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.

"For me though, I think what pleased me most was that over the last race I was able to keep up with the leaders and not let them get away and at the end I wasn't far off getting the fastest lap either. That was very pleasing."

Paddy will now be back in action in two weeks time when the MSA British Touring Car Championship-support series reconvenes at Donington Park on April 16-17. Paddy scored his first-ever Ginetta Junior points there at the end of 2010 and is looking forward to returning to the Leicestershire-based track.

"Last year in the practice sessions we were sixth quickest. I learned the track very quickly and we had a good race there too. I was able to come pretty much from the back up to ninth place," he stated.

"It is a circuit I enjoy very much. It is a drivers' circuit and is very fast and quick. You have to be very committed. That is what I love about it. Hopefully we can aim for a podium there and possibly even a win."

Team owner Kelvin Jones meanwhile was really encouraged by Paddy's speed at Brands Hatch and he also has high hopes for rounds three and four at Donington Park.

"I think Paddy did well last weekend. His times were consistent and in the second race he was brilliant and caught up with the leaders," Kelvin stated. "When we looked at the times the leaders were actually slower at that point. I thought maybe it was because they were battling and slowing each other down. But it wasn't. Paddy was just very quick.

"Then when he caught up to them he eventually made his way up to fifth. However on the last lap the car cut out. That was really disappointing for him. But on the plus side he still went very well. I have always thought the speed was there. He just needs more time in the seat and with that - and the experience that will give him - he will move him up the grid.

"I am expecting more of the same at Donington now. It is one of his favourite tracks. We are not far off either what I think the set-up should be to suit him. Hopefully we can carry on from where we left off in that second race. I am really looking forward to it."



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