Mark Godwin Racing (MGR) dominated the opening rounds of the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship (14 April 2013) with maiden victories for Chris Middlehurst and Jorge Cevallos.
St Helens-based Middlehurst won Race 1 before going on to finish a close 2nd to his Mexican team-mate, Cevallos, in a thrilling dash to the chequered flag at the end of Race 2. This also put the Englishman into a commanding early lead in the points table - There were certainly no team orders! said team owner Mark Godwin with a broad smile. Jorge pipped Chris by a whisker over half a second in a superb curtain-raiser for the championship.
The Protyre Formula Renault series has long been praised for the quality and closeness of its racing, and the crowd gathered at the Leicestershire circuit were treated to some spectacular action in both races. Cevallos won scores of new fans - both in the UK and at home in Mexico - with a terrific performance in the second race. A perfect getaway from the line saw him out-smart the pole-sitter on the run into Redgate, the first corner. Middlehurst was also on the move and by lap 6 was up to 4th after losing ground at the start.
Two laps later, Cevallos had his hands full keeping Joe Ghanem at bay, with Middlehurst now 3rd. As the lead pair scrapped, Chris edged ever closer until, as they approached Redgate, all three ran abreast into the fast right-hander. Down to the Old hairpin, Middlehurst snatched 2nd, with Cevallos maintaining the lead. Now ahead, the MGR drivers worked together to go clear of the chasing pack, to set up a private duel on the run to the finishing line.
There was nothing between them, said Godwin, relieved that both had kept cool heads and not collided. Jorge was under pressure throughout, but showed his quality by not putting a wheel wrong. Similarly, Chris did a fantastic job.
In round one, Cevallos had started from 5th place on the grid, but a storming start saw him in 2nd as the pack prepared to file into the Craner Curves. A stranded car brought out the Safety Car but at the re-start Jorge made a small but costly error that cost him places and he was forced to complete the race without a front wing. To add to the drama, rain briefly fell and the positions began to shuffle again. In contrast, Middlehurst had carried superior speed through the exit of Redgate and through Hollywood to surprise Sam McLeod and take 2nd as they wound through the Craner Curves
On lap 11, Chris made the most of his cars set-up and posted the fastest lap of the race and monstered the rear of the leaders car. Four laps later, his relentless pressure paid-off and he pulled off an outrageous pass down Ghanems inside going into Redgate. This sparked an enthralling three-way fight for the win, with Middlehurst doggedly holding on through the final lap to seal his first triumph in the series. There was added delight when fellow MGR driver Matteo Ferrer gave a great account of himself on his debut, with an excellent drive to 5th.
Chris was quite superb. This is what the fans pay their money to come and see; exciting young talents demonstrate their ability, courage and commitment in a hard-fought but clean, close championship. I was delighted by Matteos performance also. He is developing some real pace and racecraft for someone with so little experience. I cant wait to see how he develops as a driver this season. Jorge started brightly but struggled with front tyre wear after losing the front wing, so he sensibly opted to keep out of trouble and drive for points.
Commenting on Tom Oliphants fortunes, Mark said: Tom had what can only be described as a character-building day. He didnt record a quick time in qualifying after missing the latter part of the session, which left him facing a tough task in both races. He drove brilliantly in the first race but made a slight mistake which resulted in his DNF. That didnt reflect the quality of his performance and he deserved more from the weekend as a whole. His 11th in Round Two put vital points on the board for him, so he didnt come away completely empty-handed.
Reflecting on his teams success he added: This has been an outstanding way to start our Protyre Formula Renault campaign. Everybody has worked incredibly hard over the winter to achieve these results but there is a long way to go and a lot more to come. We have laid down a marker but our rivals have also shown that they are very competitive too. We cannot afford to be complacent but we will also enjoy this moment and hope to replicate it at Snetterton.
Provisional standings after Rd2:1st Chris Middlehurst, 62pts; 2nd Jorge Cevallos, 42pts, 4th Matteo Ferrer, 36pts, 15th Tom Oliphant, 11pts