Liverpudlian Declan Jones enjoyed a strong weekend during the latest rounds of the Ginetta Junior Championship at Rockingham, the teenager being right on the pace with new team Westbourne Motorsport.
Jones switched to Westbourne just prior to the Rockingham meeting and the change worked instantly, with Jones showing great pace to briefly top the times in practice, before a strong run in qualifying, ending up ninth, just three tenths off the top five, despite no prior experience of the Corby-based circuit.
The Chicago Soft-backed youngster said: “I was probably one of the only people that came here this weekend and hadn't seen the track or had any testing here. I was quite shocked when I saw I was P1 in practice. At first I thought one of the numbers had fallen off! But once I carried on seeing it, I was really pleased. I thought I had finished in P1 when I came in after practice, but I got pipped and pushed to P3 – still it was a good boost.
“In qualifying I set my time all on my own. I didn't get a tow off anyone and was again in P1 at one point. However then I got caught up with two of my rivals and we were all jostling for position and trying to get a tow of each other and that was when I slipped back. I was happy with ninth though – my best qualifying result of the season.”
Jones was hopeful for a strong result in the opening race, but a tough opening lap saw lots of damage caused to his Ginetta G40J, with Declan having to retire on lap six.
Jones explained: “I made a great start and went down the inside of a lot of people. I was right up behind [George] Gamble, but then [Jake] Giddings went into the back of me and pushed me straight on. I went wide and as I came back on and went into the next right hander, a bit of bonnet got caught under my right front tyre. I had a major lock-up, but slowed it enough and got through the corner.
“Then I was t-boned by Myles [Collins]. That pushed me off again and when I came back on, Tom [Howard] took the rear bumper off. After that the car was just undriveable with all the damage and I ended up having to park it.”
Declan looks to make amends in the live televised race the next day and a strong opening lap saw him gain three spots, ending up in seventh after a good scrap with championship leader Seb Morris and series racewinner Tom Howard.
Declan reflected: “It was a good race today. I was running sixth and was catching the top-five, slowly eating away at their lead. But then I made a little mistake and ran wide and picked up some dirt on my tyres.
“At that point Seb and Tom caught up to me. Seb managed to get passed, but I held off Tom. Full credit to him as it was a clean fight. I just put the car in the right place though and stopped it in the corners so he couldn't do the switch back on me. I defended well.
“All-in-all this weekend has been a massive confidence booster. Yes, it was eventful and a bit up and down. But it was still very good and it has made me realise that I can do it and that I have got the pace.”
Looking ahead to the next rounds at Brands Hatch, Declan added: “I am looking forward to it. It is another track I don't know. The Indy layout is very different to the GP. But at the end of the day it is just another series of corners and that is the way I have to look at it. It was the same in karting. I often had to learn on the Friday. I will just get on with it. I am hoping for a top five or a podium there. That is what I have got to aim for now towards the end of the year.”
Declan's dad, manager and chief mechanic, Kelvin Jones added: “We are really happy, and even though we didn't get another fifth, speed wise we are there now. It was great to be so quick in practice. That was a real turn around.
“Qualifying was also pretty mega. Just five tenths split the first ten. That was how close it was. The first race was tough on Saturday. But we went back out today and made our point. Dec drove a really sensible race and got seventh.
“In the end it was a very promising weekend and the times were really good. He is made up with the car and we know now that we are on the money. It was great working with the Westbourne Motorsport guys again too and good to run under their name for the first time. I want to thank them for all their assistance. They have helped us move forward. Now we have Brands in two weeks time and Dec is really fired up for it.”