Nearly twenty cars will line up at Brands Hatch this weekend (29/30 March) as the 2014 Ginetta Junior Championship bursts into life, with the tenth running of the popular one-make series set to be one of the most intriguing in recent years.
Last season, it was the turn of Harry Woodhead to waltz away with the coveted Junior title, with ten consecutive wins over the first half of the season leaving
him uncatchable, making it two titles in a row for HHC Motorsport.
With the top five from last season’s championship moving onto pastures new for 2014, including Woodhead to the Ginetta GT4 Supercup and Will Palmer and Tom Jackson to the BRDC Formula 4 Championship, it’s three of the stand-out rookies from last year that headline the entry for the upcoming campaign.
James Kellett heads into the year as the pre-season title favourite following a superb 2013, in which he took an outright podium finish on the second weekend and a maiden win at Rockingham. Those results helped him to the Rookie Cup honours, and four wins in four races later gave him the Winter Series title.
Kellett returns to the series with HHC Motorsport, and will be hoping to continue HHC’s incredible run in the series, the Yorkshire-based outfit having won the last two main titles and last two Winter crowns.
Aiming to wrestle the title from HHC’s grasp will be JHR Developments, who house two drivers who will be taking the fight straight to Kellett from the opening race, Jack Mitchell and Jamie Chadwick.
Mitchell was the first rookie to take a race win last season, picking up the victory in race two at Snetterton. That was one of four podium finishes as a privateer entrant, and that experience, coupled with a move to a front-running outfit, should lead to a title challenge.
Chadwick meanwhile had a mixed first year with JHR as the Ginetta Scholarship winner. While the results she wanted didn’t come her way during the main campaign, two podium finishes in the Winter Series has filled her with confidence for a championship charge in 2014.
Hoping to join HHC and JHR in the championship battle are new-for-2014 team R & J Motorsport, named after brothers Ryan and Jonathan Hadfield, who will be joined in a strong three car line-up by Ben Pearson.
Pearson and Ryan H return for their second full seasons after picking up plenty of top ten finishes en-route to eighth and eleventh in the final standings respectively, while Jonathan H entered the fray for the final three meetings. All three hope to be in the mix for race wins over the course of the year.
Two more returning drivers hoping to break onto the podium are Jack Rawles and William Taylforth. Rawles took five top six finishes last season, and will once again run as a privateer this year, while Taylforth will act as Kellett’s rear-gunner at HHC as he gains experience following a part-campaign in 2013. Another late-comer in 2013 to return for a first full season this time out is Tom Brown, who will return with Tollbar Racing.
Just as exciting as the main championship battle will be the fight for top rookie, with nearly a dozen young racers joining the Juniors this season hoping to make an impression as they embark on their first car-racing campaigns.
Alex Sedgwick heads into the season as this year’s Scholarship-backed entrant, joining his predecessor Chadwick at JHR. Sedgwick hopes to be challenging for the Rookie Cup title, and is joined in the JHR camp by fellow newbie Dan Zelos, who has shown some great potential during pre-season testing.
Alongside Sedgwick, two others from the final four from the Scholarship are entering the championship, Jamie Caroline and Matt Chapman. Both have joined forces with series newcomers Total Control Racing and some promising winter testing shows they will be contenders for Rookie class wins.
Hoping to make it a three team fight for Rookie honours will be former champions Hillspeed, who have a three-car entry with Harry Mailer, Benjamin Wallace and the championship’s first Brazilian racer Pedro Cardoso. Taking them on as privateer entrants will be Lewis Brown, Senna Proctor and Billy Monger
Alongside the full-season entrants, there are two exciting talents joining the grid later in the season. World karting star Lando Norris is expected to hook up with HHC for the second half of the season and is likely to star, while Esmee Hawkey will become the championship’s second female driver, racing with BTCC outfit AMD Tuning for the final three weekends.
With such a large, competitive grid forming for the season, fans will be hoping 2014 will see a hard-fought, nail-biting championship battle like we saw in 2010 and 2012, rather than a runaway champion dominating proceedings, similar to 2011 and 2013.
The 2014 Ginetta Junior Championship starts this weekend (29/30 March) with Rounds 1 and 2 at Brands Hatch. The series will follow the British Touring Car Championship across the country for ten meetings, returning to Brands for the final rounds on October 11/12.