Irishman Niall Murray endured a frustrating start to his 2011 Ginetta Junior season at Brands Hatch. The 15 year old was looking to make an impact on his debut in the series, which he joins as a prize for winning last season's Ginetta Junior Ireland series, however car problems and some bad luck saw him unable to really capitalise on the pace he showed during the weekend.
Throughout the weekend, his Beacon Racing car was suffering from power problems, which hampered his track time throughout free practice and qualifying, stopping him from pushing on and setting a competitive time.
Murray explains: “We were having problems all weekend with the car, something wrong with the fuel tank. We found a problem, we fixed it and then went out to qualifying, but it was happening again, just losing power out of the corners.
“I didn't come into the pits during qualifying as I knew we couldn't really do anything then, so I just tried to stay out and get a few consistent laps in. I did get a good lap in, only six tenths off the pole but I do feel I could have gone a lot quicker.”
With the problem meaning he was only able to the tenth best time in qualifying, he knew he would be in the thick of the action straight from the off in race one, which turned out to be the case.
The Murray Motorsport-backed driver said: “The first start of the first race, I didn't get a great start. Myles Collins got a very good start around the outside of me and then there was Struan Moore on the inside and I got sandwiched between the two of them, with Myles losing out and hitting into the barrier.”
Despite the contact, Murray was able to continue and take the full race restart. He showed great pace throughout the race, moving up the field, but a couple of mistakes saw him drop back, eventually finishing seventh.
He explains: “The next restart, I didn't get a great start again, but it was a lot better. I stayed in tenth place after turn one and in turn two I tried to go around the outside of everyone, but it didn't really work out, though I gained one place there. After that I was kind of picking spaces along when I could pass, if there was a gap I tried to make the most of it.
“Obviously inexperience is weighing me down a lot and I made a few little mistakes, going out wide at the exit of Druids a couple of times. I was up to fifth place at one point which I was fairly happy with. I felt like I was quicker than the lad in front of me so I tried to get ahead as quick as I could to keep up with the front pack. I tried to get a slingshot out of the last corner and I think there might have been oil or debris or something down on the ground as I lost all the grip and went out onto the gravel and lost a load of places.
“I got past one more but was too far off the rest of them, so I finished the race in seventh place. I'm happy enough considering I was in tenth place, but unhappy considering I was up to fifth and could have went a lot further.”
The final race saw the Dublin-based racer start tenth once again. A good start saw him gain two places around the first corner, before a move around the outside at Druids saw him get another. An incident ahead of him allowed him move into fifth and he was soon hot on the heels of William Foster.
He made a move at Paddock Hill and gained the place, before contact between the two at Druids saw him spin into the gravel, eventually getting out in thirteenth place. He set off on a great recovery drive, setting an outright fastest lap time as he worked his way through the field. He eventually finished eighth, a result he was “absolutely gutted” about though, as he felt he was on for a podium finish.
Despite the disappointing final race, Murray enjoyed his first weekend on the TOCA package, which saw him realise a lifelong dream: “It's indescribable really; it's just brilliant to be here, driving on Brands Hatch, one of Europe's biggest tracks. I've been growing up all my life watching the British Touring Cars and just saying that it's a brilliant track, hoping one day I'd be here.”
Next up for Murray is a trip to Donington Park on April 16/17 and with the pace he showed during the weekend, he is confident for a strong weekend in Leicestershire: “The problems are solved now, I know my pace, I know I can be top three or four in every race and if I just stop making stupid mistakes really, I know I can be up there.
“I've never driven on Donington; I've been there a few times when my brother [Eoin Murray] did the British Touring Cars. It was his best race there as well, so hopefully I can follow him and do pretty well there as well.”