Ashington car racer Stuart Middleton races back to top of Ginetta Junior Championship
Ginetta Junior Championship title contender Stuart Middleton moved back to the top of the driver standings at his '˜home' circuit, Croft near Darlington, over the weekend thanks to a pair of excellent victories in rounds 10 and 11 of the campaign.
After scorching to pole position in qualifying on Saturday, 18th June, the 16-year-old from Ashington in Northumberland went on to control the opening encounter later in the day and then doubled-up with a pressure-filled win in the second of the weekend’s three outings.
Exasperatingly, Middleton’s bid for a third successive win – and a sixth of the season – was spoiled at the first corner of round 12 on Sunday, 19th June, when contact from a rival pitched his Ginetta into the path of oncoming traffic and the ensuing contact pushed him into the gravel and retirement.
Even so, the Douglas Motorsport driver did enough in the first two contests, and with his bonus point for pole position in qualifying, to depart his local track with a four point advantage at the top of the championship going into the six week summer break.
“We made pretty much the perfect start to a great weekend with pole position and two wins on Saturday”, said Middleton.
“We did exactly what we needed to do, we clawed back the points we lost during the previous couple of races and it felt fantastic to be back on the top step of the podium and to be back on top of the championship.
“I think I did pretty well in the second race considering the pressure behind, there was never any let up. I just had to keep concentrating, hold my lines and make no mistakes to get the job done. Race three was really frustrating, obviously, but we just need to hit back now at Snetterton after the summer break.”
Making a faultless start to Saturday, Middleton secured pole for the first of the weekend’s contests with a time of 1m39.891 seconds – locking out the top spot on the grid as the only driver to dip below the 1m40 second bracket.
At the beginning of the first of Saturday afternoon’s two races, he held the lead on the run into Clervaux and a tangle behind at the exit of the first turn enabled the Douglas Motorsport driver to open a 1.5 second advantage on the opening tour.
Setting fastest lap pace during the early going, Middleton increased his lead to 1.7 seconds on lap two and then controlled everything at the front to the finish on lap eight where he took the flag 0.8 seconds ahead for his fourth victory of 2016 – moving back into the outright points lead.
As in race one, at the beginning of round 11 three hours later Middleton again ensured he maintained his place at the head of the field from pole position and although under significant pressure throughout he didn’t put a wheel wrong on the way to win number five of the season.
Trading fastest laps with pursuing team-mate Daniel Harper early on, at the halfway point there was nothing to split the pair but Middleton never appeared under real threat either even though just a few tenths of a second separated the duo. At the chequered flag on lap eight, the Northumberland ace won by 0.5 seconds and just missed fastest lap by less than three hundredths of a second.
Frustratingly, his bid to conclude the weekend on a high in the third race ended in the gravel trap at the first corner when Middleton was turned around into the path of oncoming traffic and his car was rammed into retirement.
Having made a good start from fourth on the grid, he challenged on the inside for third on the run into Clervaux before contact from his left triggered the carnage.
There is now a six week break for the Ginetta Junior Championship with the second half of the season getting underway over the weekend 30th/31st July at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.