Motorsport: Ginetta series gives boost to Ireland's junior ranks
A mouth-watering first prize is the incentive for entrants to an exciting new racing series for drivers as young as 14.
The inaugural Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the beleaguered local racing scene; top prize for the winner of the series will be a fully paid drive in the 2011 British Ginetta Junior Series.
The series will provide Irish-based drivers with their first opportunity to race cars on full-size circuits from their early teens on.
It's a trend that has been developing throughout the world in recent years and, with the emergence of Jaime Alguersuari as a Formula 1 driver before his 20th birthday, clearly there is a market for drivers eager to develop their talent as quickly as possible.
Drivers have until now had to wait until their 16th birthday before making the switch to cars and karting officials are watching with interest to see if the introduction of the Ginetta series has an effect on KF3 and Junior Rotax grids.
The series also looks likely to attract converts from rallycross, where a series for 14 to 16-year-olds has proved very popular in recent seasons.
The Ginetta G40 sportscar used in the series will certainly be an attractive proposition for prospective drivers with a total weight including the driver of 745kgs, powered by a 1.4 litre Ford Zetec engine through a five-speed sealed Quaife close-ratio gearbox to the rear wheels.
And confirmed drivers include former Junior Rallycross stars Niall Murray, Jake Byrne and Sean Doyle while rookie Megan Kessie is the series' first female entrant.
The new initiative is certainly a boost for car racing and, with a first prize for the champion worth in excess of €20,000, the organisers are confident of a double-figure entry for the first race.
Ginetta Junior Ireland begins with two rounds at Mondello Park on Sunday, July 18. The series will run over nine rounds with a driver's best seven to count.
Meanwhile, teenage single-seater star Gary Thompson heads to rounds three and four in the Japanese Formula 3 series this weekend full of confidence after a strong pre-season test session at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
Having taken part in qualifying at the first event in Suzuka last month without any prior dry weather knowledge of the track, Thompson is looking forward to racing at a circuit this weekend that he is already familiar with.
The Dubliner managed to score two seventh-place finishes on his Formula 3 debut weekend with his Achievement by KCMG squad at the Japanese GP venue despite his lack of pre-event running, and is looking forward to a more relaxed approach to this weekend when he hopes he can challenge for podium positions.