James Kellett has been crowned the 2015 Ginetta GT5 Challenge champion following a nail-biting season finale at Donington Park.
A battling performance across the meeting from Kellett, who had looked set to be ruled out of the weekend due to illness, saw the Total Control Racing ace overcome an opening race retirement to seal the championship with fourth and third place finishes.
That caps off a sensational GT5 Challenge season for the 17 year old, in which he carded ten race wins, eight other podium finishes, five fastest laps and six pole positions across the twenty-one race season.
Those results are made all the more remarkable by the fact Kellett was the youngest driver in the championship, embarking on not only his first season in the category, but also his first in senior car-racing. James Kellett: “It still hasn’t sunk in yet. It means the world to me. To be a champion in motorsport, you have to put a lot of effort in as a team and that’s the most satisfying feeling; that everybody’s worked so hard to get here and it’s paid off, for myself, my parents, my sponsors and the team. “It’s been a fantastic season. Coming into the year, I don’t think many people expected me to do as well as I have, but I knew from testing at the start that we were quick and we’ve been able to prove ourselves all season with the wins, the podiums and the championship. It’s incredible.”
The championship victory continues an incredible start to Kellett's car-racing career, with his two year tenure in Ginetta Juniors with HHC Motorsport producing the 2013 Rookie Cup and Winter Series titles, plus the overall vice-champion honours in 2014 with eleven top two finishes. The Yorkshireman’s chances of adding to those successes was in serious doubt in the run-up to the Donington finale though, as a serious viral infection left him bedridden throughout the week leading up to the meeting, with doctors advising him not to race.
Kellett’s sheer determination to succeed got him out on track for qualifying on Saturday morning though, and despite completely missing the official test day on Thursday, he was able to stun the paddock by putting himself second on the grid for the opening two races.
His hopes would be dealt a blow in race one however when contact at the Old Hairpin on lap one left him beached in the gravel. Kellett showed his resolve to battle back in race two though, briefly leading the race at one stage before keeping out of trouble during a closefought race to finish fourth.
That meant it all went down to the final race of the season in front of a bumper trackside crowd at Donington Park and the live TV cameras of Motors TV, with Kellett lining up fourth on the grid in his T.E.P and Berrys Jewellers-backed Ginetta G40.
The Yorkshireman immediately worked his way onto the rear bumper of chief title rival Ollie Chadwick and following an early safety car period he made his move into Redgate, grabbing the place with a stunning switchback manoeuvre.
Almost instantly Chadwick’s Ginetta slowed to a halt with a mechanical failure, meaning Kellett knew that if he reached the finish the title was his. Showing no signs of nerves, Kellett produced a mature, composed drive to bring the car home in third to seal the championship, to the delight of his gathered family, friends, team and sponsors!
Kellett added: “It was a nightmare build-up to the meeting with the illness and we didn’t really think I was going to be able to race. We went to the track on Saturday morning and my team said I looked like a zombie, I was pale white and I’d lost over a stone in weight.
“I still wasn’t fit enough for qualifying, but my goal was to win the championship and nothing was going to stop me. I hadn’t done any testing before the meeting, but we went into qualifying and did really well, getting P2 in the wet.
“We had a disaster in the first race though, getting taken off on the opening lap, which really knocked my confidence, then we had a bit of a disaster again in race two as my differential started playing up, which meant I finished fourth and lost the championship lead.
“The team changed the gearbox and the differential before race three and I had to keep on fighting. I got behind Ollie [Chadwick] and after the safety car, I thought it was now or never. I knew from racing there in the Juniors that it’s really wide into Redgate, so when he went left to defend I darted down the inside and got the place.
“I didn’t realise straight away that he’d had the failure, it was only when the safety car came out again that I realised. I thought then that I just had to bring it home, so I gave the guys in front a gap, got myself some clean air and kept out of trouble.
“It was a tough weekend, especially with those first two races, but it all came together and it’s amazing to end the season as the champion. Thank you so much to the team for giving me a fantastic car every weekend, to all my family and friends for all their support, and especially to my sponsors, without their support I wouldn’t be out there racing so I am eternally grateful for them giving me this opportunity.”
Having showcased himself as one of the brightest young talents in British Motorsport over the last three years, Kellett’s attention is now turning to the next step in his career in 2016. If you can support this talented driver on his journey up the motorsport ladder, please contact Lee Kellett on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07860 852392.