FOR MANOR AT SPALeading Formula Renault UK squad Manor Competition secured a double top 10 result on its competitive debut in the West European Cup at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend, 4th/5th October, with regular drivers Henry Surtees and Alexander Sims.For 17-year-old Surtees, the outing at the renowned Belgian track proved to be one of the most successful runs of his maiden season in Formula Renault with a top six finish in Saturday afternoon’s race the highlight performance for his New Ollerton teamTeam-mate Sims, meanwhile, produced a best result of ninth position during the opening encounter to secure a deserved top 10 himself although the second race on Sunday afternoon did prove to be less fruitful.Friday’s test sessions went very well for Sims, Surtees and Brazilian sensation Adriano Buzaid – the latter joining Manor Competition for the outing to learn the track. Pitched in against drivers with experience of the circuit, the Manor trio did very well indeed.During race one qualifying on Saturday, Surtees produced his best run of the year with the fifth fastest time of 2m 25.929 seconds on a track with a drying line following overnight rain. Unfortunately for Sims, his second lap on slick tyres at the end of the session was ruined when he was baulked by slower cars. Costing him about 1.5 seconds, the 2008 Formula Renault UK Vice-Champion had to settle for 12th on the grid from his previous best on wet tyres of 2m 27.164 seconds.At the start of Saturday’s race, Surtees slipped to seventh place on the opening lap while Sims made great progress from row six. Climbing into eighth on lap one, the 20-year-old then started to pressure his Manor Competition team-mate but couldn’t quite get close enough to pass.Towards the end, Surtees managed to get back into the top six while Sims unfortunately lost a position to drop back to ninth. Nonetheless with both drivers inside the top 10 on their respective debuts at Spa, Manor was happy with the overall performance.On Sunday, qualifying wasn’t as promising for the Nottinghamshire squad. Surtees once again ended up as the best placed Manor driver in 15th position with a time of 2m 46.999 seconds. Sims, meanwhile, was uncharacteristically outside the first 10 rows on the grid with a time of 2m 48.547 seconds placing him 23rd on the timesheets.Part way through the session, which took place in wet conditions, the Cambridgeshire racer made contact with the barriers after a spin. Although he did manage to get his car back to the pits and the mechanics worked hard to try and repair it, Sims ventured back out on to the circuit near the end of the session but yellow flags spoiled his chances.
In the race itself, which started behind the Safety Car due to the awful weather, Surtees finished in 12th position to cap a good weekend while Sims had an unfortunate excursion when forced to take avoiding action as he made his way up the order in the spray. Reflecting on Manor Competition’s maiden appearance in Formula Renault WEC, team boss Tony Shaw said: “It’s always good to travel to Spa and although the weather did cause some unfortunate problems, it was good experience for the team and drivers and we were delighted to see Henry qualify in the top six in race one and race so well too.“Competing in Europe against the top teams from the continent is always very tough so we’re very happy with our pace overall. Qualifying was always going to be manic, changeable weather and 35 cars having just 20 minutes to post times on a seven kilometre track! Just bad luck prevented us from enjoying better results.”Shaw added: “In testing, Adriano was very fast on old tyres but he didn’t get a clear run on new rubber. We all know Alexander’s quality and it’s such a shame he didn’t have better luck this weekend. The Spa races mark his final outings with us before he moves up the ladder in 2009. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with him and we wish him all the very best of luck for the future.”Next on the racing agenda for Manor Competition is the Formula Renault UK Winter Championship which begins on Saturday, 1st November, at North Yorkshire’s Croft Circuit, near Darlington. The four-round series concludes the following weekend on Saturday, 8th November, at Rockingham in Northamptonshire. Expect the team’s winter line-up to be officially confirmed in due course.