Patrick McClughan maintained the momentum from the end of last season to make a strong start to the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship last weekend at Brands Hatch, running as high as fifth in the second race.
Paddy, who made his debut in the Ginetta Junior Championship for 14-17 year-olds twelve months ago and who is racing as part of a two-car Kelvin Jones Motorsport line-up this year, made a solid start to the weekend and was ninth in free practice and 13th in qualifying, only four tenths of a second off a place in the top ten.
The 15-year-old, who was the youngest runner in the Ginetta Juniors last year, then made good progress and hauled himself up to eighth in the first race, successfully avoiding the first lap carnage that left three of his rivals on the sidelines and brought out the red flags.
“Race 1 was very dramatic,” recalled Paddy, who attends Campbell College in Belfast. “I got a very good start, even though I got boxed in a little bit. There was a massive incident at the first corner, which I was really close to getting tangled up in. But fortunately I managed to miss it and then the safety car came out. I think we were running around 13th at that stage.
“Once the race re-started we just basically took one position at a time and I carved my way through the field and got up to eighth place. I just drove as quickly and hard as I could.”
Paddy then went even better in the second race, moving up to tenth on lap 2, ninth on lap 5 and eighth on lap 6, before then catching the leaders on lap 14 and running as high as fifth. Sadly though a mechanical failure put him out on the final lap, and while the Cimpina Ltd-backed youngster was disappointed, he still had plenty to be positive about. Indeed not only did he equal his best result from 2010 having finished eighth in race 1, but he also got under last year's lap record, his quickest lap a 56.773 seconds.
“I was driving the car as fast as I could in race two and I eventually got up to fifth,” he continued. “There was a four-way battle for the lead and I caught up to be right on the back of it. However on the last lap with one corner to go we suffered a mechanical failure, which put me out of the race. I was gutted not to finish and very gutted for the team because I wanted to repay them with a really good result. But next time we will do that.
“Overall I think the weekend was very positive despite some of the hiccups we might have had.
“This year I feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more relaxed. We did a lot of pre-season testing with the team and we learned more about the car, the new gearbox and the new tyres – and we were very confident we could be amongst the top guys come the end of the weekend, and so we were.
“We made a lot of steps and during the course of the weekend we got quicker and quicker. Everyone at Kelvin Jones Motorsport were absolutely brilliant - they never stopped from the word go and were always making sure the car was perfect. The mechanics were just awesome.