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Archive for May, 2008

Adam Christodoulou

Adam Christodoulou heads to the Croft circuit in Yorkshire this weekend for rounds nine and ten of the 2008 Formula Renault UK Championship. Adam is leading the Championship and will be looking to extend that lead at Croft.

“I think going into Croft this weekend will be very exciting now the Championship is closer but I’ve had the pace all year so I’m feeling confident in myself and the team. During the official testing at Croft I was about third quickest and I know in myself I can find that extra tenth to be fastest again in qualifying. Croft is really tight and twisty; in my eyes it’s a big kart track and I’m looking forward to getting back there. My target for this weekend will to get back up to the top spot on the podium and to regain my comfortable lead in the Championship. I know it was a mixed weekend for me and the team at Thruxton but that’s behind us now and we’re all looking forward to the weekend ahead of us at Croft. I’ve just had my engine come back from Renualt and they have cleaned the slate with the number of wins I’ve had and allowed me to use it at the next four races, so that’s fantastic. If the weather is changeable over the weekend it shouldn’t be a problem because the team have got awesome setups for both conditions and I can’t wait for the racing to start.”

APR MotorsportAll three APR Motorsport VW GTi’s finished the KONI Challenge ST race during the Lime Rock Park GT Classic today, a strong showing for cars in only their second race of their short lives.

With two cars in the top twenty, APR Motorsport was in a heavy push to the front when the checkered flag flew after two and a half hours of extremely competitive racing. The #171 car, driven by Ian Baas and Dion von Moltke, finished in 14th place, racing in the thick of the pack for the entire race. von Moltke, who drove first, made over ten passes in the first 45 minutes of the race, placing the car as high as 10th, which is where the car stood when he handed the wheel over the Baas. Baas immediately tore towards the front, picking up three spots in the first 20 minutes and catching the lead pack.

Baas ran consistent lap times in the mid 1:01’s, putting him with the top five finishing cars in terms of speed, but yellow flags and lapped cars made the chase to the front quite tough. Baas said “I cannot tell you how great the APR GTI was today. These cars have come so far since Daytona. Today’s race was really competitive and fun, and we are pretty close to the pace of the front runners. If the race had been three hours, instead of the allotted 2.5, we’d likely have had a top ten finish.”

von Moltke added “ I cannot thank the team enough for such a great car. I did my best to push to the front and experienced a lot of great racing with some very fast and competitive drivers. I kept my, and thankfully my cars, noses clean. When I handed the car off to Ian, who proved to be incredibly fast. I really felt we could have had a top ten finish. Sadly, with all the yellows and lapped traffic, the race ended a bit too quickly for us.”

Car #191, driven by TV personality and racing star James Hunt, along with sprint car specialist Mike Sweeney, experienced a top twenty finish in only their first race of the season with APR Motorsport. Hunt drove first, and gained six positions in the first hour, pushing his way towards the front with solid, clean driving before handing the car over to Mike Sweeney at the half race point. Sweeney, who was in his first ever pro race, gained a handful of positions and drove a very competitive stint, posting times in the mid 1:02’s, the same as Hunt.

Hunt said “Wow, what great cars! APR has these cars so developed for first year cars. It’s actually hard to believe these cars are only in their second race! The car handled well and was as fast as all but the fastest cars in a straight line. The racing was tough and we experienced a little bit of rubbing, but I really enjoyed this utlra-competitive racing the series and Lime Rock offered.” Mike Sweeney went on to add “I am a rear wheel drive specialist, normally racing sprint cars, but I was so impressed with these front drive GTi’s. I cannot tell you how balanced and quick these cars are. As for the racing, I did my best to race as fast and be as respectful of the other cars out there. The racing was so aggressive and competitive, and the speed differential within the pack was astounding. Every lap was like a qualifier. It’s was just push, push, push! “

Car #181, driven by Mark White and Randy Pobst, actually had the fastest lap of all three of the APR Motorsport GTi’s, a 101.288 vs the Baas/von Moltke #171’s 101.333, but never really challenged for the lead due to two successive flat tires in 10 laps, finishing 27th. Pobst said about the race “Wow. It’s too bad luck wasn’t on our side as we had a good, fast car. The racing, today, while a bit more aggressive than necessary at times, was really fun and certainly a blast for the fans. Three wide into turn one, all wheels off the ground at the uphill, passing just about everywhere. Combine this with all the brands and types of cars out there and you have one great show for the fans. Mark did a superb job of pushing towards the front after starting way from the back due to a mechanical problem (suspension bushing failure) during qualifying. Mark must have passed 15 cars in 10 minutes, hand the car over to me in about 16th place at the halfway point. Sadly, while challenging the top ten, I suffered one flat tire, then another, in a ten minute span. This ended our chances of a good result, but we know what the car is capable of and we look forward to Mosport.”

