Talented Surrey youngster Howard Fuller produced a stunning double drive at Silverstone last weekend in the final rounds of the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship.
Contesting his maiden season in the series, Fuller’s performances have at times belied his young age and relative inexperience. Driving for one of the more modest teams in the championship, finding the ultimate pace in qualifying has sometimes been difficult to come by and so it proved at Silverstone. Undeterred by the minor setback, Fuller remained focussed on making his way through the field from rows seven and nine respectively in the two races.
As the lights went out in perfect conditions for race one on Saturday afternoon, Fuller blasted off the line and immediately passed Max Robinson and Callum Bowyer. He nipped by another rival as the ultra competitive 22-car field ran into Copse for the first time and Fuller was already inside the top ten within seconds of the start.
In a formula where it is notoriously difficult to overtake, Fuller had fought his way up to an impressive ninth place with just three laps to go. There was more good news to come when third placed Khourosh Khani was handed a penalty for defending too rigorously against Dino Zamparelli. Time after time Zamparelli got a good run on the Iranian driver, but he was regularly thwarted in an aggressive manor by Khani.
Meanwhile Fuller was continuing with his fantastic display, putting in consistently quicker laps as the race progressed. He crossed the line in ninth at the finish, but when Khani was disqualified for ignoring his penalty, Fuller was classified in a superb eighth after starting from 13th.
His challenge on Sunday was set to be even greater as he started from 18th on the grid, but desperate to claim ninth in the overall season standings, Howard produced another speed demon drive of the highest quality.
Despite not getting the electrifying start he enjoyed on Saturday, the 19-year-old didn’t wait long to begin carving his way through the order. Pass after pass was made by Fuller, including a stellar move by the experienced James Theodore, who drives for multiple championship winning team Fortec Motorsport.
In a nail biting climax to the season, Fuller had incredibly fought his way into the top ten of the race, and as the chequered flag waved he’d secured ninth position in the overall season standings. The race was actually won by Matt Mason – a driver who Howard beat in race one on Saturday.
It was a fitting end to the year for the Surrey speedster, who also beat his two team-mates Zaamin Jaffer and Sean Walkinshaw over the course of the season. It is well acknowledged that Fuller’s modest Hillspeed team do not have the same resources as the likes of Fortec, but the former Formula Palmer Audi driver regularly mixed it with his more experienced rivals during 2011. It has been a closely fought season for the Formula Renault BARC Championship, highlighted by 18 drivers being separated by just one second for the grid of the final race.
Following the race, which took place in front of a bumper crowd of more than 30,000 people, Fuller reflected on an impressive final weekend and eye-catching season overall. “I really enjoyed that,” he said. “I’m an aggressive driver and I wanted to show people that I can overtake. We passed 13 cars in total this weekend so I have shown what I can do. It’s no secret that I haven’t had the car underneath me at times this season, particularly in qualifying, but I have usually shown in the races that I am quick. It has been a season long battle with my team-mate Zaamin Jaffer too so I am particularly pleased to win that one. We had three non-finishes over the year, so there are always things we would like to have improved, but considering the circumstances and with this being my first year in the series I have to be pleased with the season.”
The season is not quite over yet for Howard as he has been invited to race as part of the Formula 1-supporting Indian Grand Prix bill in two weeks time. He will race in front of the entire F1 paddock and more news on this story will follow next week.