An exhilarating start to the season and impressive consistency to close it secured Jack Mitchell a comprehensive title victory in the 2014 Ginetta Junior Championship, a year in which the series once again showcased itself as the most entertaining championship on the BTCC-support package.
Consistently boasting the largest grids on the package outside of the BTCC itself, the eighth running of the Juniors once again saw an exciting mix of returning drivers and car-racing newcomers produce the usual brand of all-action racing that thrills the watching audience.
Mitchell headed into the season as one of only two race-winners on the grid from 2013, the other being reigning Rookie Cup and Winter Series champion James Kellett, who led HHC Motorsport’s title defence alongside hotly-rated karting graduate Lando Norris.
While Kellett was enduring a tough start to the season and Norris found himself adjusting to car racing, Mitchell was excelling. A dominant double on the opening weekend at his home circuit Brands Hatch set the tone, with another pair of victories following at Donington Park as he rivals failed to match his early pace.
While Thruxton next didn’t go to plan with race one contact and a race two spin, Mitchell bounced back in style with another double success at Oulton Park. Those six wins in eight races, plus seven pole positions, gave him a healthy 66 point championship lead.
From there though, the momentum swung into the favour of HHC, who firmly established themselves as the pace-setters as they tried to chase their third Junior title in a row following their successes with Charlie Robertson (2012) and Harry Woodhead (2013).
From Croft in June onwards, Kellett and Norris shared nine of the remaining twelve race wins between themselves including a stunning six one-two finishes as they tried to claw themselves back into the title picture.
Despite their dominance, consistent top six finishes and solid points hauls for Mitchell meant he maintained a healthy advantage at the top of the standings, before a brilliant battling drive took him to a decisive win on the penultimate weekend at Silverstone.
That success meant that when Mitchell headed into the final rounds at Brands Hatch GP, Kellett’s failure to secure maximum points in qualifying was all it took to crown him champion with two races to spare, taking JHR Developments’ first Junior title in the process.
Alongside his seven race wins, more than any other driver, Mitchell also finished the year with 17 top six finishes in 20 races, consistency that secured him the title by 57 points. Kellett finished up second with five wins, while Norris certainly fulfilled his huge potential with four wins of his own and third in the championship.
Alongside Norris, the new batch of rookies on the 2014 grid produced two other stand-out stars, JHR’s Dan Zelos and Total Control Racing’s Jamie Caroline. It was those two who ended Mitchell’s early winning run, storming to the front of the grid with a superb win apiece at Thruxton.
Both drivers added a second win to their resumé, Zelos snatching a last gasp victory at Rockingham while Caroline took a win and a second place at the Brands season finale, his only podium visits in a tough second half of the season.
Whilst Zelos added seven third place finishes to finish up fourth in the points standings, eventual Winter Series champion Caroline was left to settle for sixth, thanks in part to two disqualifications in four races for driving offences in the mid-season.
The driver to separate them in the final standings was Ryan Hadfield, who ran with family outfit R&J Motorsport. Hadfield started his second season in the series well with two podiums in the first three races, but he was unable to turn that into a consistent front-running campaign with just one more rostrum visit.
All round it was a strong first campaign in the series for R&J though, with Hadfield’s team-mate Ben Pearson also being an early podium visitor en-route to seventh in the final standings, while Jonathan Hadfield took a best finish of fourth at Silverstone in his rookie year.
Also enjoying a positive rookie campaign was Alex Sedgwick, the Ginetta Scholarship winner having joined his predecessor Jamie Chadwick at JHR. Sedgwick showed strong pace throughout the year, with the highlights being five top six finishes that included a Rookie Cup win at Oulton and fourth overall at Knockhill.
Chadwick meanwhile had an up and down second and final season in the series. While she established herself as a front-runner with five visits to the podium, a number of frustrating results left her down in eighth in the points, though she ended the year happy with her progress.
Within the field, there were two other drivers who made it onto the podium during the season, Jack Rawles and Senna Proctor. Second year racer Rawles notched a maiden top three finish at the Brands finale to secure ninth in the standings, while Proctor finished third at Knockhill as part of a solid maiden Junior campaign.
With a grid of around twenty cars throughout the season, it proved to be a competitive fight in the midfield for top ten finishes with a total of eighteen drivers notching finishes in the top half of the grid.
Will Taylforth was a regular at the head of the midfield pack early on, however a tough mid-season led to him leaving the series, while it was a similar story for Pedro Cardoso who took three top tens before budget difficulties forced him onto the sidelines.
TCR’s Matt Chapman was a regular top ten finisher all campaign, as was privateer Billy Monger, while fellow privateer Lewis Brown and Tollbar Racing’s Flashman Finneran improved throughout the year and broke into the top ten late on.
Final 2014 Ginetta Junior Championship Standings:
|1||Jack Mitchell||JHR Developments||513|
|2||James Kellett||HHC Motorsport||456||-57|
|3||Lando Norris||HHC Motorsport||432||-81|
|4||Dan Zelos||JHR Developments||377||-136|
|5||Ryan Hadfield||R&J Motorsport||347||-166|
|6||Jamie Caroline||Total Control Racing||320||-193|
|7||Ben Pearson||R&J Motorsport||302||-209|
|8||Jamie Chadwick||JHR Developments||287||-226|
|9||Jack Rawles||Tollbar Racing||263||-250|
|10||Alex Sedgwick||JHR Developments||240||-273|
|11||Jonathan Hadfield||R&J Motorsport||204||-309|
|12||Senna Proctor||JHR Developments||186||-327|
|13||Matt Chapman||Total Control Racing||170||-343|
|14||William Taylforth||Total Control Racing||149||-364|
|18||Flashman Finneran||Tollbar Racing||90||-423|
|20||Tom Parker||Team Dynomite||38||-475|
|22||Esmee Hawkey||AMD Motorsport||29||-484|
|23||Tom Brown||Tollbar Racing||17||-596|
*Banner Image: Jakob Ebrey Photography*