White added “Luck? Can we buy that?” laughing. “We certainly didn’t have any luck today, but I was so impressed with the difference in the car from Daytona. Our crew did an absolutely fantastic job of developing the car since our last race and I can’t thank them enough. Had we not had that bushing problem in qualifying, our times should have offered us a top ten qualifying. Considering the possibilities and the fact that I hand the car over to Randy Pobst, I think we would have had a great finish today, had luck been on our side.”

APR Motorsport races next at Mosport on June 14. All of the drivers look forward to the really fast Mosport circuit, a track Pobst calls one of the best in the world.

Menasheh IdafarJust 18 hours after completing the fifth round of the 2008 Formula Renault BARC season at Oulton Park in Cheshire, British-born Bahraini Menasheh Idafar got back behind the wheel of his Hillspeed-run car today, Tuesday, 27th May, for an important test session at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire.

With the weather serving up mixed conditions throughout the day, the 17-year-old had the opportunity to hone his skills in the dry and the wet during a test which could prove to be absolutely crucial as part of his preparations for the sixth and seventh rounds of the campaign at Croft almost eight weeks from now on 19th/20th July.

Producing yet another faultless performance today, Menasheh lapped the 2.12-mile track with a best time of 1m 20.3 seconds while using old tyres. Taking into account his best ever lap at the circuit is just a 10th of a second faster when using new rubber, the Gulfol, Ortolan and Gulf Computer Services backed driver ended the test very happy.

Hillspeed’s driver coach, British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star Matt Shawyer, said: “It’s been a very good day, both when taking into consideration Menasheh’s actual driving and also the fact the conditions were so mixed which enabled him to get the full experience of Croft in the wet and the dry. We’re delighted with his performance.

“We had a few dry sessions to begin, then it was wet and then we had an intermediate session towards the end. He did very well in the changeable conditions and managed a best time of 1m 20.3 seconds on old tyres – the best he’s ever been around Croft before is 1m 20.2 seconds on new tyres so that all bodes very well for the races in July.”

Flying back to his home in Bahrain tomorrow evening, Menasheh is set to switch from his 2.0-litre Formula Renault BARC racing car to kart power this coming weekend at the Dubai Kartdrome. Joining his 15-year-old brother Ezra Idafar, the pair will take part in the prestigious 2008 Nivea For Men 24 hour Endurance Kart Challenge.

With the next two rounds of the Formula Renault BARC Championship not taking place until 19th/20th July, Menasheh plans to undertake more testing with his Hillspeed team during June and July although no firm dates have yet been set in stone.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

The Monte Carlo citizens were woken up early this morning by the sounds of the World Series Renault. Engines were fired up as early as 7:45 to move, in single file and on an open road, the series’ 26 cars from the temporary paddock located close to the Tennis Club to the pits zone. The Prema drivers had a troublefree session, avoid making costly mistakes and trying to develop the cars for Saturday’s morning qualifying, scheduled to start at 9:00. Alvaro Barba ended up in 6th, while Miguel Molina rounded out the top-10. All the laptimes were very close, as less than a second divided leader Salvador Duran by Molina.

“All the work we planned to do was completed by our drivers, without encountering technical problems. We’re really looking forward to qualifying, even though we know Monte Carlo is full of hiddend dangers”.

Adam Christodoulou

CR Scuderia’s Adam Christodoulou said he would be back on top at Thruxton this weekend and he wasn’t joking. The 18 year-old was blindingly fast in qualifying, taking pole position for both races. He converted his first pole into a win in race one but was penalised in race two when he was deemed to have jumped the start. He continues to lead the Formula Renault UK Championship with a 13-point lead and 4 convincing wins from 8 races.

Adam Christodoulou:
“Qualifying was spot on at Thruxton; the car handled like a dream, the team did their job, I did mine and we couldn’t have asked for a better result. All I had to do then was finish it off with two race wins. I got away okay at the start of race one and managed to keep Riki (Christodoulou) behind me all the way to the chequered flag. I inched forward very slightly in race two and soon got the call that I had jumped the start. I guess they watch you like hawks when you are on pole and those couple of inches were enough for a penalty. The marshals called me in to serve my drive-thru penalty but the safety car had just come out so I had to wait even longer in the pitlane to get the green light. I then had to go back a few laps later and serve it all over again as I had come in while the safety car was out! There isn’t a lot you can do after losing so much time as you can’t get anywhere near the points. I took fastest lap though and broke the lap record too that helped the points situation a bit. I’m still leading and I’m going to Croft in two weeks confident of some good results.”

