Top five and lessons learned for Ginetta Junior rookie Harrison

Ginetta Junior Championship rookie Nathan Harrison endured a tough introduction to racing in the wet at Thruxton, but came away with another top five finish to enhance his growing reputation.

Although he had battled the elements during his successful karting career, the 15-year old had barely even tested in the rain since graduating to the Ginetta sportscar series, so tackling the deluge that engulfed Thruxton during rounds five and six was an eye-opener for the Hillspeed driver.

With only limited experience of the fastest circuit in the UK thanks to testing restrictions on the Hampshire venue, Harrison was delighted to produce the sixth fastest time in Saturday morning’s free practice session, but hopes of improving into the leading quintet in qualifying were dashed almost as soon as the youngster took to the track.

“I was over the moon with sixth in the wet practice session, but qualifying was a nightmare,” Harrison explained, “I had barely completed a lap when the car ground to a halt with electrical problems and, even though I got going again, it kept happening. The team could find nothing wrong when I stopped in the pits, but the car simply didn’t feel the same as it had before.” 

When the gremlins returned on Harrison’s final attempt at a flying lap, he was restricted to tenth place on the grid for the opening race, although his second-best time at least offered a three-place improvement for round six later in the weekend.

After attention from both the Hillspeed crew and manufacturer Ginetta resulted in a change of electrical components, Harrison lined up on the outside of row five for the opening race on Saturday afternoon, but joined the majority of his rivals in questioning the instruction to fit wet-weather tyres on what was by now a drying track. Not only did the order mean that expensive rubber was sacrificed to the abrasive Thruxton surface, but it also presented another new driving experience for those unused to the tyre-conditions combination. Harrison lined up on the outside of row five for the opening race on Saturday afternoon, but joined the majority of his rivals in questioning the instruction to fit wet-weather tyres on what was by now a drying track. Not only did the order mean that expensive rubber was sacrificed to the abrasive Thruxton surface, but it also presented another new driving experience for those unused to the tyre-conditions combination.

Despite his frustration, Harrison immediately improved his position by moving up to ninth on the opening lap, and then gained another position three tours later. Employing a different driving style as he attempted to keep the #27 machine on the road, the Oxfordshire-based rookie drove smoothly to close in on seventh-placed Sennan Fielding, eventually passing the overall points leader on the final lap.

“It was an expensive decision from the Clerk of the Course to make us start on wets,” Harrison sighed, “Motorsport is expensive at the best of times, but that instruction added another £1000 to our bill. The wet weather tyres were not the right ones for the conditions, but I managed to keep the car on track and seventh isn’t too bad a result in the circumstances.”

Starting from a similar position in the weekend’s second race early on Sunday afternoon, Harrison had no option but to fit wets as the rain intensified throughout the day. After starting behind the electrically-powered Ginetta G50 safety car, the #27 continued to run seventh for a couple of corners before Harrison picked off a couple of rivals through the Complex. Better was to come, however, as he then pulled off an audacious move around the outside of the chicane and crossed the line in fourth place at the end of the first racing lap!

Although he was forced to give up one that spot as Ollie Chadwick got the cutback into turn one on the following lap, Harrison remain in fifth place, protected from assault from behind by a useful two-second cushion to his nearest threat. With conditions getting worse as the nine-lap race wore on, there was little in the way of further action as each driver concentrated on keeping their noses clean, and Harrison remained in fifth despite late pressure from Will Palmer.

“It was quite dangerous out there,” the teenager admitted, “I was aquaplaning a lot and it was hard to see with the spray, but I managed to keep the car on the road and another top five finish is a welcome reward for the effort that the team has put in over the weekend. It’s a shame I couldn’t make the move at the chicane stick as fourth would have been an even better result, but I’ve learned a lot from racing in the wet this weekend, and will take the experience into the rest of the championship.”

There now follows a six-week break before the Ginetta Junior series reconvenes at Oulton Park over 9-10 June, and Harrison will head to Cheshire still in sixth spot in the championship standings, despite closing the gap on the drivers immediately ahead of him.

Nathan is seeking sponsorship to help him to continue to progress his burgeoning career in 2012. If you are interested in supporting him, please contact Steve Harrison on 07710 380295 or at botleywindscreens@btconnect.com