Irishman Niall Murray suffered a disastrous weekend at Thruxton in Round Five and Six of the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship. The reigning Ginetta Junior Ireland champion suffered two retirements, including a huge accident in the first race, which put him down to thirteenth in the standings.
As with all the circuits on the calendar, Niall headed to Thruxton with no prior knowledge of the circuit, meaning Friday practice was spent trying to quickly learn the high-speed Hampshire circuit. The 15 year old, running with Beacon Racing, then went on qualifying on Saturday and set some competitive times, putting him ninth and seventh on the grid for the two races.
Murray said: “I'd never driven Thruxton before and I don't really like it too much, I prefer the more technical tracks rather than just flat out. Still I had to do it, so I tried to be as quick as I could. Practice on Friday I did twenty laps in the first session and my quickest lap was on lap nine. That was only two tenths off my quickest lap all weekend, so I think I learnt the track pretty quick.
“The other guys must have tested here or must really like the track or something, because I found myself off the pace, more than I'd like to be. The track is a lot about getting toe, getting slipstream and I have no team-mate, so it's very hard and I had to try and join up with other drivers, but it just didn't really work out.
“I qualified down in ninth place for the first race and seventh for the second. I think I was just over driving the car, as I was three or four tenths off my time in free practice, so I wasn't too happy about that. Looking at the data, I was just going into the corners too deep, like the complex, which then ruins your whole lap as you're flat out for the rest.”
Murray headed into the races hoping to work his through the grid and pick up some strong results, following on from his maiden podium in the series in Round Three at Donington Park. However race one saw contact from a rival on lap one send his Murray Motorsport-backed Ginetta G40 into the barriers, instantly ending his race.
Murray, from Firhouse, Dublin, reflected: “I got a good-ish start, was right on top of William Foster coming into the first corner and stayed all the way to the inside. Will slowed down a little bit, don't know why, so I had to let off a little, because I didn't want to make any contact.
“I started turning left towards the middle of the track and then looked in the mirror and saw Tom Howard behind me. I thought nothing of it because he was on the outside, then I felt an almighty smack at the rear right.
“I tried to correct and turn left, but I was just travelling too quickly and couldn't react to a smack that hard really. I spun once or twice, was on the grass so I couldn't stop anything and hit the barrier at about 60mph, so it wasn't a nice impact. Was a bit winded after that, but fortunately didn't get too much damage as I hit the barrier exactly side on. That was a bit of a disaster.”
With the car repaired, Murray hoped to recover some good points from race two on Sunday, which was televised live on ITV4. However once again the teenager was out of luck, with the car suffering mechanical problems, expected to have been caused from the accident the day before.
Murray explains: “On the warm up lap I went around and had a few losses of power. It came back almost immediately, so I thought nothing of it. I got a very good start to the race, but going round the first corner, the car just died. I was unbelievably annoyed.
“I came into the pits and told my engineer what happened, but there was nothing really we could do. I went back out and tried to nurse the car round, get three or four points for finishing last, but I only completed five out of nine laps and to get classified you have to complete eight. So I thought I'd got points, but then came in, looked at the results and seen I was not classified, so that was another thing that annoyed me.”
“Two DNF's for the weekend, just not what we were expecting and it just isn't what we need for our championship hopes. I was hoping for top five in the championship and I was tenth in the championship before today, so I'm guessing I'll be further down now.
Next up for Murray is Oulton Park in Cheshire, another track he doesn't feel will be his best, concluding: “Oulton is a fast, flowing track as well, so I don't think it will be my strongest, but it won't be as bad as this weekend. I'm going to be on the computer every day to try and learn the track. It is very tough, but I'm going to try and make the best of it.”