Josh Webster (Stowmarket, Suffolk), Seb Morris (Marford, Wrexham) and Scott Malvern (Ilford, Essex) shared the wins during a fantastically action-packed 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season-opener over the weekend, 7th/8th April, at Snetterton 200 Circuit in Norfolk.
Webster’s first round victory on Saturday, coupled with a pair of runner-up spots in Sunday’s two races, gives the MGR Motorsport driver a 16 point championship lead over Morris. The Fortec Motorsports 16-year-old starred on his single-seater car racing debut, utterly dominating qualifying to seal all three pole positions and taking a memorable maiden win in round two.
Malvern, like Webster an eleventh hour signing for this year’s championship, overcame gearbox issues in rounds one and two to claim an excellent debut victory in a wet final race – marking deserved success for the Cliff Dempsey Racing squad on its return to Formula Renault racing.
Away from the race winners, MGR’s David Wagner (Glasgow), his rookie team-mate Jake Dalton (Stoke-on-Trent) and Scorpio Motorsport’s Macaulay Walsh (Northampton) all enjoyed first-time podium finishes to round out a massively successful opening weekend for Formula Renault BARC.
“To win on Saturday was great and if I’d known before the weekend I’d have a win and then two second places today, I’d have taken that”, said Webster after round three, “Huge thanks to MGR and to all of my sponsors, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have been on the grid at all this weekend.”
Inclement weather proved a factor throughout the weekend and for Saturday’s two 15-minute qualifying sessions nobody could get close to Morris who revelled in the damp conditions to easily bag all three pole positions by a significant margin – a remarkable performance on his series debut.
Morris duly led away at the start of round one on Saturday afternoon and scorched into a lead of 1.5 seconds by the end of the first lap alone. However, a moment at the first corner, Riches, on lap two caused him to run wide and left the door open for Webster to take the lead – the MGR driver having leapt ahead of front-row starter Malvern off the line.
By the start of lap five, Malvern had closed to within touching distance of Webster as the lead pair pulled three seconds clear of the pursuing pack. The next time around, Malvern served up a great move at the second part of the Esses to grab first place and he immediately pulled clear, setting fastest lap of the race and establishing a circuit record for Formula Renault BARC on the 10th tour.
Malvern’s hopes of a fairytale first race victory though went begging when his car got stuck in sixth gear on lap 11 and he was powerless to prevent a fall down the order to 13th place. Webster swiftly went past and eventually won by 4.6 seconds from team-mate Wagner who claimed his maiden podium – the pair also achieving the MGR squad’s first one-two finish in the championship.
“We had quite good preparation during the winter and the team has worked really hard with the car, we were always there or thereabouts during testing”, commented Wagner, “This result is a true reflection of where we thought we’d be, to be on the podium in the first round is fantastic.”
Walsh, meanwhile, performed superbly on his first ever visit to Snetterton and having never driven in damp conditions before he starred to climb through from sixth on the grid to take his debut car racing podium ahead of impressive American teenager Trent Hindman.
“Considering how last season went for us, I’m very happy to start the championship with such a strong race”, said Walsh, “To qualify sixth in the wet, on my first time at the track and the first time in a car in those conditions, was great and that gave me a lot of confidence for the race.”
Wins for Morris and Malvern ensure wide open start to the seasonPole-sitter Morris made an awesome start to the totally dry, yet overcast, round two on Sunday and built a lead of almost two seconds prior to the emergence of the Safety Car on lap five, required to recover the stricken car of Marcus Allen (Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire) at the Esses.
At the re-start on lap 10, Morris made no mistakes and he reeled off a string of fastest laps before setting the best of the race on lap 16 and taking the chequered flag over seven seconds clear. For Malvern it was another case of what might have been when a recurrence of gear trouble, added to a loss of power, enabled third placed Webster to successfully attack into the final lap and take second.
Wagner continued his hugely successful start to the season with fourth place, just 0.1 seconds behind Malvern’s hobbled car at the line, with James Fletcher (Windlesham, Surrey) fifth for MGR ahead of Antel Motorsport’s Russian driver Ivan Taranov (Oxford) in a near dead-heat.
“With all the preparation we’ve done I really wanted to take my first win this weekend so to have done it is fantastic, Fortec has put together a great car”, said Morris, “It’s a great championship to be in and it’s teaching me so much – Saturday’s race actually taught me more than if I’d have won.”
Ahead of round three, persistent rainfall meant the track surface was properly wet for the 15-lap encounter and this time Malvern was able to enjoy a trouble-free run on his way to a fantastic debut win in Protyre Formula Renault BARC.
Malvern’s cause was aided by a stall for Morris as the lights went out, giving the Cliff Dempsey driver the chance to lead through Riches. Dalton and Webster leapt past third placed Wagner, who was delayed negotiating Morris, with Webster taking second into the first corner with a good move.
Morris managed to get away in around 10th position but by the end of lap one he had already fought his way through to fifth. His hard work was undone somewhat on lap two when a moment dropped him back to the tail of the top 10 but he again mounted a strong recovery to battle back into fifth.
Lap after lap, leader Malvern increased his advantage as the track dried and he took the flag on lap 15 some 4.5 seconds clear of Webster – setting the fastest lap of the race on the final tour. Karting graduate Dalton recorded a sensational podium on his car racing debut with Walsh in fourth, having repelled an earlier attack from Morris, and Wagner rounding out a strong weekend with sixth.
“We only put the car together in the last week so we uncovered a few gremlins, unfortunately we’ve had to shake the car down in public this weekend”, said Malvern “I was massively disappointed in the first two races, it’s fair to say I was happy in the lead of the first race and I think I had a chance to catch Seb [Morris] in the second one. I think it was a bit of justice for us to get the win at the end.”
Third placed Dalton added: “I’m delighted, to come straight out of karting into car racing and have a debut podium is great. We showed good pace all weekend, in the dry and wet, and it’s only going to get better all year. The team has done a great job, this is a learning year for me and so having Josh [Webster] as my team-mate is a really great help.”
Protyre Formula Renault BARC will revert to its regular double-header format for the next event on the 2012 calendar, rounds four and five, which will take place over the weekend 19th/20th May at Rockingham in Northamptonshire.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault BARC is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.
Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd3):1st Josh Webster, 88pts; 2nd Seb Morris, 72pts; 3rd David Wagner, 68pts; 4th Scott Malvern, 67pts; 5th Macaulay Walsh, 63pts; 6th Trent Hindman, 47pts