ON FORMULA RENAULT WEC DEBUTCambridgeshire race ace Alexander Sims recorded a top 10 points scoring finish on his debut in the Formula Renault West European Cup at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium over the weekend, 4th/5th October.The 20-year-old British star, who resides in Wansford, battled hard to a ninth place result during his first competitive run in WEC on Saturday afternoon, having started the race in 12th position in his Manor Competition prepared car.Qualifying on Saturday morning, which determined the starting order for the first race, took place on a wet track following overnight rain although the surface did begin to dry and slick tyres were certainly the correct choice during the closing minutes.After pitting for slick tyres, Alexander had just two laps in which to secure a top grid slot but on his full flying lap he was held up by traffic and lost around 1.5 seconds. His previous best time of 2m 27.194 seconds, therefore, placed him on the sixth row.Making an excellent getaway at the start of the race, the 20-year-old superbly gained four places to climb into the top eight on the opening lap alone but from that point on, his lower downforce setting compromised his chances of passing the cars ahead.Losing eighth place late on, Alexander took the chequer in ninth just seven 10ths of a second behind the next car but a full 3.5 seconds clear of Frenchman Tristan Vautier.“Saturday’s qualifying session was a bit of a shambles really”, he said, “After overnight rain the track slowly dried but I lost time to traffic on my second lap on slick tyres and we ended up 12th on the grid which wasn’t great.“Before the race we took some rear wing off the car to try and help passing on the straights but, in hindsight, we should have stuck to our guns as I think we had the pace, wet or dry, to run with the others and make good progress. In all honesty, running less wing didn’t pay off. It’s a bit annoying but we still finished in the points on our debut.”Sunday morning’s qualifying session wasn’t as Alexander would have liked at all after he ended up with an uncharacteristic 23rd best time following a spin in very wet conditions, leading to an impact with the barriers. He did manage to recover to the pits, where the Manor mechanics worked hard to try and repair the damage as best they could. Going back out onto the circuit with just enough time for a couple of laps, Alexander was unable to improve when yellow flags compromised his sole flying lap at the end.Due to the atrocious conditions at Spa for race two, the encounter started behind the Safety Car and with spray making it impossible to see more than a couple of metres ahead, when the race proper finally got underway it became a total lottery.With overtaking seriously restricted, Alexander was one of the few drivers to make inroads up the order. However an unfortunate spin, enforced as he took avoiding action part way through the race, ended in a disappointing retirement.
“The racing certainly didn’t provide the results we wanted or expected but the main aim this weekend was to learn the track”, he said, “Things didn’t turn out as we’d hoped but it was good to come to Spa and get some valuable experience of the track.”Sims adds BRDC ‘Rising Star’ honour to his list of 2008 accoladesPrior to his outing in the Formula Renault WEC series this weekend, Alexander received yet another honour after being invited by the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) to become one of the organisation’s prestigious ‘Rising Stars’.Coming hot on the heels of the recent announcement he is one of six finalists in the 2008 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, the BRDC Rising Star accolade is yet further confirmation of the truly outstanding year Alexander has enjoyed in Formula Renault UK.Along with an excellent performance on his Eurocup Formula Renault race debut last month, the Cambridgeshire driver enjoyed a tremendous season in Formula Renault UK – only his second full year of car racing action – with 12 podium visits, including two race victories, on his way to becoming the highest points scorer overall.The 20-year-old’s incredible year has marked him out as a genuine star of the future with the ability and pace to potentially make it all the way to Formula One. He is also, of course, one of a selected handful of drivers on the MSA British Race Elite programme.Absolutely delighted to join the prestigious ‘Rising Star’ scheme, Alexander said: “It’s fantastic to have another important group of people award you with such an accolade and it’s great to be associated with the Rising Star. It’s nice to have the recognition and, like the McLaren Award and the British Race Elite, it can only be good for my career.”The BRDC Rising Star is an invitation-only award which aims to recognise young racers who have displayed excellence in their chosen category of motorsport and who are seen to have incredible potential for future success in the upper echelons of motor racing. The award was inaugurated in 2000.