RENAULT UK SEASON CURTAIN-RAISER Round two of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship proved to be the racing highlight of the first weekend of the season for Hillspeed at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, Sunday, 5th April, with Menasheh Idafar and Lee Dwyer securing the squad a double-points finish.
While Idafar claimed a hard-fought top 10 result in the weekend’s second race – which was screened live on ITV4 in the UK – Dwyer battled through from 14th on the grid to secure a welcome 12th place finish, both drivers out-shining several more experienced category competitors.
The first of yesterday’s races saw Dwyer run very strongly early on from his superb grid slot of sixth place as he ran comfortably with the major championship contenders such as James Calado and Dean Stoneman.
Pressuring pre-season title favourite Calado as the race developed, Dwyer unfortunately lost a couple of positions in quick succession on lap seven when Jesse Krohn managed to squeeze through at Paddock Hill Bend and then, with the Hillspeed racer having lost momentum, Josh Scott edged ahead at Druids Hairpin.
On lap nine, however, things took a turn for the worse when Dwyer had a spin at Clearways and was forced to rejoin in last place. On lap 12 though, another moment at McLaren saw Dwyer have to disappointingly retire from the race – a great shame after such a positive run.
Idafar, meanwhile, had a very tall order on his hands after qualifying for the first race in 18th place following a tricky, rain-affected qualifying session on Saturday morning. In the end, he took a couple of championship points with a 19th place result after a relatively uneventful outing.
Lining up an excellent sixth on the grid for round two following a terrific performance in the second qualifying session on Saturday afternoon, British-born Bahraini Idafar wasn’t able to make the start he wanted and unfortunately dropped a couple of places.
Fighting hard to recover the lost ground, the 18-year-old raced well just inside the top 10 but on lap 23 – following a short Safety Car period – he lost ninth place to fellow Graduate Cup contender Will Stevens as they headed along Cooper Straight into Surtees. Nonetheless, a top 10 finish in only the second race of the year bodes well for the promising young single-seater talent.
Dwyer performed very well indeed, gaining a couple of positions on his grid slot and lapping with consistently similar pace to that of his team-mate. In the thick of the midfield action with Idafar and Manor Competition drivers David McDonald, Alice Powell and Thomas Hylkema, the teenage racer did well to achieve a solid top 12 finish and fourth place in the Graduate Cup rankings.
Speaking on the opening weekend of the 2009 campaign, Hillspeed’s Richard Ollerenshaw said: “It’s not been a bad start to the year at all for us, we’ve got two rookie drivers in Formula Renault UK and they’ve both produced some good performances this weekend. Each earned a top six qualifying spot and in the second race, with Menasheh 10th and Lee 12th, it was a great team result.
“We’re very pleased with the start we’ve made and although there’s a lot of work to do to move further up the order, we achieved our target of bagging a top 10 finish so that’s important. It was unfortunate Lee had his retirement in the first race but all in all it’s been a productive weekend.”
Hillspeed’s Formula Renault UK team now has a three-week break in action ahead of the third and fourth rounds of the 2009 season which will take place at Hampshire’s Thruxton Circuit over the weekend 25th/26th April.
Provisional 2009 Formula Renault UK Driver Standings (after Rd2):=16th Menasheh Idafar & Ollie Hancock, 13pts; 19th Lee Dwyer, 9pts
Provisional 2009 Formula Renault UK ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd2):6th Menasheh Idafar, 13pts; 7th Lee Dwyer, 9pts
Provisional 2009 Formula Renault UK Team Standings (after Rd2):7th Hillspeed, 22pts