South American superstar Pietro Fittipaldi (Camberley) won the coveted Protyre Formula Renault Championship title in style at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire this afternoon, Sunday, 21st September, after securing victory number 10 of the season.
Requiring a lead of 68 points on ‘drop scores’ at the conclusion of the penultimate weekend of the campaign, MGR Motorsport racer Fittipaldi finished round 13 with precisely that and so wrapped-up the title with two races remaining – earning MGR’s second title triumph in as many years.
Making a sensational start to take the lead from second on the grid, Fittipaldi dominated the second of the event’s races with a virtuoso performance and won by almost six seconds while also sealing the all-important bonus points for fastest lap.
In round 12 earlier in the afternoon, the Brazilian’s eight-race winning streak came to an end after Scorpio Motorsport’s Piers Hickin (Knaphill) brilliantly claimed his maiden victory in Protyre Formula Renault. Fittipaldi did, however, finish a very close runner-up and also set a new category lap record for Croft – bettering Matt Russell’s benchmark which had stood for nine years!
“It’s absolutely fantastic to win the championship this weekend, and to do it with another win”, said the new champion, before dashing off to catch a flight to go testing in Europe, “Race two was really good, we had a good start to get the lead and I was able to open up the gap with consistency.
“It’s still to be determined what we do next year, Escuderia Telmex will decide where we go, but I’m happy with anything. I still have to improve and keep getting better and that’s what we’ve been doing all season here.”
Fortec Motorsport’s Alex Gill (Womersley) started round 13 on pole position but Fittipaldi got the jump on his rival at the start and vanished into the distance after a couple of laps. Gill had to keep an eye on his mirrors as the race progressed with Hickin becoming an increasingly prevalent threat.
Try as he might, though, the Scorpio driver wasn’t able to find a large enough chink in Gill’s armour and the Fortec racer managed to just see him off by 0.8 seconds at the finish to remain second in the championship when the category’s ‘drop score’ ruling is applied.
“We’ve been struggling with the car all weekend really, so to get a second is good”, said Gill, “I’m a bit upset I haven’t won the championship but when you look at it, Pietro has been doing it for two years – and he did some F4 as well – and it’s only my first season in cars. Hopefully people will look at it that way, I’ve taken it to him a few times this year and sometimes have been quicker.”
Colin Noble Jnr (Penicuik, Midlothian) finished in fourth position, moving into the place on lap two when MGR team-mate Tarun Reddy ran wide at Tower. Noble did come under significant pressure from Matteo Ferrer (Colchester), but a moment late on for the Italian meant he lost touch.
The top six was rounded out by TJ Fischer who had to mount a recovery drive in his Cliff Dempsey-fettled FR 2.0 after an unfortunate stall at the start. Frustratingly for the American, he had qualified a sensational season-best third fastest.
Hickin brings an end to the Fittipaldi winning streak
In the day’s opening race, Hickin finally broke his duck with a fantastic performance under heavy pressure over the final couple of laps from champion-elect Fittipaldi. After an initial aborted start due to a problem with the lighting gantry, the race got underway with Fittipaldi surging into the lead ahead of pole-starting team-mate Ferrer with Noble up into third ahead of Gill.
Ferrer then slipped back to fourth at Sunny behind Noble and Gill after falling into their clutches when an attempted move on Fittipaldi at Tower didn’t pay off and delayed the Italian. Then, on lap two, a tangle between Indian youngster Tarun Reddy and Canada’s Patrick Dussault at Sunny led to the red flags being shown.
The race restarted in the order taken at the end of the second tour, so Fittipaldi lined-up on pole ahead of Noble, Gill, Ferrer and Hickin with Fischer completing the top six. Fittipaldi again made a great start to lead but at Tower, a late move on the brakes by team-mate Noble resulted in both losing time which enabled Hickin to slice past on the run into the Esses.
Fittipaldi managed to hold second, with Gill leap-frogging Noble for third, and over the first half of the 12-lapper Hickin was able to pull clear of the chasing pack. On lap three, the leader established a new lap record as he increased his lead to almost two seconds but during the latter stages Fittipaldi started to push more and more.
Snatching the lap record on the penultimate tour with a time of 1m20.921 seconds (94.53mph), the Brazilian piled on the pressure to Hickin but the Briton held firm to see off the MGR racer by just under 0.4 seconds.
“We’ve been chasing this all season, we’ve had an up and down year – I’m so thankful for the team and for myself we finally managed to win”, said Hickin, “Obviously, it was a bit of a pain with the delayed start and the incidents with nerves and tension building but I stayed composed, stayed relaxed and made the most of the re-start. It was a fantastic race for us and for our championship.”
Ferrer completed the podium after a great pass on Gill at Tower on lap eight but the Fortec driver remained close in his rival’s wheeltracks to the finish with just 0.3 seconds separating them at the flag. Fischer took fifth for Cliff Dempsey Racing with Noble ultimately slipping back to sixth after the American moved ahead on the penultimate tour. SWB Motorsport’s Jack Butel placed seventh.
Protyre Formula Renault now heads straight to Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire for the final two rounds of the season next weekend, 27th/28th September, where the championship will make its annual appearance on the British Touring Car Championship support package. The final race of the Protyre Formula Renault campaign next Sunday will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault is additionally supported by Michelin.
Provisional 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship Driver Standings (after Rd13 inc. drops):
CHAMPION: Pietro Fittipaldi, 380pts; 2nd Alex Gill, 312pts; 3rd Piers Hickin, 306pts; 4th Matteo Ferrer, 302pts