With Double Podium
Alexander Sims raced to a pair of superb podium finishes at a baking hot Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire yesterday, Sunday, 27th July, to help strengthen his hold on the runner-up spot in the 2008 Formula Renault UK title race.The Manor Competition star, a member of the highly prestigious MSA British Race Elite programme, secured a third place finish in round 15 and went one better in round 16 with second position. The 20-year-old also took the fastest lap of 1m 19.826 seconds (100.38mph) during the first race to grab two vital bonus points.With 16 of the 20 rounds now completed, Wansford-based Alexander is 55 points shy of series leader Adam Christodoulou and 21 points clear of third placed Adriano Buzaid.At the end of round 16, Alexander said: “Obviously I’m very pleased to have taken two more podium finishes, it’s been a nice solid weekend, but with Adam (Christodoulou) winning both races we haven’t closed him down in the championship. We’re less than 40 points behind on overall scores but with drop scores the gap is over 50.”Taking the drop-score ruling into consideration, Alexander’s tremendous consistency of scoring well in every race so far this season is actually working against him but with four rounds remaining in the 2008 campaign he’s confident he still has a good opportunity to fight for the Formula Renault UK title.During qualifying on Saturday, 26th July, Alexander missed out on the round 15 pole position by just six 100ths of a second and instead had to settle for third place on the grid with a time of 1m 18.886 seconds (101.58mph). In round 16 qualifying, he was third fastest again with a lap of 1m 19.164 seconds (101.22mph).At the start of the first race of the weekend, Alexander wasn’t able to make the start he wanted due to a problem with the clutch and slipped to fourth on the run through the first couple of corners. But as the cars approached Knickerbrook Chicane, he was all over the back of third placed James Calado; the latter having actually started on pole position.It soon emerged Calado was going to be served with a drive-through penalty for a jump start and so at the end of lap three, with Alexander tucked up under his rear wing, the Fortec driver pitted. Free of the slower car ahead, Alexander rapidly made inroads into the advantage held by second placed Dean Stoneman and leader Christodoulou.Closing to within half a second of Stoneman, Alexander posted a new lap record on the 10th tour and went quicker still on lap 11 with a time of 1m 19.826 seconds (100.38mph) to gain two extra championship points. Crossing the line on the 15th and final lap just 0.495 seconds shy of Stoneman, Alexander recorded his eighth podium of the year.Ahead of round 16, the Manor squad changed the clutch in Alexander’s car to hopefully give him a better chance of making a cleaner getaway but, with a tricky biting point, he was unable to get the start he wanted.
Dropping to fourth behind a fast-starting Jordan Oakes, Alexander immediately started to pressure his rival and into Old Hall Corner at the beginning of lap two, the Cambridgeshire star produced a quality, textbook move up the inside to grab third place.Alexander then set his sights on catching second placed Adam Christodoulou but drama followed on lap four when race leader Dean Stoneman was given notice of a drive-through penalty for a jump start. Pitting at the end of lap seven, Stoneman slipped down the order and Alexander assumed second place where he remained to the flag. Once again, his pace was very impressive and he posted the third fastest lap of the race with a time of 1m 20.033 seconds.“It was a shame about the start in both races”, said Alexander, “The clutch didn’t bite too well at the start of race one but after that we were fast and it was just a shame I got stuck behind James (Calado) early on as it allowed the front two to get away. We could, and should, have been higher but third place wasn’t a bad result.“We put a brand new clutch in for the second race but the biting point was really fine, it was either nothing or biting so it made a good getaway difficult. It was quite cat and mouse between Jordan (Oakes) and I for a while as we were using different gear ratios but our pace was good and I felt comfortable. Overall I’m pleased with the weekend.”Sims retains Renault Sport UK Duathlon crownIn further news, Alexander won the second annual Renault Sport UK Charity Duathlon at Oulton Park on Friday evening, 25th July, retaining the title he eased to last year with a dominant performance.The format of the contest – which aims to raise vital funds for key charities the North West Air Ambulance and Barnados – sees entrants cycle one lap of the 2.23-mile circuit, run the second tour and then cycle again for the third and final lap. “It’s always important to help raise money for charity and doing it through a fun event like the duathlon is great”, commented Alexander, “I’m obviously pleased to have won again but the main thing is we managed to raise funds for two very worthwhile charities.”The Formula Renault UK Championship now takes a five week break ahead of the penultimate event of the 2008 season, rounds 17 and 18, which will take place on 30th/31st August at Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire.Provisional 2008 Formula Renault UK Championship Driver Standings (after Rd16 inc. drop scores):1st Adam Christodoulou, 395pts; 2nd Alexander Sims, 340pts; 3rd Adriano Buzaid, 319pts