It has been more than eight months since James Hedley claimed the 2019 Ginetta Junior title at Brands Hatch, but the 2020 season is finally set to get underway at Donington Park this weekend.
The field boasts more than a dozen drivers making their first steps into car racing, in the hopes of following in the footsteps of the likes of Lando Norris and Tom Ingram.
Among them are around eight drivers heading into their second season in the championship, as well as a handful of other drivers who competed in one-off races last year.
While each of the seven teams set to compete in the championship this year has talented drivers, the big question heading into the year will be can R Racing topple Elite Motorsport as the team to beat.
Elite Motorsport has won the drivers’ championship the past two seasons and have been at the front of the field for years. While Douglas Motorsport, Richardson Racing, and JHR Developments were able to keep up with the squad, Elite has come into its own in recent years and become the ones to beat.
Winning the title as a rookie would not be easy – the last driver to have done so was 2007 champion Nigel Moore – but that hasn’t deterred any of the young drivers making their series debuts with the squad.
“Elite has won [the title] the past two years, and they know how to put the car together,” said Scholarship winner Tom Lebbon.
“Like most racing drivers, my aim is to win. But I think top three in the championship would be good. I think that’s doable.”
Lebbon won the scholarship at the end of 2019, beating more than 60 other drivers at the three-day selection process at Blyton Park.
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The 14-year-old then joined Elite Motorsport for the Winter Series, where he got his first experience racing the car.
Pintos comes to the championship with a slight disadvantage to his team-mates. Based in Spain, he’s missed most of preseason testing, but has been able to test in Spain.
“We’ve done many tests in Spain, on tarmac and mud,” he said. “We’ve had a serious test program that we’ve worked hard on.
“The aim this year is to be in the top five. Learn, work, take experiences and continue with my racing program. Ginetta is a faboulous bench to improve my driving skills.”
As well as the Scholarship finalists, Josh Miller, William Aspin, and William Vincent will also be making their car racing debuts with Elite.
While Elite has been the team to beat in recent years, it’s impossible to discount new kids on the block R Racing.
R Racing joined the championship midway through 2019 and immediately made an impression, helping Zak O’Sullivan to second in the title fight.
This year, the team fields the two highest placed returning drivers, Josh Rattican and Joel Pearson, who continued with the squad they spent the second half of 2019 with. The pair will be joined by Freddie Tomlinson and Bailey Voisin, who will be making the move from Douglas Motorsport, and rookie Aston Millar.
Voisin made the move ahead of last year’s Winter Series, when he took some strong results, and got 2020 off to a strong start when he topped the Media Day test before lock down postponed the 2020 season.
The extended break doesn’t seem to have hindered Voisin too much, as he topped the times in the test at Croft last week.
“I had an amazing rookie year with Douglas and I can’t thank them enough for it, but we felt it was time to move on, so we did, and I’m extremely glad to be with R Racing for the upcoming season. I was very pleased with my performance at the Winter Series with R Racing and it confirmed that we had made the right decision to move.
“The aim is to do the best I can. This year, like all years, is going to be highly competitive so it will be difficult, but the goal is to do well enough to provide some opportunities for the future.
“No matter what sport you are in your team-mates will always be your biggest rivals. So this year’s goals are not only to try and beat everyone on track but try to be the best in the team.”
It certainly won’t be easy to be the strongest driver at R Racing. All four of Voisin’s team-mates have proven themselves in the championship, including rookie Aston Millar.
Millar competed in a handful of races with R Racing last year, picking up a fifth placed finish at Silverstone in the penultimate round of the season. He also ran in the Winter Series, taking three podiums from four races.
Millar will undoubtedly be one of the challengers for the rookie title this year, if not the overall championship.
While the focus may be on Elite and R Racing this year, there is talent elsewhere in the field.
Richardson Racing has proven it can never be ruled out, and its all-rookie line-up for 2020 promises excitement. All three drivers, George Dimitrov, Trennan Bettany, and Rowan Vincent, have proven themselves on the karting stage, and should be ones to watch both this year and in the future.
Despite the team being somewhat smaller compared to recent years, Total Control Racing is also likely to make some apperances to the podiums throughout 2020, as both Tom Edgar and William Roshford have impressed in preseason testing.
Elsewhere on the grid, Fox Motorsport makes its championship return with Liam McNeilly, while Alastair Rushforth Motorsport continues for a second year with Zak Taylor, who made a handful of appearances last season.
Images courtesy of Ginetta/Jakob Ebrey Photograph
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