DURING MIXED SEASON OPENER
Surrey teenager David McDonald and Dutch team-mate Thomas Hylkema ended the opening race meeting of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship at Brands Hatch over the weekend almost level pegging on points after a mixed start to the season for the Manor Competition squad.
Qualifying on Saturday, 4th April, at the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit proved to be of utmost importance, especially in session two where the top 20 cars were covered by just half a second. In that session, Hylkema led the Manor contingent with a best time of 44.500 seconds (96.96mph) and although just 0.393 seconds shy of pole position, it meant the 20-year-old would start 15th on the grid.
Graduate Cup runner Alice Powell was 16th fastest, just 0.019 seconds adrift of her team-mate, while David McDonald was a mere four 100ths of a second further back with the 18th quickest time.
During the rain affected opening session, the Manor drivers were unfortunately pegged back to the midfield again with McDonald leading the way with the 14th best time ahead of Hylkema in 15th and Powell in 16th, the fifth fastest Graduate Cup contender.
On a circuit renowned for a distinct lack of overtaking opportunities, particularly in ‘slicks and wings’ single-seater cars, McDonald shone during round two on Sunday afternoon, 5th April, by climbing a full seven places during the 27-lap encounter to just miss-out on a deserved top 10 finish.
Inspired from the off, McDonald made great progress throughout round two to take 11th place, just three 10ths of a second away from a coveted top 10 placing, while Powell enjoyed her best overall result of the day in 13th position – fifth in the Graduate Cup – and Hylkema was just two 10ths of a second shy in 14th place.
All three Manor racers started the Sunday morning season-opener well with good getaways, Hylkema gaining three places to climb into the top 12. As is the way at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, Formula Renault UK races are usually very processional but McDonald provided an exception to that rule with a move past Lewis Williamson on lap 11 to grab 13th place.
The 19-year-old then mounted a great attempt to grab a final position on the line as the competitors raced around Clearways towards the chequered flag. With fantastic drive out of the final corner, McDonald crossed the line a mere 0.071 seconds behind 12th placed Swede Frederik Blomstedt.
Hylkema fought his way through to an 11th place finish in round one, just over a second shy of the top 10, while Powell ended her first ever single-seater race in a highly creditable 15th position and an excellent fourth in the Graduate Cup class.
One of only three drivers in Sunday’s races to have never started a Formula Renault race before, the West Oxfordshire 16-year-old was the best of the bunch and performed brilliantly considering her complete lack of experience in the ultra-competitive category.
Reflecting on the first weekend of the 2009 season Tony Shaw, team owner of New Ollerton based Manor Competition, said: “We’re disappointed not to have scored more points but we can’t fault the effort of all three drivers, they raced very hard on a track which is almost impossible to overtake on and they kept pushing throughout both races.
“Qualifying is so important at Brands Indy, just a couple of 10ths of a second can lose you 10 positions or more on the grid. Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify as well as we wanted but we’re delighted with the effort David, Alice and Thomas are putting in and looking forward now to an improved run at Thruxton in three weeks.”
Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire, the fastest track on the 2009 Formula Renault UK Championship calendar, will host the third and fourth rounds of the campaign over the weekend 25th/26th April.
Provisional 2009 Formula Renault UK Driver Standings (after Rd2):12th David McDonald, 18pts; 13th Thomas Hylkema, 17pts; 15th Alice Powell, 14pts
Provisional 2009 Formula Renault UK ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd2):1st Harry Tincknell, 28pts; 5th Alice Powell, 14pts
Provisional 2009 Formula Renault UK Team Standings (after Rd2):5th Manor Competition, 36pts