, Gamble and Murray all ran very tight together but the second placed youngster spun out on lap five while dicing with Gamble and dropped to seventh. He did manage to fight his way back through to fourth at the finish but, added to Saturday’s issues, it wasn’t enough to have a bearing on the championship.
Coates held on under huge pressure to take a very popular win – the first for the newcoming MGR squad – with Gamble second, firm in the knowledge that would give him the title. Giddings ended the weekend with a podium return with Robertson making his way back into the top four ahead of Jones, Oliver Basey-Fisher, William Palmer, Chadwick and Guy Wenham.
“I think it’s a great way to cap off my time in Ginetta Junior”, said Coates, “It was probably the hardest race I’ve had, it’s so hard to lead in these cars and especially at a track like this with such long straights where you give away a tow. I just pushed as hard as I could to try and do everything to get enough points for the championship. In the end we missed out but it’s fantastic to win the race.”
Giddings added: “I got a good start, they all caught me back up through the first corner though and then I was hung out to dry really. It was really close, me and Niall had a great battle – we kept it really clean, there was no touching at all and it was great racing.”
Provisional 2011 Ginetta Junior Winter Series Standings (after Rd4):Champion: George Gamble, 117pts; 2nd Max Coates, 112pts; 3rd Charlie Robertson, 95pts; 4th Niall Murray, 91pts; 5 Jake Giddings 73pts; 6th Ollie Chadwick, 70pts