Teenager Declan Jones shone in the final two rounds of the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship, the Liverpool-based racer concluding his maiden season with strong performances in both races, however contact in both them him finishing lower than deserved.
Jones switched to TJ Motorsport for the final rounds as he evaluates options ahead of 2012 and the move seemed to work, with him right on the pace in Saturday practice, finishing third overall. Qualifying wasn't quite as positive, ending up ninth, but Jones headed into the first race in confident mood. He stormed up to sixth at the start, however going into Becketts he was hit by one of his rivals. Although able to continue, the cars steering was severely damaged, leaving him to limp home to a fourteenth place finish.
Declan said: “It has been great with TJ Motorsport from the word go. It is a nice team and everyone is really welcoming. We were good in practice and the car felt strong on Saturday and we had really high hopes. I felt I should have been a bit higher in qualifying but I just couldn't quite hook up a lap with a really good tow.
“Then in the first race we went from ninth to sixth at the start. It was going well. But after the contact the steering was destroyed – you have holding points for the steering wheel and they were literally bent the opposite way they should have been – and all I could do was bring it home.”
The second race, televised live, saw Declan make another great start, up to fifth at the end of the first tour. Briefly slipping back to sixth, he regained the spot on lap six and ran with the leading pack. On the last lap though, contact ahead left 16 year old Jones with nowhere to go, leaving him going off track, recovering to finish thirteenth.
Chicago Soft-backed Jones explained: “I had a fantastic start again, probably one of my best of the year. I was able to do the same lap times as everyone in front of me and I was running right up with them. But then it all kicked off directly ahead of me on the very final lap with three corners to go – and I was taken out, again. I guess it was a racing incident. It is racing at the end of the day and you have got to get on with it, although it is obviously disappointing.
“It has been an eventful weekend and while the results might not show it, it was very positive. With a bit of better luck we could definitely have got a podium, but still the pace was there. I have learnt loads this year. The set-up is now very good and with fine tweaking I think it could easily be a winning car.”
Declan ends his rookie campaign thirteenth in the standings, with impressive consistency seeing him score points in seventeen of the twenty races. Jones now looks ahead to the Ginetta Junior Winter Series, which will see them race four times at Snetterton on November 5/6.
Declan added: “I am really looking forward to the Winter Cup. This weekend has been another massive confidence booster. It will be good to go back to Snetterton having raced there in August too. It is a nice track. I will be going into it hoping to come away with some trophies. I'm determined to try and get a podium there.”
Declan's dad and manager Kelvin Jones added: “The race today was probably Declan's best of the year. Knockhill may be his best results wise, as he was fifth, but today he was extremely fast. He has been very quick throughout the weekend and I think we could have had near-on-a-podium in both races. Dec was just unlucky to be twice taken out. The positive though is the speed. We knew we were going to get there and we most definitely have.
“We have the Winter Cup to focus on now and we will again run with TJ Motorsport. I wanted to get a feel for them this weekend and we will do the same at Snetterton. We will then look to finalise our plans for 2012. I am convinced with the right package Declan can be a championship contender next year.”