Last corner contact between Lando Norris and Jamie Caroline handed Dan Zelos a second victory of the season in a Ginetta Junior Championship thriller at Rockingham that featured ten changes of the lead through the race.
The opening race of the weekend had seen Norris and Caroline duelling it out for the lead for the duration of the race, before contact into the Brook chicane for the last time allowed Zelos, who had kept right onto their tail in the latter stages, to storm through for an unexpected victory.
It proved to be an action-packed Junior race from the word go, with front-row starters and HHC Motorsport team-mates Norris and James Kellett running side-by-side into Deene for the first time – the latter running too wide on the outside though and spinning back to seventeenth.
Caroline emerged from Deene in the lead, before switching places with Norris twice more by the end of the lap, a precursor to the momentous battle that would play out between them over the next nine laps.
After a couple of attempts over the next few laps, Norris finally found his way through again with a dive into Tarzan on lap six, and then produced a replica of the move a lap later after Caroline had got back ahead into the Deene hairpin.
Caroline was back at the field on the run out of the Brook chicane at the end of lap seven, however once again Norris hit straight back into Deene. By this point, the front two certainly won’t alone, with a four-car train queuing up behind them headed by Zelos.
Zelos had been battling with Jamie Chadwick and Ryan Hadfield over third, the latter having briefly sat in second on the opening lap after brilliantly climbing from seventh on the grid. Unfortunately for him though, contact as he tried to close the door on Chadwick spun him out of podium contention on lap eight.
Ahead, the lead changed hands once again on lap nine when a little tap from Caroline into Deene helped his seize the advantage. After running on his bumper for the next lap and a half, Norris fought back with a last chance move into the Brook chicane on the final lap.
The HHC Motorsport racer got a nose down the inside as they got set to blast onto the banking, however a touch between the two sent them both spinning around. Zelos was in prime position to seize the opportunity, moving past both to take the victory.
“It’s all a bit of a blur really,” a delighted Zelos told TCF. “I got a half decent start but then got hung out to dry on the first lap. I had to battle to get those places back up again, and managed to pick my way through before the front two got away.
“I got onto the back of them and just waited. They were both pushing each other, both making mistakes, and I knew something was going to happen. As I thought they might, the front two made contact and I managed to get a win. We got the luck today, and I’m delighted.”
In the last corner melee, championship leader Jack Mitchell, who had been quite quiet at the bottom of the top six throughout the race, stormed through to grab his tenth podium finish of the season in second to move him a big step closer to the driver’s title.
Completing the podium on-track meanwhile after a stunning recovery drive was Kellett, the HHC racer bouncing back from his lap one mistake to move into the top ten by the end of lap three, before climbing up the order into fifth on the final lap before the last corner chaos. Post-race though, he was awarded a thirty second time penalty for a false start, demoting him to sixteenth in the classified results.
Chadwick therefore was promoted to third at the finish, her fourth podium finish of the season making it a one-two-three finish for JHR, with Caroline able to recover to an eventual fourth place finish. Norris was three places further back meanwhile behind Jack Rawles and Ben Pearson.
Hadfield recovered from his spin to take eighth, with Alex Sedgwick and Billy Monger completing the top ten ahead Matt Chapman and Lewis Brown. Next up were Jonathan Hadfield and Harry Mailer, those two having come to blows mid-race, while in a lowly seventeenth behind debutant Esmee Hawkey and Kellett was Senna Proctor after a late spin. Flashman Finneran completed the finishers.