Niall Murray has started the 2012 season in the same way he finished the 2011 campaign, atop the Ginetta Junior Championship podium after winning Round One at Brands Hatch.
Murray, who took the final win of 2011 at Silverstone, came through the field to take victory in a race which saw Charlie Robertson and Sennan Fielding suffer from a puncture and contact respectively when they were leading.
JHR Developments' Fielding started the race from pole, but Robertson got a better start from the outside of the front row and swept into the lead at Paddock Hill, with Fielding second, while Murray stormed around the outside of George Gamble at Druids to take third.
Gamble was back up to third on the next lap though, sliding past at Clearways, edging Murray wide in the process. This gave Oliver Chadwick, who had worked his way into fifth on the opening lap after starting eighth, the opportunity to follow past at Paddock, with Murray then losing more places to Harry Woodhead and William Palmer at Druids.
Palmer's hard work was wasted on the next lap though, the HHC Motorsport driver spinning into the gravel trap at Clearways, resulting in the introduction of the safety car for a few laps. At the restart on lap eight, rather than shoot off into the empty track ahead of him, Robertson was forced to follow the safety car into the pits after picking up a puncture during the interlude.
This gifted the lead to Fielding who led away from Gamble, while behind Chadwick dropped out of third after picking up damage to his bonnet at the restart. This promoted rookie Woodhead into third, but he was quickly dispatched by Murray at Clearways on lap eleven.
On the next lap at the same corner, the race's controversial moment came when Gamble challenged Fielding for the lead. Gamble dived up the inside but made contact with the rear of Fielding, spinning the latter round into the gravel. Gamble dropped to fourth, with Fielding recovered from the gravel to move into eighth, the duo both blaming each other for the incident post-race.
With the top two taking each other off, Murray was now in the lead ahead of Woodhead and his fellow rookie Oliver Basey-Fisher. The latter soon lost his position to a hard charging Gamble, who then looked to pass Woodhead, but a determined drive by the Beacon Racing driver saw him hold him off for a few laps before Gamble got past at Paddock on the penultimate lap.
With under two laps to go, Gamble wasn't able to mount an attack on Murray, the Irishman crossing the line for his third ever Ginetta Junior win and the first in the UK series for his team Douglas Motorsport.
Following Gamble home on the road was Woodhead, however he received a five second penalty for exceeding the track limits. This gifted the podium position to Basey-Fisher to cap off a dream debut, with Woodhead ending up fifth behind Hillspeed's Nathan Harrison.
Douglas Motorsport's Andrew Watson took sixth ahead of a disappointed Fielding, with Elliot Paterson, Keith Donegan and Tom Jackson completing the top ten. Chadwick finished a lap down in eleventh after pitting to repair his bonnet, whilst completing the finishers also a lap down was Robertson, the Scotsman ending the race with the consolation of the fastest lap.
Speaking to TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk, racewinner Murray said: “It was very difficult to keep out of trouble, one or twice I nearly got put into all the carnage, but I managed to keep my nose clean and keep away from it. It was a really fun race though and i’m really delighted to get the win and start the championship on a high. Seven podiums in a row now in the championship and hopefully I can keep that going in the next one.”