Jamie Caroline leads the way in an enthralling 2015 Kick Start Energy Ginetta Junior Championship season, which has seen record high grids producing the characteristic brand of action-packed racing that the series is loved for.
Grids of up to twenty-five of the fourteen to seventeen year old racers have battled it out over an ultra-competitive first half of the season, with ten different drivers gracing the outright podium and nineteen of them finishing within the top ten.
A quick start to the year gave Senna Proctor the early championship lead, however as spring turned to summer it’s been HHC Motorsport’s Caroline who has risen to the top thanks to four consecutive victories heading into the summer break.
Caroline had a relatively mixed start to the season, with a podium at the Brands Hatch opener being coupled with a penalty induced 20th at Donington Park, but after a return to the podium at Thruxton he has gone on to dominate proceedings at Oulton Park and Croft to build a thirty point advantage.
Proctor remains his closest challenger in the standings, despite a couple of poor weekends at Thruxton and Croft in which he failed to finish inside the top eight, with a pair of podium finishes at Oulton Park keeping him in touch.
That comes after a stunning start to the season for the Team BMR-backed driver, who kicked off proceedings with four consecutive podium finishes including wins at Brands and Donington, form he’ll be hoping to return to quickly when the action resumes in August.
Proctor’s JHR Developments team-mate Dan Zelos was right in the mix heading to Croft thanks to great consistency as the only driver to finish all the opening eight races inside the top ten – with that run including three visits to the podium.
A nightmare outing at Croft though, which saw power issues lead to a retirement and a 19th place finish, have dropped him to fifth in the points however and left him with a big task to get back in the title fight in the second half of the season.
Hot on the heels of Proctor now in the standings therefore is Sophia Floersch, the German rookie having been a real sensation so far this season with HHC, carding seven outright top five finishes including four podiums.
That included a sensational double victory around the fearsome Thruxton circuit that thrust her right into the championship picture, however Floersch’s challenge has come to a premature end with her decision to leave the series at the midway point.
The first race-winner of the season meanwhile was Billy Monger, who headed the pre-season favourites in the Brands Hatch opener and almost made it a double, with just a last corner lunge from Caroline stopping him.
From then, Monger has remained a constant presence at the head of the field with podium finishes at Donington, Thruxton and Croft, however a couple of tough races recently have dropped him back to fourth in the standings.
The pace-setter at Donington Park meanwhile was Jonathan Hadfield, who stormed from pole position to a maiden win for himself and the R&J Motorsport team. That hinted at a potential title push for the second year racer, however he has been unable to maintain it with just two top six finishes since.
Hadfield hasn’t been the only R&J contender towards the front of the pack however, with Lewis Brown and Kyle Hornby both being regular top six finishers, whilst taking maiden outright podium finishes at Donington Park and Croft respectively.
Joining Hornby as one of the top rookies so far this season has been Patrik Matthiesen, who started brightly with two outright podiums at Brands but has found going tougher since, and current Ginetta Scholarship winner Stuart Middleton who starred at Thruxton with pole position and an overall third place.
Dave Wooder has shown his potential with three top six qualifying results including pole at Oulton, but hasn’t been able to get a breakthrough race result. His Total Control Racing team-mates Matt Chapman and Cameron Roberts meanwhile have both been top ten finishers in qualifying and the races so far.
Will Tregurtha has finished in the top ten in half the races so far this year, twice more than Ben Green who produced one of the drivers of the season so far as he rose from 22nd to 9th at Croft, while Will Stacey, Alex Day, Sebastian Perez and Geri Nicosia have also featured in the top ten.
Rowan Bailey and Esmee Hawkey, both of JHR Developments, and R&J’s Frank Bird remain the only long-term drivers not to have broken into the top ten yet this season, though Bailey is on the cusp after finishing twelfth or thirteenth on five occasions so far.
There have been some absentees from the field, with Hillspeed and their drivers Harry Mailer and Ben Wallace, plus Tollbar’s Tristan Charpentier, not featuring since Donington Park. The grid was back to full strength at Croft though, with Charlie Fagg, Devlin DeFrancesco and Connor Grady making debuts.
It’s likely all three will feature at points over the remainder of the season, and there could be more new faces towards the end of the season as prospective drivers test the water ahead of 2016 campaigns.
In three of the last four years the driver leading the way at the halfway mark has gone on to the win the Junior title, and it certainly looks like Caroline’s championship to lose as the field heads to Snetterton, Knockhill, Rockingham and Silverstone before the season finale at Brands Hatch GP in October.
The full championship standings at the halfway mark of the season can be seen here.