Jamie Caroline rose from the depths of despair to secure one of the most closely-fought KICK Start Energy Ginetta Junior Championship titles in series history at Brands Hatch.
Caroline led by three points heading into the weekend, one he extended to 30 points after the opening race. A drive through penalty in race two and an early race stoppage caused by an incident on track allowed main rival Senna Proctor to take the provisional title by just one point with a race two victory.
However, the drama was far from over, with a post-race penalty for fourth place finisher Stuart Middleton demoting him behind Caroline in the results, with the additional point meaning the top two ended the season level on points.
With race wins then being used to determine the champion, Caroline secured the title with 10 wins to Proctors four.
Caroline laid the foundations for his title in race one of the weekend (round 19) with a race win, despite having to carry a five place grid penalty into the opening race.
Proctor began the penultimate round from pole position, with JHR teammates Billy Monger and Dan Zelos acting as something of a buffer between the two title rivals. However, a storming start for Caroline saw the HHC racer power up two spots in the opening lap.
A brief safety car period to recover the car of Devlin DeFrancesco - who was pushed wide on the opening lap on the run out of Druids – and they were off again. Caroline passed Zelos at Paddock Hill Bend on lap three, before making light work of Billy Monger at Sheene later in the lap.
With 1.5s between the pair as they began lap four, Caroline slashed the deficit with just three laps to go. With the two title fighters running nose to tail, Caroline had a hairy moment but held the position, before Proctor ran off the road and across the gravel, emerging in fifth but quickly recovering to fourth.
The result meant the pair were split by 30 points ahead of the final race of the season, with Caroline on 468 and Proctor, 438.
Lining up on pole position for the final encounter, Caroline was confident of taking the title. He led from Middleton and Proctor as the cars completed the opening lap, before play was briefly slowed with the deployment of the safety car.
However, the first of the day’s twists came when Caroline, Monger and Zelos were handed a drive through penalty for a false start. Taking their punishment in sync, the trio emerged at the very end of the field, whilst Proctor was promoted into the race lead – crucial for the championship decider.
An incident in the mid-pack for Jonathan Hadfield then called for the race to be red flagged, leaving Caroline with no time to make progress back up the order. This enabled Proctor to snatch the provisional title by just one point.
However, post-race enquiries deemed a fourth competitor, Stuart Middleton to have also misjudged the start. As a result, he was given a false start penalty (a drive through penalty, converted to a minimum of 30 seconds added to his competitors race time as it was issued after the race), demoting him to last in the amended result.
Consequently, Caroline was promoted by one crucial place, handing him the additional point he needed to take the title from Proctor. The penalty is now being appealed by Middleton, and the championship will ultimately be decided in the MSA Court of Appeal.
The Rookie class title remains unaffected, with Matthiesen taking the honours from Middleton and Hornby.
Provisional KICK Start Energy Ginetta Junior Championship Standings After Round 20 of 20.
1 CAROLINE, Jamie 473
2 PROCTOR, Senna 473
3 BROWN, Lewis 387
4 ZELOS, Dan 364
5 MONGER, Billy 325
6 MATTHIESEN, Patrik 309
7 MIDDLETON, Stuart 283
8 HADFIELD, Jonathan 259
9 HORNBY, Kyle 255
10 CHAPMAN, Matt 227