Winter Title Eludes Manor

BY A FRACTION AT ROCKINGHAMNottinghamshire single-seater outfit Manor Competition saw the 2008 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship slip through its fingers at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on Saturday afternoon, 8th November, with Henry Surtees missing out on the crown by a mere three points.The New Ollerton team, which took 2008 McLaren Autosport BRDC ‘Young Driver Of The Year’ Award finalist Alexander Sims to the Vice-Champion’s position in this season’s main Formula Renault UK Championship, just missed out once again over the weekend but 17-year-old Surtees raced very well to take his third podium from four races.In terms of points, Surtees’ top four finish in the opening encounter was actually worth third position with second placed Antonio Felix da Costa ineligible to score due to the non-MSA racing licence he holds. Nonetheless, second place in the fourth and final race of the Winter Championship wasn’t quite enough for Surtees to claim the title.While disappointed to lose out on the winter crown in the last race, the Surrey driver – son of former Grand Prix Motorcycling and Formula One World Champion John Surtees OBE – did a terrific job.Manor Competition team boss Tony Shaw said: “Obviously our aim was to win the title but it just wasn’t to be unfortunately. Henry did a great job and having won his first race in Formula Renault last Saturday, to come so close to taking the title this weekend was a great effort and I want to thank everyone at the team for working so hard.”For Manor’s two other winter campaigners, Tom Armour and Sung Hak Mun (or ‘Tom’ Mun as he is known), the Rockingham action proved to be a mixed bag with 19-year-old Armour enduring some terrible misfortune which undermined his promising pace. Retiring from round three under Safety Car conditions after receiving damage to his front wing following contact from a rival, the Essex youngster then ended up a non-classified finisher in round four after getting caught up in an incident at Deene Hairpin on lap four while running inside the top eight. Market Harborough’s Mun was also forced out of the encounter but a much improved run in the second race saw him achieve a richly deserved top 12 finish with lap times just eight 10ths of a second shy of those posted by runner-up Surtees.“Tom Armour and Tom Mun have both had some terrible luck during the course of the Winter Championship but they’ve both shown great improvement and very good pace which is encouraging”, added Shaw, “There’s no question Armour could have had a string of top six results but things just didn’t work out that way.”Mun equals career best as Armour rues bad luckDuring qualifying, Surtees did hold pole position for a time but slipped to fourth before the finish with a best lap of 1m 32.505 seconds (75.83mph). He would have undoubtedly gone quicker and should realistically have started from pole had he not been blocked on his two final laps. Armour, meanwhile, lined up 13th on the grid for round three while Mun set the 20th fastest time out of the 27 competitors.At the start of the opening race, which took place on a damp track following earlier rain, Surtees was unable to make any initial headway while Armour enjoyed a great first lap by climbing into ninth place. At Tarzan Hairpin though, he was hit by another car which resulted in a broken front wing and, soon after, retirement. Meanwhile, team-mate Mun was forced out of the race on lap one. Following a short Safety Car period, the action resumed on lap five with Surtees the sole Manor driver.On lap 10, he produced an excellent move to take third place at Pif Paf but a subsequent mistake at the Brook Chicane dropped him back to fifth where he remained to the flag. At the end of the race though, third placed Will Buller was given a 30 second penalty so Surtees was promoted into fourth, reducing the gap to title rival Calado to 13 points.Round four saw Surtees start third on the grid although this became second when da Costa pitted at the end of the formation lap. Dean Stoneman managed to get a better start to move ahead of the Manor ace through Turn One of the Oval but a spin for pole-sitter Calado at Deene Hairpin saw Surtees back into second place.With his championship nemesis rejoining down the order, the title looked destined to go to Surtees and Manor but there was a long way to go. The intervention of the Safety Car on two occasions, however, played into Calado’s hands on his recovery drive and although Surtees finished in second place, it wasn’t enough with Calado taking seventh.Armour’s involvement in an incident on the first lap of race two robbed him of a potential top eight finish at worst and compounded a luckless winter campaign, albeit one in which he has shown much improved speed.Lining up 20th on the grid, South Korean driver Mun avoided all of the incidents and was as high as eighth during the first part of the race after the initial Safety Car period – an outstanding effort. Although slipping to 13th position he climbed back into 12th on lap 16, the 18-year-old equalling the best result of his short career in single-seaters.Rockingham, of course, holds fond memories for Manor as back in 2001 it was the venue for new FIA Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s competitive debut with the team – the Hertfordshire racer’s first steps on the car racing ladder.He went on to win the 2003 Formula Renault UK title for Manor while, three years earlier, the team also achieved championship success during Formula Renault UK’s first season as a one-make category with Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 World Champion.With such a successful and storied history in Formula Renault UK, Manor Competition is now set to embark on a busy winter testing programme ahead of the 2009 season where it aims to return to the top of the tree by regaining the title it last held in 2005 with Oliver Jarvis, currently a driver for Audi in the German DTM touring car series.Final 2008 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship StandingsVice-Champion: Henry Surtees 113pts; 18th Tom Armour, 20pts;20th Sung Hak Mun, 16pts

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