Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire will host the final two races of the thrilling Protyre Formula Renault Championship season this weekend, 28th/29th September, where the 18-strong grid of aspiring Formula One drivers will all be aiming to taste success at the biggest event of the year.
With the 2013 title already decided in favour of MGR Motorsport’s Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens), following a truly remarkable season for the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star, much of the attention will switch to the battle to become Vice-Champion.
Ahead of rounds 15 and 16, which will run as support to the British Touring Car Championship in front of tens of thousands of trackside spectators and the ITV4 television cameras, Malaysia’s Weiron Tan (London) is second in the standings with a 32-point cushion over his closest rival.
Throughout the second half of the season, since claiming his maiden category race win at Croft at the start of July, the Fortec Motorsports driver has been pretty much unstoppable. Only an engine problem during the last race at Rockingham in mid-August halted a run of five straight victories for the Caterham F1 Team Driver Development Programme member.
Tan realistically faces a two-pronged challenge for the runner-up spot in the title race from MGR’s Mexican star Jorge Cevallos (Oxford), who is determined to return to the top of the podium having won the second race of the year at Donington Park, and Hillspeed’s Jake Cook (Rotherham), who is still searching for his maiden victory in ‘slicks and wings’.
Cevallos, another driver with Formula One connections through his place on the Escuderia Telmex programme which propelled compatriots Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutiérrez into GP racing, goes into the Silverstone weekend just three points ahead of Cook but the Briton has the greater number of podiums to his credit – five to Cevallos’ four.
Fourth in the championship, and still with an outside chance of ending the season as Vice-Champion, is Chinese driver Hongwei ‘Martin Cao’ (Stoke-on-Trent). Cao, in his second year of Protyre Formula Renault action, has been a revelation in recent rounds with three podiums from six races. Notably, the popular Fortec driver claimed his maiden win last time out in round 14 at Rockingham.
With front-runner Joe Ghanem sitting out the finale, several drivers have an opportunity to usurp the category podium finisher for sixth in the championship. Leading the charge is Scorpio Motorsport’s Brazilian driver Henrique Baptista (Eastbourne) but he will face a stern challenge from Fortec’s round four winner Sam MacLeod (Cambridge).
Hillspeed driver Matt Rao (Oxford), Jamun Racing’s Pietro Fittipaldi – the 17-year-old grandson of Formula One legend Emerson – and MGR’s Matteo Ferrer (Colchester) also have a mathematical chance, as does MTECH Lite’s Lebanese racer Shahan Sarkissian.
Joining the Protyre Formula Renault grid this weekend will be highly rated 2012 British KF3 Karting Champion Alex Gill (Doncaster), the 16-year-old set to make his car racing debut with MTECH, and Ashley Crossey (Bristol) who will make his Protyre Formula Renault bow with Core Motorsport.
In addition, double championship-winning team Scorpio Motorsport will expand to running three cars with Piers Hickin (Knaphill) joining the squad to run alongside regular driver Baptista and the returning Russian racer, Ivan Taranov. In total, no fewer than 10 nationalities will be represented.
Following two officially timed test sessions on Friday, 27th September, round 15 qualifying will take place at 10.25 on Saturday, 28th September, with the round 16 session taking place at 13.40. The first of the weekend’s two races will begin at 17.35 on Saturday with the final round scheduled for 13.45 on Sunday, 29th September.
Live television coverage of Sunday’s encounter will be broadcast on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with live streaming also available online at www.itv.com/btcc
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 (after Rd14 – inc. drop score):
CHAMPION: Chris Middlehurst, 392pts; 2nd Weiron Tan, 297pts; 3rd Jorge Cevallos, 265pts; 4th Jake Cook, 262pts; 5th Hongwei Cao, 249pts; 6th Joe Ghanem, 166pts.