Ginetta Junior Championship title challenger Charlie Robertson endured a frustrating and bitterly disappointing outing at Oulton Park Island Circuit over the weekend, 9th/10th June, with hefty contact in rounds seven and eight of the season costing the 15-year-old his lead in the driver standings.
Slipping to third in the points table after a pair of robust encounters at the 2.23-mile Cheshire track, the HHC Motorsport racer had started the event strongly with a thoroughly dominant performance in Saturday’s damp qualifying session.
Posting a quickest lap of 1m45.147 seconds (76.21mph) to take the round seven pole position by just over a second, the MSA Academy youngster’s next best time of the session, 1m45.335 seconds, gave him the round eight pole position by an outstanding 1.3 seconds.
Dry track conditions greeted competitors for the opening race on Saturday afternoon and although slipping to second place at the first corner, the Whyteleafe driver pressured for the lead prior to the appearance of the Safety Car at the beginning of lap four.
Making a superb re-start at the beginning of lap five, Charlie got a fantastic run through Old Hall and the Avenue and then, on the approach to Cascades, he almost managed to nose up the inside of race leader Pepe Massot while at the same time fending off rival Niall Murray.
The Irishman managed to slip past at the end of lap five for third place but Charlie looked to quickly hit back in his Investigo and Ria Capital Markets-backed car. Then, at the hairpin, Harry Woodhead dived through on the inside but lost control on the exit and Charlie had nowhere to go.
Sustaining significant front-end damage, leading to reduced vision over the dislodged bonnet, the Surrey teenager managed to keep going in fourth before a second Safety Car period on lap nine. Racing resumed a lap later and although pressuring hard for third, Charlie just missed-out.
Round eight proved even more frustrating for the Caterham School pupil as a potential win went begging when the original race was red flagged on lap three while Charlie held the lead. When the race was re-started, over a distance of just six laps, the erstwhile championship leader wasn’t able to get as good a start unfortunately and was bundled back from first to third at Old Hall.
He quickly hit back though, passing Massot for second at Knickerbrook Chicane and immediately pressuring race leader Murray. Looking to attempt a pass at Cascades, Charlie remained tight to the tail of his rival and on lap three he bravely moved alongside Murray over the crest at Clay Hill. On the outside line for Druids though, he lost second to the opportunistic Sennan Fielding.
Then, on lap five, everything went wrong for Charlie when contact to the left-rear of his car from Massot under braking for Hislops, as the pair disputed third, speared the HHC racer off into the barriers. He did manage to rejoin, albeit with major damage, and somehow managed to salvage the bonus point for the fastest lap of the race on the final tour.
“Everything was going well in race two, I led and I thought that was it but then they red flagged it and I didn’t get as good a start the second time”, said Charlie, “I dropped back to third as [Niall] Murray and [Sennan] Fielding were battling and I think I could have still had the win at that point.
“Then I was alongside [Pepe] Massot into the chicane, I didn’t move off my line and he just went into my back wheel with his front under braking and pitched me into the wall. It did quite a lot of damage to the car, front and back, but I was just focused on getting back on. It’s been a really frustrating weekend but we did get fastest lap on the last lap, and I had to overtake two people to do it!”
There are only two weeks to wait until the next instalment of Ginetta Junior action, rounds nine and 10, which will take place at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire – HHC Motorsport’s local track – over the weekend 23rd/24th June.
2012 Ginetta Junior Championship Driver Standings (after Rd8):3rd Charlie Robertson, 185pts