Following in the footsteps of the likes of Tom Ingram, Seb Morris, Charlie Robertson and Jamie Caroline, Will Tregurtha has added his name to the roll call of champions in the Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship after emerging victorious from a thrilling 2016 season.
In a season which saw the stakes raised with an expanded 25 race calendar including triple-header meetings and the first reverse grid races in championship history, the battle for the title boiled down to a straight duel for supremacy between Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton.
Both second year contenders, the duo immediately established themselves as the drivers to beat as they shared the victories during the season opener at Brands Hatch, with reigning Winter Series champion Middleton taking the early advantage with wins in each of the opening three meetings.
Tregurtha would hit back in perfect style at Oulton Park in June though, converting his maiden series pole position into a dominant double victory – a result that would prove to be a good omen with four of the previous five champions having won both races in Cheshire en-route to the title.
Not deterred by his rival’s success though, Middleton scored a double win of his own next time out at Croft to retake the points lead – but that would crucially be the last meeting of the season that the Douglas Motorsport racer would leave with the championship advantage.
Victory in the Croft closer would begin a pivotal run of six podium finishes in eight races for Tregurtha, which would start to build him a healthy margin in the standings as Middleton failed to finish inside the top six on four occasions during the same spell.
While the duo left Rockingham tied on race wins, podium finishes and laps led, it was Tregurtha’s superior consistency that would ultimately allow him to secure the championship honours with a weekend to spare, having finished outside the top five just once in the 23 races he contested.
Tregurtha’s victory meant HHC Motorsport successfully defended the crown won with Jamie Caroline in 2015, making it four drivers’ titles in the last five years for the Yorkshire squad, who would also add the Teams Championship for the first time since 2013.
For Middleton meanwhile, a frustrating second half of the season would be brought to a close in style, with a seventh victory of the year during the Brands Hatch finale meaning he would end the campaign with one more race victory than the champion, who skipped the finale.
While those two fought it out for the title, two drivers who were left to settle for a scrap for third in the final standings were Lewis Brown and Dave Wooder, who had both headed into the season with realistic championship ambitions with HHC Motorsport and Total Control Racing respectively.
Both drivers got their maiden series victories early in the campaign, with Brown emerging victorious at Donington Park before Wooder secured his breakthrough win next time out at Thruxton, with superior podium consistency meaning the latter had the advantage through the year.
Wooder would go on to perfectly showcase the highs and lows of motorsport across the final two meetings though. After a double win at Silverstone helped him secure the biggest points haul in championship history, he was then ruled out of the Brands Hatch finale following an incident.
That ensured the final position in the championship top three went the way of Brown, who brought his three year spell in the series to the perfect conclusion with the final win of the season as part of his best ever weekend in the championship during the Brands Hatch finale.
While the championship top four were bringing their time in the series to an end, a host of drivers were launching their time in the series, with this year’s Rookie contingent led by the top three drivers from last year’s Scholarship contest, Daniel Harper, Seb Priaulx and Harry King.
The Scholarship winner was Harper and he was the first of the trio to burst into the spotlight with a sensational weekend at Donington Park, in which he took three outright podiums including a maiden victory in only his fifth race, which matched the series record for the quickest win by a rookie.
That success also made Harper the first ever Scholar to take a victory in their first season and the Douglas Motorsport ace would go on to become the most successful Scholar ever as he accumulated seven outright podium finishes, adding a second win at Snetterton, and a top five points finish.
It wasn’t all plain-sailing for Harper however, with some tough outings in the second half of the campaign meaning it all closed up in the Rookie title contest heading towards the Brands finale, with Priaulx and King closing the gap after gracing the top step of the podium themselves.
Ironically it was a post-race penalty for Harper that presented King with his maiden victory at Snetterton, before he added another success at Rockingham, while Priaulx bounced back from having a win taken away at Knockhill to secure a breakthrough win at Silverstone.
The trio were the clear dominant force in the Rookie Cup meanwhile as they shared 20 of the 25 class victories between themselves, with Harper eventually coming away as the champion, while Priaulx hit back in style by securing the season-ending Winter Series honours.
A total of nine different drivers would secure outright race wins over the course of the campaign, comfortably beating the previous championship high of six, with the final two drivers to grace the top step of the podium being JHR Developments pair Geri Nicosia and Seb Perez.
While their victories would come on the same weekend during the trip north of the border to Knockhill, they came in wildly different circumstances, with Perez taking a dominant lights-to-flag success, while Nicosia’s win came following a post-race penalty for on-the-road victor Priaulx.
That gives Nicosia the strange honour of being a Ginetta Junior race-winner without ever leading a lap in the series, but that result came as part of a double podium in Scotland that was the highlight of a consistent campaign that almost resulted in a top five points finish.
Perez meanwhile had a slower start to the campaign than anticipated with just one top six finish in fourteen races, but pole position at Thruxton showed his potential pace and he was able to show it more in the closing meetings as he followed his win with three more rostrum finishes.
Two other second year contenders were able to grace the overall podium during the campaign, with Charlie Fagg notching top threes at Oulton Park and Silverstone as part of a strong season with HHC, while the ever-improving Connor Grady’s deserved breakthrough came at Knockhill.
Two drivers who were expected to be podium contenders this season but couldn’t break into the top three were JHR duo Kyle Hornby and Cameron Roberts, with the latter getting as close as he could with a pair of fourth place finishes during a campaign which only lasted six meetings.
Hornby meanwhile had headed into the season with good momentum after taking a pair of podium finishes and a pole position in 2015, but there was no repeat of those heroics as a subdued campaign saw him break into the top six only three times across the eight weekends he contested.
In the Rookie ranks meanwhile, there were seven other drivers who featured on the class podium across the campaign – including Max Bird who kicked off the season in superb style with the opening Rookie win of the season, one of four rostrum finishes during his seven weekend spell in the series.
Two other drivers took a class podium in their first races in the series, with Olli Caldwell enjoying a sparking debut at Croft with an outright top five finish, whilst Harry Dyson made an impressive bow at Silverstone less than a week after his fourteenth birthday.
One of the star performers in the Rookie class over the first half of the season meanwhile was Tom Gamble, who took eight podium finishes across the opening six weekends, but missed out on taking a victory with HHC before making a premature exit from the series.
Namesake Tom Wood was one of the top Rookie’s throughout the season meanwhile, with class wins at Oulton Park and Knockhill coming alongside a pair of superb overall podium finishes, which included a memorable second place behind his Elite Motorsport team-mate King at Rockingham.
Alongside Priaulx, two other drivers with famous racing heritages also climbed aboard the top step of the Rookie podium this year, with Enzo Fittipaldi notching a breakthrough win at Croft before he also left the series early, while Jordan Collard’s progress was rewarded with victory at Knockhill.
Greg Johnson and Anthony Ayres also made big strides forwards during part-campaigns this year, with both closing in on the overall top ten by the season’s end, whilst Dhyllan Skiba and Charlie Digby showed signs of potential as they contested half a season apiece.
With more different race-winners than ever before, twenty separate drivers taking top ten finishes and thrilling battles for both the main title and the Rookie honours, the 2016 season will go down as one of the most competitive and memorable in Ginetta Junior Championship history.
The standout campaign further proved the series is as exciting and close-fought as ever, and that is all set to continue in 2017 with high interest in the series from the next batch of racing newcomers, whilst some star talents like Priaulx and King are set to return for outright title challenges.
Full championship standings at the end of the season can be found here, while you can read our champion interview with Will Tregurtha by clicking here. Keep an eye on TCF in the coming weeks as well for a full statistical breakdown of the 2016 campaign.