Elite Motorsport’s James Hedley was crowned 2018 Ginetta Junior Winter Series champion after claiming two wins from three races at Brands Hatch.
Hedley recovered from a difficult start on Saturday to claim pole and victory in both Sunday races.
Red flags disrupted running throughout the weekend, and led to the cancellation of the second Saturday race.
The first red flag came in the closing stages of qualifying, when a spinning car came to a stop n a dangerous position. The session ended four minutes early, with Gus Burton earning pole for both Saturday races.
Douglas Motorsport team-mate Lorcan Hanafin lined up alongside him for race one, while Hedley could only manage P6 after an incident of his own at paddock hill bend.
Unfortunately for Burton, he couldn’t convert his maiden Ginetta Junior pole into victory. After a brief safety car for an incident further down the field, he ran wide and dropped down the order.
Ruben del Sarte inherited the lead but, in typical Ginetta Junior fashion, it wasn’t uncontested. Tom Emson, Harry Dyson, and Hedley all challenged for the lead, but del Sarte managed to hold on to take the first win of the Winter Series.
Emson finished top rookie in P2, with Dyson just beating Hedley to the podium and Burton recovering to finish P5, albeit 10 seconds behind the lead battle.
Two red flag incidents disrupted running early in the second race – when Burton was once again scheduled to take pole. The race was cancelled, bringing an early end to the first day of the series.
Sunday was a much smoother day for Hedley, but once again red flags limited running.
Qualifying was paused twice while cars were recovered from gravel traps, but the field enjoyed 10 minutes of green flag running at the end of the session.
Burton was on form again, but couldn’t quite match Hedley’s fastest and second fastest efforts. The Elite Motorsport driver earned pole for both Sunday races, with Burton set to start alongside him and Dyson third.
Dyson’s lap times were later disallowed, with the car deemed underweight due to the fact it had shed bodywork on track early in the session. Emson was promoted to P3, ahead of Hanafin, who was hoping to make up from a disappointing DNF in the opening race.
Race two was far from a simple affair for Hedley, who was challenged by Burton off the line.
After another red flag period – this time to repaired a tyre wall – the battle resumed, but a poor start from Hedley allowed Burton to claim the lead. Hedley found himself under attack from del Sarte, with the race one winner briefly claiming second before Hedley reclaimed the position.
The fight allowed Burton to build a small gap at the front of the field, but Hedley soon reeled the race leader back in. The pair were nose to tail in the final laps, with a good exit at Clearways on the final lap allowing Hedley to snatch victory by just 0.133s.
Del Sarte held off challenges from Emson to take third, with Hanafin following the pair across the line to take P5.
Another poor start in the final race of the weekend dropped Hedley behind Burton off the line, but the Douglas Motorsport driver’s advantage wouldn’t last long.
Hedley stayed close to Burton on track, but moved into the net-lead when Burton was handed a 10 second penalty for a false start.
Further back, title rival del Sarte was quickly working his way up through the order after a poor qualifying. He passed Emson for on-track P5 early on, but Hanafin put up more of a fight. The pair made contact as del Sarte made the move and Hanafin dropped down the order.
In the final five minutes, del Sarte passed Theo Edgerton for third on track, putting him just behind Hedley. Hedley, who up until this point had been content running behind Burton, opted to try to put a car between himself and del Sarte. He passed Burton through Druids on lap 12 of 16 and held the lead to the chequered flag.
Del Sarte’s second place put him three points behind Hedley in the championship standings.
Emson, who passed Edgerton late in the race, finished third in the championship, 16 points behind team-mate Hedley.
Burton’s penalty dropped him back to P5, behind top rookie Edgerton. He ended the weekend fourth in the points order.
Rookie honours fell on TCR’s Daniel Gale, who enjoyed a consistent weekend to earn three rookie class podiums. He finished fifth in the overall championship.
Hedley’s victory earns him 50% off the entry fee to the 2019 Ginetta Junior championship.