WITH UK & BARC DRIVERS Leading Formula Renault squad Hillspeed undertook its first full team test of 2009 last week with visits to Rockingham and Silverstone in Northamptonshire, and Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire, all proving very fruitful.
Four of the squad’s five drivers ran at Rockingham on Wednesday, 18th February, and Thruxton on Friday, 20th February, with Formula Renault UK graduates Menasheh Idafar and Michael Lyons joined by two of the squad’s Formula Renault BARC runners, James Theodore and Ahmad Al Harthy.
Idafar, Lyons and reigning Formula Renault BARC Winter Champion Theodore all had to ‘run-in’ their cars at Rockingham, meaning pushing for out-and-out fast lap times wasn’t a consideration. Felsted based Lyons emerged marginally quicker than Idafar while Theodore concentrated on reeling off the laps to put mileage on his car.
For Omani star Al Harthy, his return to Rockingham was impressive and he continued his superb form at Thruxton – where he excelled in the 2008 Formula Renault BARC Championship – by posting the fastest time of any of the assembled BARC drivers, and by some margin too.
Comfortably faster than any of his 2009 rivals, Al Harthy chose to only complete three of the day’s four sessions and will return to track action this week alongside team-mate Theodore for more unofficially timed testing.
Telford-based student Theodore produced an exceptional performance on Friday during his first ever visit to the fearsome Thruxton Circuit. Lapping with times just half a second shy of the 2008 Formula Renault BARC pole position best, the category rookie was in thoroughly impressive shape.
“Thruxton was a particular highlight for Ahmad and James, they were both very impressive indeed”, commented Hillspeed’s Richard Ollerenshaw, “Ahmad was superb, extremely fast all day and very much in a class of his own. He stands a terrific chance of doing very well indeed this year. James was exceptionally good too. For his first ever visit to the track he produced a stunning effort.”
On Thursday, 19th February, Idafar and Lyons both made the most of a day’s running on the full Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit which will host the 11th and 12th rounds of the 2009 Formula Renault UK Championship on 4th/5th July as part of the British round of the World Series by Renault.
Combined with their runs at Rockingham and Thruxton, both of Hillspeed’s Formula Renault UK competitors racked up some important mileage and head into the first official test of the pre-season this week, 24th/25th February, aiming to continue the team’s solid championship build-up.
Ollerenshaw added: “Last week’s three days were important for Menasheh and Mick, with official testing now upon us it was essential to get some track time under our belts beforehand. Both of them have been running well, now we’ll find out this week where we are in the grand scheme of things when the official test at Rockingham begins.”
Hillspeed’s third Formula Renault BARC racer, Ellis Harkins, is expected to make his first testing appearance of the year shortly.