Q&A with Niall Murray – Ginetta Junior Championship driver

Reigning Ginetta Junior Ireland Champion Niall Murray has enjoyed a good start to his 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship season. With one fastest lap and two podiums, including a strong showing at Oulton Park where he was the only driver to choose slick tyres on a wet track, Niall has shown that in only his second season racing cars he is a force to be reckoned with.

As we approach the next two rounds of the championship at the newly revamped Snetterton 300, where the championship resumes after its summer break, we caught up with Niall at his base in Dublin to hear some of his thoughts on his season so far as one of the new kids on the block.

Q: So Niall, how has your season been going so far?

NM: It’s been pretty good so far. We are lying seventh in the championship, which is quite close to where we hoped to be. It’s been difficult having to learn new circuits each weekend and we’ve had to try and take full advantage of the Friday tests. Despite this we’ve still shown very strong pace on each track with some strong finishes.

Q: What has been the highlight of your 2011 season up to this point?

NM: Without doubt that would have to be Oulton Park! That was easily the best race of my life so far. I had to be careful on the warm up lap to try and find what grip was there as I was the only car on slicks on a wet but drying track. After a couple of laps I discovered that slicks were the right choice and I had much more grip and pace than the rest. The only low point was being a little eager to get up the grid early on and contact at Lodge corner left me at the back of the pack. Once I got back on track I knew I had nothing to lose so I went for it. At one point I past up to six cars in one lap! During the race I felt top five was on the cards but to finish second was amazing! A fantastic feeling!

Q: Looking back to last year, you became the inaugural Ginetta Junior Ireland Champion, how has this experience stood to you this year?

NM: Yes I learned an awful lot last year as I made the transition from Karting to Cars. The championship itself was well organised but also provided a lot of background assistance with PR skills and getting used to TV interviews and speaking with members of the media. This experience has been a massive help this year as I used to be quite shy with the media but now I feel much more comfortable in front of a microphone or camera. Competing in Ginetta Junior Ireland meant that I was used to the format for Ginetta Championships also, which put me at a major advantage joining the British Ginetta Junior Championship this season.

Q: In Ireland, you drove the older Ginetta G20, how does this car compare to your Ginetta G40 which you currently race?

NM: There is an awful lot more grip in the G40 which I race this year, and I found it quite similar to a Kart to drive. The G20 is quite a loose car, which can get a bit sideways from time to time so I’ve had to readjust my driving style back to when I raced Karts. For this reason, the G40 rewards a very smooth driving style. The other major difference is the sequential gearbox as opposed to the manual standard type gearbox in the G20. This took a little bit of time to adjust to at the start but now it just feels like I’ve always had one!

Q: You’re now at the mid point of the season in this 20 round championship, what are your hopes for the remainder of the season?

NM: I am very confident that we now have a perfect setup on the car, which due to a lack of testing time has taken us a little longer to achieve. The aim is definitely for more podium finishes and hopefully our first race victory. I am confident that we are still very much on course to achieve our season goal of finishing inside the top five in the championship with a number of podiums and at least one race victory.

Q: Your brother Eoin is an established and hugely successful saloon car racing driver, with many championship victories to his name added to his experience racing in the BTCC in 2006 and 2007, how does his experience and assistance benefit you?

NM: His experience right from the beginning of my competitive career definitely has been a huge part of my success. Having raced for six seasons in the UK on most of the tracks on my calendar this year, he knows what it takes to not only be a race winner, but a champion.

Q: Of the circuits you’ve driven so far this year, which has been your favorite and why?

NM: So far it would have to be Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. I went there with only the Ginetta media day and Ginetta official test day in Silverstone behind me in the car, which I felt would leave me behind my competitors. We had a difficult start to the weekend with car issues putting me eighth on the grid for both races. But the circuit suited my driving style and in race two I was quickly up to fourth and challenging the lead pack before contact from another driver left me well down the order. Despite this I kept going to finish eighth. I certainly felt that despite my lack of experience I could have easily finished on the podium as I enjoyed driving around this circuit.

Q: What are the plans for 2012 – is there any news you can give us?

NM: All along our plan has been to do this championship as a two-year program. Our aim is certainly to return next year with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from this season. We have already started working very hard to put the plans and budget in place for next year despite being in the middle of the current season. I can confident that I can make a very serious assault on next year’s championship.

Q: What have you been getting up to while you’re away from racing?

NM: I have been continuing with one of my hobbies, which is Sim Racing. Once you’ve got the right equipment, which isn’t very expensive, it’s very cheap to compete in. Unfortunately I have been unable to do any testing except for the two days in Silverstone this season, so I use Sim Racing as testing to gain experience of the tracks and practice my lines. I have also begun Auto testing, which I find fantastic for refining my precision driving skills given that the G40 rewards a smooth precise driver.

 Q: So the championship resumes next weekend at the newly revamped Snetterton 300. Will this new configuration, provide you with the level playing field that you deserve to prove yourself over the other competitors?

 NM: Having seen some photos and onboard videos, the new section looks to be quite tight and technical which is a style that I prefer. Naturally the new configuration should put me at much less of a disadvantage to the previous events which have all remained the same as they were last year. This, along with now having what we believe to be the perfect setup and balance on the car leaves me full of confidence of a strong weekend ahead.

(Q&A, sent by Paul Grogan, PR Manager for Niall Murray)

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