Charlie Robertson Ginetta Junior Season Review
Charlie Robertson made a huge impact during his first season of car racing in the high-profile Ginetta Junior Championship this year - a history-making debut, in fact, in which the 14-year-old became the youngest ever pole position qualifier and winner of an MSA-sanctioned car race in the UK.Stunning the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support paddock right from the opening event at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, the Whyteleafe newcomer posted a new lap record for Ginetta Junior in his first ever race before going on to better it in round two.Rapidly becoming a consistent podium finisher and, from mid-season, race winner, Charlie ended his maiden season in cars as Vice-Champion for HHC Motorsport before going on to challenge for the Winter Series title too. Winning two of the four races in the end-of-year championship, only clutch failure in the second encounter robbed the youngster of his first car racing title."This year really was great, we had some fantastic races and some incredible results", said the racing rookie, "If someone had said to me at the start of the year we'd have been second in the points at the end of our first season I would have definitely taken that. HHC did a great job all year for me, in both the main championship and the Winter Series we proved how quick we are."Racing to a pair of top five finishes on his debut weekend at Brands Hatch back in April, along with the fastest lap in each encounter and new lap record, Charlie qualified on the front row of the grid for the first time at Donington Park for rounds three and four and sealed his maiden podium in only his third ever car race with an excellent second place finish - a remarkable achievement.Adding to his points tally at ultra-fast Thruxton, the fourth race meeting of the year at the hugely challenging Oulton Park Island Circuit followed as did Charlie's second podium of the year in round seven with second place. Finishing top four in round eight capped off another strong weekend.Ginetta Junior's annual visit to Croft in North Yorkshire proved to be one of the true highlights of the season for the Caterham School pupil. After scorching to his first pole positions during qualifying he went on to finish second in round nine, setting fastest lap and new lap record in the process, before making history with a memorable debut win in round 10.Becoming the youngest driver ever to win a car race at a Motor Sports Association (MSA) regulated event, the victory marked a breakthrough moment for the 14-year-old's season and consolidated his hopes of fighting for a top three championship finish."Winning our first race at Croft was fantastic", reflected Charlie, "We'd been building up to it since the first podium at Donington and after qualifying on pole for the first time at Croft, we knew it gave us the best chance we'd had so far to get onto the top step of the podium. It was an amazing feeling, taking my first win only half way into the season set us up really well for the second half." More podiums, more wins during second half of year After a lengthy break in the calendar over the summer, racing got back underway in early August at the new Snetterton 300 Circuit and Charlie continued to belie his rookie status by scorching to pole for round 11 and backing that up with second on the grid for round 12. Once again his pace bagged yet another lap record in race one, where he was runner-up, before taking fourth place in race two. From there came the visit north of the border to Knockhill in Fife, a very special weekend for Charlie with his family originating from the Scottish town of Aberfoyle. Determined to reward his local support with some strong performances, Charlie improved on fifth in the opening race to make a popular return to the podium with third position in round 14.Returning to England for the next two rounds at Rockingham in Northamptonshire, the talented rookie bagged two more pole position starts with a superb qualifying performance. Although eighth in round 15 after being pushed off the track on lap one, he was able to post the fastest lap and new lap record before securing his second career victory in round 16 with a brilliant drive.Only two events remained, a return to Brands Hatch, albeit on the Grand Prix Circuit configuration, and the season finale at Silverstone. With the coveted Vice-Champion's spot in the championship an increasing possibility, Charlie pushed on and fourth place in the first of the Brands races was eclipsed with his third win of 2011 in a frantic and action-packed round 18.Arriving at Silverstone second in the driver standings, Charlie made sure of the runner-up spot in the championship with sixth position in round 19 and then his ninth podium of the year in the finale with third place.Although delighted with the Vice-Champion's position in his first season of racing, Charlie was utterly determined to go one better in the four-round Ginetta Junior Winter Series which took place in early November at Snetterton 300 Circuit.Undoubtedly a favourite from the off, he destroyed the opposition in the wet and drying qualifying session for rounds one and two to grab pole position an amazing 1.3 seconds clear. Taking victory in race one to make a perfect start to his title bid, clutch failure a couple of laps from the finish of race two effectively ended his championship there and then.Undeterred, Charlie qualified third for rounds three and four and delivered a brilliant response to the mechanical issues of the previous day by dominating the opener some eight seconds to the good over his nearest rival - notably, he also bettered his own circuit lap record with a new benchmark.He did lead the final race early on after some tremendous driving on the opening lap but an unlucky spin while racing door-to-door on lap three dropped him to seventh. Charlie mounted a spirited fight-back but had to settle for fourth in the end and third in the championship standings."It really was a big disappointment to miss out on the Winter Series title because of the clutch, we'd have done it without that but that's the way it goes in motor racing sometimes", he said, "We were fast all weekend and showed that with two wins and a new lap record. The aim for next year is to be back in Ginetta Junior and to take the championship, that's my only goal!"