Published Monday, 23 April 2012
Well, a smaller but no less important invasion is underway within the UK's British Touring Car Package.
Irish motorsport competitors, whether on two wheels or four have always travelled across to the UK to compete and vice versa, but this year we seem to have particularly strong representation within the BTCC package.
The seeds were sown around two years ago when a group of Ginetta Junior cars were bought from the UK manufacturer with a view of setting-up and running an Irish version of the championship.
This was done and as the name suggests the championship is aimed at 14 to 17 year olds who drive identical Ginetta G40 cars.
One talent to emerge in 2010 was 17 year old Andy O'Brien, after signing a late deal to compete in what was then the newly launched Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship. Andy was one of the few drivers to enter the championship with no previous experience whatsoever, but proved to be one of the best naturally talented drivers.
O'Brien finished his maiden season a race winner, polesitter, lap record holder and crucially 2nd overall in the championship. Andy then went on to go one place better and win the Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship last year after a very entertaining battle with close rival Seán Doyle, and with it took his prize of a Ginetta G40 and registration for the 2012 Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge. Andy is currently lying 10th after one of ten rounds.
The inaugural 2010 champion Niall Murray has also joined the invasion and started his second season in the UK with a new team and high aspirations.
Running Murray in this years Championship are newcomers Douglas Motorsport based at Northamptonshire's Rockingham Raceway. Despite being newcomers to the series, Douglas Motorsport is far from inexperienced as it is owned and led by former McLaren Autosport award nominee turned leading driver development coach Wayne Douglas.
Murray has quickly become a favourite of the fans in his first season in the UK as he bagged two very impressive race victories over eventual champion Seb Morris.
Finishing the second half of 2011 on the podium no less than 6 times proves that Murray could be a real contender to take the title in 2012. Murray bolstered this opinion by scoring a win and a second place at the first round of the year at Brands Hatch.
Murray continued his strong form last weekend and scored another fantastic victory at round 3 of the Ginetta Junior UK series at Donington.
This leaves Murray in second position in the championship with everything to play for at the next round in Thruxton on the 28/29 of April.
Ginetta cars is starting to have a big influence on the UK motorsport scene and must be applauded for creating such a staircase of progression, which now leads to the winner of the Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship, winning a test in an NGTC British Touring Car, in association with Speedworks Motorsport Three drivers will be invited to a UK circuit where they will join the 2011 Ginetta GT Supercup champion, Adam Morgan in his NGTC specification Toyota Avensis, which made its debut at the opening round of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch on April 1st.
Ginetta Junior Ireland Class Principal Ann Stevens said "The support and encouragement we have received from Ginetta since starting our championship here in Ireland in 2009 has been wonderful. With the additional prize being to test in a BTCC car, our competitors will have the opportunity of advancing their racing careers further. We cannot thank Ginetta enough for their ongoing support."