Three fantastically entertaining Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship races at Donington Park over the weekend, 18th/19th August, produced a trio of winners – including a new name to the top step of the podium, MGR Motorsport’s David Wagner (Glasgow, Scotland).
Victory for Josh Webster (Stowmarket, Suffolk) in round 10 on Saturday afternoon, his fourth on the trot, moved him to within a single point of series leader Scott Malvern (Barkingside, Ilford) on overall scores but things went awry for the MGR driver on Sunday with fuel pump and power issues.
Success for Malvern in round 11, with Webster fourth, enabled the Cullen Motorsport racer to extend his series advantage once again. Malvern then finished a close second to Wagner in round 12 to depart the East Midlands with a 23 point lead at the top of the championship. With the ‘drop score’ ruling taken into account, Malvern holds a 14 point cushion with just two races remaining.
“This weekend has been really good for me”, said Malvern, “We had the pace in the car to win on Saturday but we were stuck behind Josh [Webster], luckily the tyres weren’t in too bad condition and I was able to control race two. It’s been a good weekend, let’s keep going as we are.”
Webster started the event in the best possible position with pole for the first of the three races, just edging out Malvern and Wagner with only 0.018 seconds covering them, and he made it count too with a lights-to-flag victory – his fifth win of the year.
Malvern challenged hard over the first two thirds of the 14-lap encounter but from that point on Webster was able to pull away, punching in a series of fastest laps and what turned out to be the best of the weekend with a time of 1m08.262 seconds (104.37mph).
“I made a couple of mistakes in that race” said Webster, “But last time out at Croft I learnt a lot with Scott [Malvern] chasing me down, I got used to seeing that blue and yellow car close in my mirrors so it’s helped me improve the way I handle that sort of pressure.”
Fortec Motorsports’ Seb Morris (Marford, Wrexham) made a good start to quickly move ahead of Wagner and the latter then came under attack from Hillspeed’s Kieran Vernon (West Chiltington, West Sussex) around the outside at Redgate.
After seeing off Wagner, Vernon set his sights on Morris and made third place his into the chicane at the end of lap one. Soon enough though, Vernon had to mount a rear-guard action as Morris looked for a way back past and they were joined by the ultra-impressive Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens).
Having qualified a superb seventh, Middlehurst moved into the top five on lap one but couldn’t have expected what would happen on the ninth tour when Vernon and Morris made contact at Redgate which ruled Morris out on the spot. Middlehurst went on to take his maiden category podium while Scorpio Motorsport’s Macaulay Walsh (Northampton) also profited to take fourth.
Three podiums from three for Malvern
Round 11 marked Malvern’s turn to lead from lights-to-flag, winning by four seconds from Wagner who just held off a rapidly closing Middlehurst, the latter claiming his second podium in as many races with another sensational performance from the fourth row of the grid.
The initial start was red flagged shortly after racing had begun due to the cars of Henrique Baptista (Eastbourne) and American-Norwegian newcomer Falco Wauer coming together on the grid after an unsighted Wauer collected the Brazilian’s FR 2.0.
At the second time of asking, Malvern led away once again from pole with Wagner maintaining second ahead of rapid-starting Webster who shot ahead of Morris. Middlehurst, meanwhile, made a superb getaway to move into the top five immediately.
Malvern built his advantage throughout and showed the benefit clear air can give in a ‘slicks and wings’ single-seater by delivering the pace he felt capable of in the weekend’s opening race and also posted the fastest lap on the final tour.
Middlehurst, meanwhile, kept Webster off the podium with a pass into the Old Hairpin after the pair had run side-by-side through Hollywood and down Craner Curves. Having taken fourth from Morris at the start of lap five, the pair almost banging wheels into Redgate, Middlehurst then edged closer to Webster who wasn’t able to defend as he wanted due to a fuel pump issue.
“It’s been a brilliant weekend”, said double podium finisher Middlehurst, “Finishing on the podium twice from seventh on the grid is fantastic. After a hard start to the season I really feel like we’re starting to make good progress, the car’s handling great and I feel I’m in really good form as well.”
Webster then came under pressure from Morris for fourth but just fended him off at the line by a mere 0.009 seconds. James Fletcher (Windlesham, Surrey) rounded out the top six ahead of Vernon, Walsh and Michael Epps (Hemel Hempstead) – matching a season-best ninth from the day before.
In the last of the weekend’s races, Wagner took his deserved maiden victory with an impressive drive from pole position. Soaking up every last bit of pressure from Malvern, the Scottish racer became only the fourth different winner in 2012 and also moved into the championship top three.
Initially, Morris was Wagner’s closest pursuer but the leader defended well and in doing so helped to create a four car fight at the front. Malvern smartly took advantage, slicing past Morris for second at the chicane at the end of lap two, but try as he might he couldn’t force a mistake from Wagner.
“I’m delighted with the win, big thanks to the boys at MGR”, said Wagner, “It has been a long time coming but since Croft we’ve managed to get a set-up that really suits my style so my feedback has been a lot better. We’ve seen the benefit of that too, a pole and a podium at Croft and now I’ve won here at Donington and I was the top qualifier – overall I’m delighted with the weekend.”
Morris lost third to Walsh at the Old Hairpin on lap three but he fought his way back onto the podium on lap seven and then posted the fastest lap on the 10th tour to confirm his pace and make a welcome return to the rostrum for the first time since winning round five at Rockingham. Webster, meanwhile, struggled again with a suspected power issue to only take sixth behind Middlehurst.
There are now seven weeks to wait until the grand finale of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, rounds 13 and 14, which will take place at Silverstone National Circuit – in support of the British Touring Car Championship – over the weekend 6th/7th October.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault BARC is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.
Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd12):
1st Scott Malvern, 324pts;
2nd Josh Webster, 301pts;
3rd David Wagner, 223pts;
4th Seb Morris, 208pts;
5th Macaulay Walsh, 202pts;
6th Kieran Vernon, 193pts