Two more podium finishes for Stuart Middleton

Ashington racing driver Stuart Middleton on the podium. Picture by Jakob Ebrey Photography
Ashington racing driver Stuart Middleton on the podium. Picture by Jakob Ebrey Photography
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Northumberland racing driver Stuart Middleton added two more podium finishes to his season tally at a gloriously warm and sunny Oulton Park Island circuit over the weekend to keep his 2016 championship bid on track.

Wrapping up the fourth event of the campaign second in the driver standings, just a single point shy of the series lead, the 16-year-old Douglas Motorsport racer from Ashington goes into his ‘home’ race meeting at Croft Circuit near Darlington later this month confident of a return to winning ways there.

“We did the best we could do this weekend with where we qualified, I’m happy with how the car was and in my driving – we did everything we could to take as many points as possible,” he said.

“We were a bit unlucky in qualifying and that kind of set the tone for the weekend really. It could’ve been better but, at the end of the day, it could have been much worse.”

Running in the top four in pre-event testing and then heading free practice on Saturday morning, Middleton had to settle for the sixth fastest time in qualifying but actually began race one, round eight, from fifth on the grid due to a penalty for title rival Dave Wooder from the previous event.

Quickly moving up into fourth, Middleton held position just behind the top three and stayed there for the next few laps, bottled up behind Seb Perez.

Building up to a potential move, Middleton took his chance on lap six to grab third place and remained there to the flag on lap eight.

Chalking-up his sixth podium visit of the season, the reigning Ginetta Junior Winter Champion lapped faster than the top two finishers and delivered a best lap time just 0.2 seconds shy of the fastest lap of the race.

Beginning Sunday afternoon’s ninth round, which was televised live on ITV4, from third on the grid, Middleton unfortunately slipped to fourth off the start and an attempt to try and re-challenge for third at Old Hall was not successful.

Running close behind the second placed battle between Perez and Charlie Fagg, he was visibly much faster than the pair and piled on the pressure as the race entered lap two.

Then, at the hairpin on the second tour, Perez and Fagg tangled but Middleton managed to expertly avoid being caught up by turning tighter over the kerb on the inside, just missing the stricken cars.

Emerging from the corner in second place, Middleton remained there to the conclusion, which actually came under safety car conditions on lap seven following an earlier incident.

“I think there might have been one or two opportunities to try and get the win if the race had been re-started, but you never know,” added Middleton.

“I’m just looking forward to Croft now. We have a test there on Wednesday. I haven’t been there since last season when we raced, so it’ll be good to be back on the track. Hopefully we can try and go for two wins there in a couple of weeks.”

Rounds 10 and 11 of the Ginetta Junior Championship season will take place over the weekend June 18 and 19 at Croft in North Yorkshire.