Greg Johnson saw his best qualifying performance of the 2018 Ginetta Junior Championship season so far go unrewarded at Croft this past weekend (23/24 June) as contact from other drivers derailed his challenge at the front of the field.
A positive test at the circuit earlier this month would give Johnson some crucial mileage ahead of the race weekend, which he built upon during the two official free practice sessions on Friday as he settled into the top ten in the sweltering Yorkshire sunshine.
The high temperatures would provide a challenge for the field come qualifying on Saturday morning with their best lap-times having to come in the first two flying laps of the session before the tyres over-heated; something Johnson was able to execute perfectly.
A great display in the Fanatical Ginetta G40 saw Johnson secure his best qualifying result of the season to date, with a best effort of 1m 41.531s earning him fifth and sixth on the grid for the opening two races of the weekend that afternoon.
The Staffordshire racer would line up an improved fourth for race one due to a grid penalty for another driver, with a positive start to the race seeing him battle in the top six for the first lap and a half, until he was forced off circuit coming out of the high-speed Barcroft corner.
After a high-speed slide across the grass, Johnson would return to the circuit at the back of the field in eighteenth. From there, a great recovery drive saw him battle his way through to twelfth place to earn him a solid haul of championship points.
It would sadly be a similar story on the opening lap of race two for the Elite Motorsport driver, as he saw contact at Sunny Out send him across the grass and end his chances of challenging for the top six. Dropping to ninth, he was quickly embroiled in a fierce battle to maintain his position.
Johnson’s impressive racecraft was highlighted once again as he traded places in exciting fashion for the remainder of the race, coming out on top of the multi-car fight to take eighth position at the chequered flag – a ninth top ten finish of the season so far.
Following that race, the team found that Johnson’s car had been suffering from a fuel pump issue that was hampering the performance of his Ginetta G40 throughout the day, with a replacement fitted ahead of the race three on Sunday afternoon.
Lining up eighth on the grid in his Driving Test Success and Staffordshire Car Care backed Ginetta in front of the live ITV4 television cameras and a huge trackside crowd, Johnson headed into the race confident that he could make some progress through the field.
A strong start saw him maintain his top ten standing through to the end of the second lap, when an wildly optimistic move from another driver into the final hairpin span Johnson around, leaving him facing the wrong direction in the middle of the circuit.
He recovered to the track in a distant last place, which meant that despite posting some competitive lap times he would have to take the chequered flag back in seventeenth place, a disappointing conclusion to a weekend that had started with plenty of promise.
The first half of the 2018 Ginetta Junior Championship season is now complete and the series is heading into its annual mid-season summer break, with a return to action coming in five weeks’ time at Snetterton in Norfolk (28/29 July).
Greg Johnson: “It’s been a really frustrating weekend as a whole. We had stronger pace than it looked on the timesheets on Friday and we were able to show that in qualifying, and it was really pleasing to come away with my best results of the season.
“We had real potential for the races and I was confident that we could make forward progress, but sadly it was taken out of our hands in all three. There was nothing I could do, I tried to race fairly but found myself on the receiving end of contact far too often.
“To come away with only one top ten finish is disappointing, but we still have plenty of positives to take into the summer break. We’ll be doing some testing to keep me sharp, so we can head into the second half of the season ready to challenge for more silverware.”
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.