Niall Murray has been declared the winner of a dramatic Round Three of the 2012 Ginetta Junior Championship at Donington Park, the Douglas Motorsport driver extending his championship lead with his second victory of the season.
The race, which saw Murray, George Gamble and Charlie Robertson all lead at different points, was ended a couple of laps early with a red flag after two separate incidents saw six cars crash out on the same lap, before confusion reigned over who had actually won the race.
Gamble and Hillspeed team-mate Nathan Harrison started the race from the front row and both produced solid starts, but behind making fantastic getaways were Robertson and Murray. Heading into Redgate for the first time, Gamble defended to the inside, with Harrison going to the outside, allowing Murray to storm through the middle and nearly take the lead, before slotting into second behind Gamble. Robertson slid into third ahead of Harrison, who lost further ground to Oliver Chadwick at the Old Hairpin.
Murray, who headed into the race as the championship leader, was quickly into the lead with a good move at Coppice, while behind Chadwick worked his way into third. The top four broke away a little from those behind, with Chadwick putting lots of pressure on Gamble in second.
Gamble quickly shook off Chadwick though and attacked the leader, muscling his way past at Redgate on lap four to re-take the lead, while behind HHC Motorsport's Robertson slipped his way past Chadwick for third.
The field was closed up at the end of lap five when the safety car was introduced after a spin for Finlay Ratcliffe left him stranded on the inside of the Old Hairpin. Behind the safety car, Gamble led Murray and Robertson, with Sennan Fielding up to fourth ahead of Pepe Massot and Chadwick, who had fallen back after being passed by Robertson.
A clean restart saw Gamble lead away comfortably, but on the next lap it was all change. A mistake at the final chicane saw Gamble hit the kerbs hard and lose momentum, with Murray forced to run wide in avoidance. This allowed Robertson and Fielding to get the run on them into Redgate, with Robertson taking the lead from Fielding, with Gamble and Murray falling to third and fourth.
Behind at the same corner, there was contact between Chadwick and Massot in the battle for fifth, pitching Massot into a half spin. As those behind tried to avoid them, there were big hits for the unfortunate Oliver Basey-Fisher and Harrison, with both retiring with hefty front end damage.
The race-ending incident took place further around that lap at Coppice. It began when Murray made a challenge for third on Gamble, looking to repeat the move he produced on lap one, but this time it resulted in contact. This spun Gamble round in the road and in the resulting fracas, the unfortunate Massot, William Palmer and Elliot Paterson all made heavy contact, causing extensive damage to their cars. All drivers emerged okay, though Gamble was taken to hospital as a precaution with back pains.
With damaged cars all over the track, the red flag was instantly introduced and it was soon decided the race would not be restarted. The confusion then began as to who had won the race, with the podium ceremony cancelled until the next morning.
After much deliberation, it was finally decided that Murray had won the race ahead of Robertson and JHR Developments pairing Fielding and Chadwick. Beacon Racing's Harry Woodhead was declared fifth ahead of Irishmen Andrew Watson and Keith Donegan, with Tom Jackson completing the eight finishers.