FINAL RACE OF SEASON
Ivan Taranov sealed a fantastic return to action in the Protyre Formula Renault Championship with his second victory in as many races at Silverstone National Circuit, Sunday, 29th September, during a dramatic and action-packed final round of the season.
After three months away from racing, the Scorpio Motorsport driver made an instantaneous impact on Saturday, 28th September, by winning round 15 and he confirmed his sensational pace once again this afternoon by duly adding his second career victory – fighting through from fourth on the grid.
“I knew we had the pace but, as I said yesterday, the races are quite unpredictable so you never know if things will work out”, said the Russian, “Obviously, it feels great and I want to say a huge thank you to Scorpio – they’ve been great all year. We didn’t have an opportunity to show what we could do earlier in the season, then I had to miss some races, but now we’re back and we’ve won.”
British racer Sam MacLeod (Cambridge) deservingly concluded what has been a luckless rookie year in single-seaters in second place, his fifth podium of the year, with Fortec Motorsport team-mate Hongwei Cao (Stoke-on-Trent) also making his fifth rostrum visit of 2013 in third position.
For the already-crowned Protyre Formula Renault Champion Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens), the last weekend of the season unfortunately ended with another non-finish as a result of lap one contact with Fortec’s Weiron Tan (London) as the duo contested the lead.
Middlehurst did, though, receive his champion’s trophy post-race from none other than double Formula One World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, the Brazilian legend on hand to watch his teenage grandson Pietro secure his second top six result of the weekend.
“It’s really nice get the champion’s trophy this weekend, and especially from a racing legend like Emerson Fittipaldi – that made me smile”, said Middlehurst, “It’s been a fantastic season, I’ve enjoyed every minute, so now we’re looking towards next year and a possible move into Europe.
“I was taking a few more risks this weekend, I had nothing to lose, so I was going for the win today. I didn’t quite get round the second corner with [Weiron] Tan, it’s how it goes though sometimes – you win some, you lose some. I’ve had good luck all year really, this weekend we didn’t have any!”
Lap one of the final race of the season was expectedly frantic with first time pole-starter Wei Fung Thong (Liverpool) swamped by the fast-starting duo of Middlehurst and Tan into Copse. Out of the corner the champion held the lead, but with Tan almost alongside, and into Becketts they touched before both spinning out, enabling Taranov and MacLeod to move through.
While Middlehurst limped back to the pits to retire, Tan was able to continue and did fight his way back into seventh before eventually fading to 12th place – still enough to ensure the Malaysian the Vice-Champion’s position in the standings.
Following a few laps behind the Safety Car, required to clear away the stricken car of Henrique Baptista (Eastbourne) which had been in contact with the car of Thong at Brooklands on the opening tour, racing resumed on lap six. Taranov held the lead from MacLeod, MGR Motorsport’s Mexican driver Jorge Cevallos (Oxford), Scorpio’s Piers Hickin (Knaphill), Cao and Jamun Racing’s Pietro Fittipaldi.
No sooner had the action got back underway, Hillspeed’s Jake Cook and Fortec Competition’s Hongli Yee (London) tangled at Becketts ruling both cars out on the spot. Taranov, meanwhile, had made an excellent job of the re-start and led by over a second from MacLeod.
The second placed man mounted an impressive charge though and closed-up quickly to the Russian, setting fastest lap pace at that point, and within a couple of laps he was right behind the rear wing of the Scorpio car.
Try as he might to pressure the leader, MacLeod wasn’t quite able to force a mistake from Taranov who didn’t put a wheel wrong. During the closing stages, Taranov did extend his lead to over one second before backing off across the line on lap 21 to celebrate a fantastic double victory. Second place for MacLeod, however, confirmed the first year driver’s obvious pace.
“It’s always very, very close at this track and once you’ve broken the tow it’s quite difficult to catch back up”, said MacLeod, “It’s all about thousandths, it’s all minimal stuff, you’ve just got to have consistency. We’ve had so much bad luck this year but, for my rookie year, the pace has been really good and I don’t think we’ve struggled for pace anywhere so I can’t complain really.”
Cevallos initially held third position following the re-start but Cao made his way past in double quick time and they remained in that order to the chequered flag, the Chinese driver able to pull away to the tune of over two seconds. Thong, meanwhile, battled back from his opening lap spin to post the fastest lap of the race and also finish in fifth ahead of the impressively consistent Fittipaldi.
Reflecting on his final round podium, Cao said: “I’m fitter than last year, I’m taking it much more seriously than last year, so I’ve definitely improved but there is still a margin for more. I’m looking forward for the Autumn Cup now, I’m hoping to get some good results at Rockingham and I think we can. Fortec is a fantastic team, everything is so professional and you always have a good car.”
Core Motorsport’s Ashley Crossey (Bristol) took seventh in only his second race in the championship with MTECH Lite’s Shahan Sarkissian eighth, the Lebanese driver battling back from a pit-stop to replace a damaged wheel. His rookie team-mate Alex Gill (Doncaster) was ninth in only his second ever car race while Finland’s Atte Lehtonen rounded out the top 10 for SWB Motorsport.
With the Protyre Formula Renault season now concluded, teams will have a seven week break from competitive action before the four-race Autumn Cup event takes place at Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit on 16th/17th November.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.
Provisional 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship Standings (inc. drop score):
CHAMPION: Chris Middlehurst, 408pts; 2nd Weiron Tan, 331pts; 3rd Jorge Cevallos, 307pts; 4th Hongwei Cao, 296pts; 5th Jake Cook, 292pts; 6th Sam MacLeod, 169pts