Josh Rowledge has taken the points lead in the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship with a race win at Thruxton (28/29 May), as his R Racing team-mate Ian Aguilera secured a maiden victory.
The weekend began with a short 15 minute free practice session on Saturday, giving the teenage talents a chance to get acquainted with the unique, high speed Thruxton circuit. Will Macintyre (Elite Motorsport) set the pace from Rowledge (R Racing) and Joe Warhurst (Elite Motorsport).
Macintyre converted that pace into a maiden pole position in qualifying later that afternoon, the second meeting in a row in which a rookie driver set the pace. Warhurst made it an Elite front row lockout for the opening race, ahead of Rowledge.
Aqil Alibhai (Elite Motorsport) was fourth fastest overall, while he posted the quickest second best time to secure the race two pole. Behind, Aguilera (R Racing) and Liam McNeilly (Fox Motorsport) took seasons’ best results in fifth and sixth respectively.
The opening race on Sunday featured an epic duel for victory between Macintyre and Rowledge. The latter got ahead of Warhurst for second heading into the complex on lap one, before a replica move got him the lead next time round. Macintyre fought back ahead at Noble though.
They went on to trade the lead many more times through the race and the destination of the victory wasn’t decided until the last lap. Macintyre got past into Noble, however Rowledge fought back into Church to ultimately secure his second win of the season so far.
There was even more entertaining racing in a multi-car battle over third position. Warhurst, Aguilera and McNeilly were in contention early on before getting caught up in incidents, leaving Alibhai, Harri Reynolds (Assetto Motorsport) and Sonny Smith (R Racing) to fight it out.
They ultimately finished in that order, with Smith in particular impressing having started back in 15th on the grid. Luke Watts (R Racing) completed the top six, with those two joining Macintyre on the rookie class podium, as Mckenzie Douglass (Elite Motorsport) made good progress to seventh.
Fox Motorsport duo Maurice Henry and Jacob Hodgkiss were next up, the latter gaining ten places through the race, while Fergus Chalmers (Preptech UK) rounded out the top ten ahead of Akshay Bohra (R Racing) and Ginetta Junior scholar Alisha Palmowski (Preptech UK).
From a seasons’ best qualifying position of seventh, Zac Meakin (Prepech UK) unfortunately lost ground early on to finish 13th ahead of Adam Brown (Ultimate Speed Racing), James Wyres (Assetto Motorsport) and Luca Hopkinson (R Racing).
The second race was televised live on ITV4, with the Juniors serving up an action-packed encounter for the viewers. Alibhai, who was holding the onboard camera, led the field away, with Warhurst unable to join him on the front row due to damage sustained to his car in race one.
McNeilly therefore slotted into second and mounted an early challenge to Alibhai, however he slipped back during a frenetic fourth lap. Five cars spectacularly ran side-by-side into Noble at one stage, with Reynolds the big winner as he shot from eighth to third, whilst McNeilly fell to eighth.
Aguilera emerged from that in second meanwhile and latched on to the tail of Alibhai. A move into the complex got him the race lead and it proved to be perfectly timed, as the yellow flags emerged shortly afterwards. That developed into a race-ending red flag, declaring Aguilera a first time winner.
Alibhai scored his third consecutive podium finish in second, while Reynolds’ impressive charge was rewarded with silverware. One of the drivers on the move through the race was Rowledge, who went from 14th on the grid to score some crucial championship points in fourth.
Meakin scored a breakthrough top five finish after gaining six places in a single lap late on, with Macintyre completing the top six ahead of McNeilly, Chalmers and Henry. Brown rounded out the top ten from Watts and Douglass, who had run as high as fourth early on.
Liona Theobald (Assetto Motorsport) and Shravan Shanmugavel (Elite Motorsport) picked up their best results of the weekend in 14th and 15th respectively, while Flynn McHardy (Preptech UK) and Ella Lloyd (Assetto Motorsport) peaked with 17th and 18th in the opening race. Kanato Le (Elite Motorsport) suffered an unfortunate double retirement.
Full race results from the weekend are available here: https://www.tsl-timing.com/event/222103
The 2022 Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship season heads to Croft next in four weeks’ time (25/26 June), where it will once again be joined by the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge.