Josh Malin secured a sensational championship success in an intense 2020 Ginetta GT5 Challenge season finale at Silverstone this past weekend (7/8 November), thanks to a spirited fight in an enthralling curtain-closing race.
The Dorset youngster, who battles type 1 diabetes, entered the season finale in Northamptonshire with a slender seven-point title lead in hand over nearest rival James Taylor, but with confidence in his pocket from a dominant visit to the shorter version of the circuit most recently.
Testing times on Friday demonstrated the 20-year-old's pace, and the following day he added to this with a strong performance to grab pole position. A sequence of quick laps late in the timed session edged out his main title rival by over three tenths of a second - claiming a crucial bonus point in doing so.
Hopeful of a good start to keep the momentum going, the Richardson Racing driver instead endured a tumultuous opening lap in race one. Losing out on the lead at the first corner, Malin drifted wide at the high-speed Becketts and Chapel curves and only a tremendous piece of car control saved him from a spin heading onto the Hangar Straight for the first time. At the end of the straight, more drama occurred as he took to the run-off to evade a spinning car heading his direction under braking, dropping him back to 11th.
What followed was a spirited fightback from the seven-time race winner this season. Fighting his way up into the top eight, he then surpassed a four-car train ahead of him swiftly with some late-braking moves in the opening two laps, before catching and passing Tom Golding at Brooklands to move back into the podium places. He gave chase to the lead duo, but came short despite trimming a seven-second gap to just three by the flag.
Malin's attentions turned to getting the job done in race two the following day, again starting from pole position but needing to finish ahead of Taylor, who again made a good start to challenge him for the lead in foggy, slippery conditions. What followed was a remarkably tense 20-minute contest which pitted Malin against Taylor and former title rival Gordie Mutch for victory, with the title on the line for Malin who grabbed back the early lead at Maggots.
He dropped behind the two early on but recovered past Taylor for second at the Village right hander, stealing the lead from Mutch on lap six at Copse. Mutch and Taylor fought back however, but their own battle a lap later gave Malin a tremendous run out of Copse to lead again in a three-wide attack at Maggots.
Taylor looked to spoil his dream result once more as both clawed back ahead at Club corner, but a spirited Malin was having none of it and fought back inside Taylor heading towards Brooklands to move himself back into second place. To seal the deal, Malin set a new championship lap record for the Silverstone GP circuit on the final tour to maintain that crucial second place, taking the title by following Mutch home.
In only his second season in the championship, Malin - backed by sponsors thecarguys.tv, Pioneer Shopfitting and Digital Motorsports - became champion thanks to more race wins (seven), pole positions (five) and fastest laps (five) than anyone else on the grid.
Josh Malin: "That's the most stressful thing I've ever done in a race car in my life! I'm absolutely lost for words by this.
"It was chopping and changing; Gordie in front, me in front, James in front - honestly it was absolutely incredible. There were definitely areas that I could have improved in, because I was braking too early at times while it was greasy off line. It caught all of us out at some stage and me a couple of times, but I can't begin to come up with the vocabulary to describe it.
"On Saturday I must admit I was down in the dumps thinking of what could have been, with me going off and someone spinning in front of me. I knew I had to just get back to finish in a place to keep it alive, and I just about managed to do it.
"I'm lost for words. I'd just like to thank the guys at Richardson Racing and my sponsors thecarguys.tv, Pioneer Shopfitting and Digital-Motorsports, who have been supporting me all the way. A shout out to my driver coach Michael Epps too, as he's been instrumental in my development as a driver.
"The team have given me an incredible car all season, and all the kind words from my friends and family this year - it means an incredible amount. Finally to my parents; without them it would not have been possible and I'll forever be grateful. Thank you all!"
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.