Niall Murray continued his strong start to the 2012 Ginetta Junior Championship with a second victory of the season in Round Three at Donington Park, however an exclusion from Round Four leaves the Irishman a frustrated second in the championship standings.
Murray's weekend didn't start in the best fashion, with budgetary restrictions meaning he could only take part in two of the four test sessions available on the Thursday prior to the meeting, before having to also miss Saturday morning's practice when his car incurred electrical trouble in the first lap of the session. After these troubles, Murray still managed to put in a competitive qualifying performance, putting himself fifth and eighth on the grid for the two races.
A fantastic start in the opening race saw Douglas Motorsport’s Murray storm from fifth to first on the opening lap, after a great move around the outside at the first corner put him into second, before a slick move at Coppice saw him pass George Gamble for the lead.
Gamble got back the lead soon after and fought back on lap seven, the former Ginetta Junior Ireland champion looking to repeat his move at Coppice. Second time round it resulted in contact though, with Gamble turning into the apex where Murray's car was already alongside.
As a result Gamble ran off circuit and was collected by the chasing pack of cars, resulting in several cars being damaged and the race being stopped. Murray was later declared the winner for his second win of the season, though did receive three penalty points for the incident.
Murray said: “I am delighted with my second win of the season but I feel the three penalty points were extremely unfair. I made a fair move on George and it was unfortunate that contact was made.”
Another great getaway in the second race saw Murray storm from eighth to third on the opening lap, before passing Charlie Robertson to take second on lap three. On the following lap, Robertson attempted to get back past at the final chicane, but made contact with the back of Murray's car twice, pushing him into a spin.
Murray rejoined in tenth and quickly fought his way back through the field. On lap seven, Murray challenged Robertson at the Old Hairpin for sixth, though contact under braking resulted in Robertson going off circuit, Murray finished the race in sixth position, however post-race an official protest from Robertson's team against Murray saw him excluded from the results and given four penalty points.
Murray commented: “I was running bumper to bumper with Charlie through the Craner Curves and as I attempted to move to the inside of the circuit for the Old Hairpin, Charlie broke much earlier than I expected and I caught the rear of his car. For the second time during the weekend I was given penalty points and this time it was four. I had to admit it was my mistake but I think it is very unusual for four points to be handed out.”
Having picked up seven penalty points during the weekend, one of six different drivers to recieve points from the weekend, Murray was docked 21 championship points, in addition to the eighteen points he lost following his exclusion. As a result, Murray slips to second place in the championship.
Murray reflected: “Clearly this weekend is a missed opportunity, we had great pace in each race and we should be leaving here with a strong championship lead, but I can't turn back the clock!
“I seriously considered quitting the series because of the events during the weekend but after discussion with my family we have decided to continue and try to challenge once more for the championship.”