After a close fought championship battle, Andy O'Brien came on top to win the 2011 Ginetta Junior Ireland title. The Checkered Flag caught up with Andy a couple of weeks after he secured his success to discuss his 2011 season and plans for the future.
O'Brien's racing career started in 2010 when the 17 year old joined the Ginetta Junior Ireland series. A sensational maiden year saw him finish runner up to Niall Murray, giving him experience and confidence he used this year to take five wins and a total of ten podium finishes on his way to the title.
O'Brien commented:“The first year, I stepped into it with no previous experience at all and finished second, so that was a massive leap in confidence for me to use to push on for the title in the second year. The experience from the first year helped an awful lot and it's just about sunk in.”
The 2011 campaign saw O'Brien in the thick of a four way battle at the top of the standings, the Templeogue-based driver taking on Sean Doyle, Jake Byrne and Andrew Watson. It ended up as a straight duel between O'Brien and Doyle, with the former coming out on top on the final weekend of the year.
Commenting on the rivalries, O'Brien said: “At times it was really, really good, but sometimes, at the start of the season especially, the three of them were team-mates, so I was really up against them and it wasn't always easy. It turned out very well in the end, myself and Sean [Doyle] especially, we always left space for each other and it turned out to be a really well fought championship. I always feel better when I come out on top of a really close battle, rather than running away with it from the start.”
For someone with no prior racing experience, the introduction of the Ginetta Junior series to Ireland was huge news for O'Brien, giving him a chance to build some experience ahead of a move to the UK. O'Brien reflected: “I jumped straight into the championship, with no karting experience or anything, and learned so much and built up such a knowledge that will help me when I come over to the UK. Without the Ireland series, I wouldn't have been able to come over here and be anywhere near the pace I'd say.”
With O'Brien being too old now to compete in the UK's Ginetta Junior Championship, he is looking to switch to the G50 category of the Ginetta GT Supercup in 2012 as his prize for winning the Irish series. The move means O'Brien won't get the chance to race friend and former rival Niall Murray next year, but he is hoping to emulate Murray's achievements and enjoy success in the UK.
O'Brien concluded: “I've been good friends with Niall Murray for years now and ever since I saw him racing and doing the test days beforehand, I wanted to do it. I eventually got the chance, got two podiums on my first race weekend and have gone from there. I've learnt a lot from Niall racing over here this year. Seeing someone who's Irish come over and do well on the big stage over here, then to know you've got the chance to do that, it's really motivating.”