1st Central racing driver Sebastian Priaulx has started his 2017 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship campaign in sensational style with a double pole position and a dominant race victory on the opening weekend of the season at Brands Hatch (01/02 April).
Priaulx would head to Kent with fond memories of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, with the short, fast 1.2 mile layout having been the scene of both his car-racing debut twelve months ago, and also his crowning as the Ginetta Junior Winter Series champion in November.
Following a productive day of running in Friday testing, the 16 year old would start the weekend as he meant to go on by topping the timesheets in the fifteen minute morning practice session, before repeating the feat in supreme style in qualifying.
Priaulx would produce a blistering lap time of 56.845s to head the field by three tenths of a second and secure a superb double pole position, with his dominance highlighted by the fact the same margin of time would split the next ten cars on the grid.
The conditions would change for the opening race of the weekend later that day however, with earlier rainfall ensuring Priaulx would be tackling tricky, slippery conditions as the Guernseyman lined up on pole position in his JHR Developments prepared Ginetta G40.
A brilliant launch off the line would see Priaulx lead the field around the world famous Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, however as the track conditions constantly evolved, a small moment would see him slip to second a couple of laps later.
The former karting champion would immediately start piling the pressure on the new leader though, maintaining a close challenge for a number of laps before the safety car emerged for a lengthy spell – with the action eventually resuming with only four laps left.
Priaulx would go on to excel in the closing stages as the weather conditions worsened, beautifully mastering the grip as the rain showers increased and taking the challenge right to the leader, with a sensational move at the final corner almost paying off.
Storming right around the outside through McLaren into Clearways, Priaulx got his nose in front heading onto the main straight before contact to the rear of his car dramatically spun him around a full 360 degrees, though fortunately he was able to recover and take fourth position at the flag.
Priaulx would hit back from that disappointment in perfect style under the glorious Kent sunshine and in front of the live ITV4 television cameras on Sunday; though it wouldn’t all go his way as he initially lost the race lead off the start line.
The reigning Rookie Cup vice-champion would waste no time in regaining the advantage though, pulling off a perfectly executed switchback manoeuvre heading up the hill into Druids on lap two to take a lead he would maintain for the remainder of the race.
A composed, mature performance would see him pull clear of his pursuers and post the fastest lap of the race on his way to a 3.7 second victory; much to the delight of his family, friends and supporters watching on as part of a bumper crowd trackside and a huge television audience on ITV4.
The weekend’s results mean Priaulx leaves Brands Hatch as the early championship leader heading into the second meeting of the season at Donington Park in Leicestershire over Easter Weekend (15/16 April).
Sebastian Priaulx: “It’s been a fantastic weekend to start the season. The car has been perfect throughout and I can’t thank my engineer Jordan and the JHR Developments team enough. I felt really good in the car and qualifying showed that, I was delighted to get the double pole position.
“The opening race was frustrating, but I could have very easily ended the race in the gravel so I’m pleased to have taken fourth. It was one of those races, but I put it behind me and focused on the second race.
“I didn’t get the best of starts, but I got the position back quickly which was key. I cleared my head, focused on the road in front and brought the car home for the win. It’s a fantastic feeling for me and my family, and we can’t thank all my sponsors and partners enough. Roll on Donington Park!”