Young driving duo defy the conditions

Hillspeed's Pepe Massot in action at a wet Thruxton.
Hillspeed's Pepe Massot in action at a wet Thruxton.

Hillspeed’s Nathan Harrison consolidated his top six placing in the Ginetta Junior Championship at a wet and windy Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire with a best finish of fifth – second in the Rookie Class – during a rain-lashed sixth round of the campaign.

While qualifying didn’t go fully to plan for either Harrison or team-mate Pepe Massot, both first-year drivers for the Hathersage-based team produced superb performances for the Hathersage squad in incredibly difficult race conditions to each secure healthy points finishes.

Starting Saturday afternoon’s race from the fifth row of the grid, an outing in which the Clerk of the Course ruled all drivers had to compete on treaded tyres due to the inclement weather, 15-year-old Harrison progressed into ninth on lap one before usurping Keith Donegan for eighth at mid-distance.

Massot, meanwhile, wasn’t able to capitalise on his top four starting slot and slipped to fifth initially before being edged back into sixth on lap five. As the race neared its conclusion on lap ten, the fight for sixth closed up with the Spaniard just ahead of then points leader Sennan Fielding and Harrison.

Heading up Woodham Hill on the approach to Club Chicane for the final time on lap 11, the trio ran almost three abreast into the braking zone. While Massot held on to sixth and second in the Rookie classification, Fielding didn’t get the best drive out of the corner and that gave Harrison all the invitation he needed to grab seventh on the line by a mere 0.088 seconds.

Non-stop rain on Sunday morning led to a fully wet track for round six with Harrison lining-up on the fourth row in seventh place ahead of Massot in ninth. With no let-up in the rain or the harsh winds, officials elected to begin the race from behind the Safety Car and when racing proper started on lap three, Harrison moved into the top five before challenging for fourth at Allard next time around.

Running fifth for the remainder of the race, the Oxfordshire driver did come under pressure from William Palmer during the closing stages but held firm to retain his hard-earned fifth place finish by 0.4 seconds – second in the Rookie class.

Massot, hampered by a heavily steamed-up windscreen caused by an issue with the demister on his Ginetta G40, slipped to eighth place early on but did battle into seventh before being edged back to eighth by Fielding who was recovering after an earlier moment. Added to his round five result, the finish enabled car racing rookie Massot to conclude the weekend back in the championship top ten.

“We’ve had exceptionally difficult circumstances but we’re very pleased with the performances in incredibly tough conditions”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw. “Other than the official test a few weeks ago, this was Nathan’s first visit to Thruxton while Pepe hadn’t even seen the track before going out into free practice!

Rounds seven and eight are on June 9-10 at Oulton Park.