Ginettas: Declan Jones to the forefront at Rockingham
19 September 2011
Declan Jones sent out a clear warning of his future potential during rounds fifteen and sixteen of the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship at Rockingham last weekend.
Declan, who has graduated to the Ginetta Junior Championship for 14-17 year-olds this season and who switched to running under the Westbourne Motorsport-banner at the Corby-based circuit, made his mark almost immediately. Indeed despite having never seen the track before until Friday, he used the day to quickly get to grips with the layout and in free practice on Saturday headed the times until being bumped to third right near the end.
The Chicago Soft-backed youngster then ran right at the front in qualifying and while he eventually had to settle for ninth, on a 1 minute 37.626 seconds, he was less than three tenths off a place in the top-five, a great effort, especially as the top-ten was covered by just under half a second.
“I was probably one of the only people that came here this weekend and hadn't seen the track or had any testing here,” Declan said. “I was quite shocked when I saw I was P1 in practice. At first I thought one of the numbers had fallen off! But once I carried on seeing it, I was really pleased. I thought I had finished in P1 when I came in after practice, but I got pipped and pushed to P3 – still it was a good boost.
“In qualifying I set my time all on my own. I didn't get a tow off anyone and was again in P1 at one point. However then I got caught up with two of my rivals and we were all jostling for position and trying to get a tow of each other and that was when I slipped back. I was happy with ninth though - my best qualifying result of the season.”
Going into the first race of the weekend, the Liverpudlian was bullish about his prospects and a strong start saw him move to fifth by the first corner. Unfortunately though, the next few turns didn't go to plan and after being run into by three of his rivals, his Ginetta G40J was left seriously damaged and he eventually had to call it a day on lap 6.
“I made a great start and went down the inside of a lot of people. I was right up behind [George] Gamble, but then [Jake] Giddings went into the back of me and pushed me straight on,” Declan recalled. “I went wide and as I came back on and went into the next right hander, a bit of bonnet got caught under my right front tyre. I had a major lock-up, but slowed it enough and got through the corner.
“Then I was t-boned by Myles [Collins]. That pushed me off again and when I came back on, Tom [Howard] took the rear bumper off. After that the car was just undriveable with all the damage and I ended up having to park it.”
The next day, Declan was determined to bounce back and in the second race, which was screened live on UK television on ITV4, he did just that. Indeed he gained three spots on the opening lap and he eventually finished seventh following a good scrap late on with championship leader, Seb Morris and Tom Howard.
“It was a good race today,” Declan continued. “I was running sixth and was catching the top-five, slowly eating away at their lead. But then I made a little mistake and ran wide and picked up some dirt on my tyres.
“At that point Seb and Tom caught up to me. Seb managed to get passed, but I held off Tom. Full credit to him as it was a clean fight. I just put the car in the right place though and stopped it in the corners so he couldn't do the switch back on me. I defended well.
“All-in-all this weekend has been a massive confidence booster. Yes, it was eventful and a bit up and down. But it was still very good and it has made me realise that I can do it and that I have got the pace.”
Declan will now resume his campaign in the Ginettas in two weeks time, when the MSA British Touring Car Championship-support series heads back to Brands Hatch for rounds 17 and 18, the penultimate meeting of the year. Unlike at the start of the season though, the action will take place on the longer 4.206 kilometre GP layout, as opposed to the short 1.929 kilometre Indy track.
“I am looking forward to it,” Declan stated. “It is another track I don't know. The Indy layout is very different to the GP. But at the end of the day it is just another series of corners and that is the way I have to look at it. It was the same in karting. I often had to learn on the Friday. I will just get on with it. I am hoping for a top five or a podium there. That is what I have got to aim for now towards the end of the year.”
Declan's dad, manager and chief mechanic, Kelvin Jones meanwhile was very pleased to see his son make yet more progress following on from that fifth place finish at Knockhill earlier this month.
“We are really happy, and even though we didn't get another fifth, speed wise we are there now,” Kelvin said. “It was great to be so quick in practice. That was a real turn around.
“Qualifying was also pretty mega. Just five tenths split the first ten. That was how close it was. The first race was tough on Saturday. But we went back out today and made our point. Dec drove a really sensible race and got seventh.
“In the end it was a very promising weekend and the times were really good. He is made up with the car and we know now that we are on the money.
“It was great working with the Westbourne Motorsport guys again too and good to run under their name for the first time. I want to thank them for all their assistance. They have helped us move forward. Now we have Brands in two weeks time and Dec is really fired up for it.”