“Yesss!!!” was the shout from James Taylor as he climbed out of his Ginetta G40 car having taken his maiden race win, after totally dominated the opening round of the 2019 Michelin Ginetta Junior championship at Brands Hatch.
he Rotherham 17 year-old, winner of the 2018 Ginetta Junior Scholarship, returning to the series for his second and final season eligible for the 14 to 17 year-olds championship, is one of the favourites for the 2019 title.
Lack-lustre pre-season testing caused Taylor’s confidence to suffer a hit, but he managed to get the car performing to his liking in time for qualifying when he really needed it.
Qualifying in very tricky, pouring rain conditions required a change in driving style, Taylor moving the brakes bias towards the rear allowed him to set the early pole position time, ahead by 1 second.
As others caught-up, his advantage was reduced until his pole position time was beaten, so went back out again: “I hooked a lap together to be 0.9 seconds ahead – it set my mind at rest!” as it secured his first-ever pole position in the championship.
“After my mediocre pre-season tests a sense of self-doubt had kicked in, but qualifying turned things around, I now knew I had a very good chance in race 1!”, Taylor revealed.
Although he didn’t want to get too excited, he was on the front row of the grid for the first time, it was raining, with a bumper 24-car field behind him so he had good reason to be nervous.
Especially with a prospective sponsor there watching his every move and Taylor needing a good performance to guarantee being able to compete in every round of the full season. He told himself: “This is good, I like the rain and this is our advantage it’s what I’ve waited for after all”.
As he lined up on the grid, so as not to concentrate too much on the chasing pack in his rear-view mirror, Taylor reached up and turned it so he could not see it, and instead would focus on setting decent lap times.
Making a brilliant start, Taylor took the lead with ease, and once he had a few race fastest laps under his belt, he could no longer resist peering into his door mirrors and seeing he was 2.5 seconds ahead of the other cars.
While it was a far from easy race, as he first had to negotiate a Safety Car restart, before keeping a hard-charging Zak O’Sullivan at bay in the closing stages, Taylor led every lap in a lights-to-flag, maiden victory to round 1.
Leading the championship overnight, Taylor lined up 3rd on the grid for round 2 and wanted to hold on to that position as much as he could especially with the race starting on a drying track that was still wet off the ‘racing line’, Taylor was thinking of the longer picture and accruing points.
That is why at the start he decided against going on to the wet line to challenge the leading two with an overtake move, and possibly going off at the first corner, so Taylor settled himself in 3rd-place.
After an initial 5 laps behind the Safety Car battle resumed and without trying too hard for the rest of the race he kept in touch with the leading pair, ready to pounce if either made a mistake.
Then on the last lap, as he braked for the first corner of the final lap, Taylor noticed that the brakes felt a bit ‘soft’ and not as responsive.
On the hill towards the Druids hairpin to see if he had imagined it, Taylor gave the brakes a ‘confidence tap’.
He felt nothing under his foot.
So as the car hurtled forward approaching Druids, Taylor really stamped on the brake pedal, ‘it went straight to the floor – nothing, no brakes at all’, a bit of quick thinking saw him throw the car into a spin, so the tyres dug into the gravel trap and it slowed sufficiently to nudge into the barriers.
His race ending prematurely, and therefore not scoring, rather than now having a 8 point lead at the top of the table, Taylor was now in 5th spot, 22 points adrift of the leader.
Post-race, when the mechanics at Richardson Racing examined the recovered car they discovered that the front brakes were all but dry of brake fluid, hence why Taylor found he had hardly any braking force!
The brakes must have been getting steadily worse as the brake fluid leaked or evaporated away, so just a matter of time before they failed and luckily it happened at the slowest bit of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
They also found out on that the brake bias adjuster mechanism was not functioning, so when Taylor thought he fine-tuned the brakes for the least aggressive, rear-ward set-up for the soaking-wet qualifying, the brakes were actually still set for maximum, dry-weather retardation…
This cheered-up Taylor massively, “had I done qualifying with the brake bias correctly to the rear, then rather than being on pole position by just 0.9 seconds, I would have had advantage of over 1.5 seconds!”
“I hadn’t been pushing in round 2, I was just thinking of the points and really feel gutted at non-scoring. Although the brake-bias news shows I have real speed.”
Taylor summed up, “In terms of racing and results, it was the best on Saturday, but the worst on Sunday. Nevertheless, it has convinced the sponsor to go for it, and they will support me over the rest of the season!”.
Sheffield’s Josh Rattican, a very successful young karter was making his circuit racing debut in the Ginetta Junior series.
Last year the 15 year-old was chosen by UK Motorsport’s governing body as their representative in the 2018 CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy where he finished 6th, and he was runner-up in the 2018 IAME X30 World Finals.
Enjoying the move up to Juniors, Rattican likes how much faster they are than his previous karts, and the prospect of competing against first year drivers and second year drivers like James Taylor.
Qualifying 14th for round 1, he managed to make places to end the race 11th and 4th-best rookie.
But it really came good in round 2 where he climbed from his grid-slot 15th start to a 7th-place finish when Rattican enjoyed a first visit to the Ginetta podium as the second best rookie, and is now a commendable 8th in the championship.