The 2017 Ginetta Junior Championship has been blown wide open ahead of this weekend’s visit to Rockingham, following the decision to suspend leading team JHR Developments from active competition pending an investigation.
That’s led to a frenetic couple of weeks for the team’s six previous drivers, almost of whom have found new homes for the remaining three meetings of the year, with the bedding in process starting around the high-speed Rockingham circuit.
Those six include the current top two in the championship, Sebastian Priaulx and Tom Gamble, who head to Corby at HHC Motorsport and Elite Motorsport respectively with just three points separating them at the top of the standings.
Priaulx has seen his lead reduced after encountering a tough start to the second half of the season, with just a single podium finish in the last five races, and he will hope the move to HHC can lead to him rekindling the form that saw him win four races out of five prior to the summer break.
Gamble has featured on the podium on two occasions in the last couple of meetings meanwhile, with a pair of top four finishes at Knockhill last time out putting him on the verge of the championship lead, which he lost back at Oulton Park in June.
The two drivers who could benefit most from the upheaval for their title rivals are Douglas Motorsport duo Kiern Jewiss and Daniel Harper, who head to Rockingham as the in-form duo in the championship at the moment.
Jewiss is putting in a strong bid to become the first rookie in a decade to win the overall title, emulating the success of Nigel Moore in 2007, with a tremendous run of form seeing him take eleven podium finishes across the season so far.
After finishing in second place on nine occasions, he finally got a maiden win under his belt at Knockhill following a superb last lap move, and he is very much one to watch in the title picture having scored 55 more points than Priaulx in the five races since the summer break.
Harper has scored more points than anyone else in the last two meetings though, with a stunning double win at Snetterton and then a pair of podiums in Scotland seeing him move from over eighty points back to just 29 off the summit with eight races remaining.
The outside in the title race meanwhile is HHC’s Tom Wood, who has been remarkably consistent this season with an unbeaten fourteen top six finishes in seventeen races so far, though despite a long-awaited maiden win at Snetterton he remains 53 points adrift of Priaulx.
Wood will return to Rockingham with fond memories of his visit last year when he followed home then team-mate Harry King for a one-two finish, and both drivers head into this weekend’s action with clear aspirations to challenge for the wins.
King in particular will be hoping to use the momentum from a first win of the season at Knockhill to enjoy more success in the remaining three meetings of the season, with that victory being one of three podium finishes so far this year for the Elite Motorsport star.
For the aforementioned Jewiss meanwhile, a successful outing at Rockingham could wrap him up the 2017 Rookie Cup title with two meetings to spare, with a 126 point lead over JHR refugee Adam Smalley making him the odds-on favourite to succeed Harper as the champion.
To win it this weekend Jewiss will need to extend that margin by a further 57 points, but that will be harder said than done with new HHC recruit Smalley in a strong run of form at the moment with regular top six finishes and a breakthrough outright podium finish at Snetterton.
The only expected casualty of the JHR suspension is previous Rookie points leader Harry Dyson, who looks set to sit out the remainder of the campaign, while his former team-mates Matt Luff and Finley Green are set to announce their plans after testing with teams this week.
Luke Browning, Tom Canning and Jordan Collard will all head to Corby in confident mood, the former two having both featured on the Rookie podium at Knockhill, while Collard took a best ever overall finish of fourth in Scotland.
Keaton Samra and Fox Motorsport return to the grid this weekend after two meetings away, while new faces come in the shape of championship debutants Louis Foster and Emily Linscott. The grid will be completed by Isa Deen, Connor Grady, Charlie Digby and Greg Johnson.
Full championship standings ahead of the meeting can be found here: http://tsl-timing.com/file/?f=TOCA/2017/173203ptsgij.pdf