Felix RosenqvistAsian Formula Renault series Formula Asia 2.0 competed at the Sepang International Circuit this weekend, when Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist left a major mark after scoring some astonishing results. Two wins, two Pole Positions and one fastest lap made the 16 year-old talent leave Malaysia at the top of the standings, leading all of his more experienced competitors in the fight for the title. The heat – and, more specifically, the humidity – was a major concern all through the event, but Rosenqvist kept his cool in challenging conditions while recording the fastest times in all practice sessions.

“I’m naturally overjoyed with my performance this weekend”, Rosenqvist says. “The first race, in which I finished second to Mathias Beche, was a clear example of how easily a chassis issue can influence your performance as the car suffered from bad understeer, but as soon as we changed the set-up back to what it was before I was able to run at a comfortable, steady pace at the front and win the remaining races. The car has been great throughout, and I would like to thank my team March3 Racing for an impeccable effort in the Malaysian heat”.

The Sepang victories mean that Rosenqvist has now won four out of the five Formula Renault events he has contested in 2008, and the flawless race craft was made even the more impressive by an equally as strong qualifying showing timed to perfection. Formula Asia 2.0 ran two races on Sepang’s full-length Grand Prix circuit, with the final round of the weekend taking place on a shorter, 2.807 km configuration – where Pole Position was secured with the remarkable margin of 0.7 seconds. The races, arranged as a part of popular motorsport event package the Asian Festival of Speed, were broadcast on a number of TV channels and attracted thousands of on-site visitors during the weekend.

“I already had good memories of Sepang and Malaysia from last year”, Rosenqvist concludes. “However, this weekend was just fantastic, and although I did hope to win again after the success of Shanghai, I never thought it would be possible to do so with such a big margin in a control series like this. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to win all three races this time – something that disturbs me considering the pace we’ve had – but when we get back here for the next meeting in one month’s time I will go all out to perform even better. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, and will do my best to win the Championship”.

Alexander SimsAlexander Sims produced a scintillating performance at Donington Park National Circuit yesterday afternoon, Sunday, 4th May, during the sixth round of the Formula Renault UK Championship – the Manor Competition star rising from sixth on the grid to achieve his second podium finish of the season.

Bouncing back very strongly from the disappointment of ninth position during the earlier fifth round of the campaign, the 20-year-old from Wansford, near Peterborough, lapped with stunning consistency and speed in the sixth round – televised live on ITV4 – to secure a fantastic third place result and to remain firmly in the top four of the title race.

Notable for his blinding pace, Alexander strung together a run of half a dozen laps where he set the fastest time again and again without reply from any of his rivals. He actually went on to end the race with two bonus points after seeing his lap 10 best of 1m 06.680 seconds (106.67mph) go unbeaten.

“We hoped for a better weekend, after testing we had reason to be very confident and we should have taken at least two podiums away with us”, said Alexander, “Donington has always been very good to me and after testing we were very strong. That said, I’m happy with the round six performance and confident we can challenge for the title.

“Unfortunately, we were unlucky in qualifying for the first race when I had a yellow flag in the last sector and that cost me a couple of 10ths of a second which would have put me on pole. In second qualifying, I got caught up in traffic and that dropped us to sixth.”

He added: “I’m hoping sooner rather than later we’ll have the consistency we know we’re capable of and begin to dominate the way we were during the pre-season tests. We’re fourth in the championship after this weekend’s races though and not that far away from the guys ahead. For the next event at Thruxton, I’m confident we can be strong.”

The MSA British Race Elite programme member headed into the second of the weekend’s races on the third row of the grid, his qualifying performance on Saturday dealt a blow when stuck behind traffic during the optimum laps for his tyres.

Getting away from the grid nicely, Alexander ended up on the outside of the turn for Redgate Corner but came through unscathed in fifth position into the Old Hairpin where he latched on to the rear of Ryuji Yamamoto’s car.

Piling on the pressure on the run through Schwantz Curve and McLeans, Alexander then took fourth position at Coppice with a superb piece of driving. The next target was Manor team-mate Kris Loane and on lap two, Alexander continued his progression by easily dispatching the Northern Irishman for third place.

Reeling off a string of fastest race laps, the Cambridgeshire ace continued to close on the two cars ahead and also extended his advantage over Loane. In the end, he ran out of laps to be able to do anything about the two race leaders but third place – just over a second shy of the victory – was a very impressive result.

First lap tangle costs Sims potential win Having qualified on the front row of the grid for round five, missing out on an almost guaranteed pole position by just a 10th of a second when he had to lift off the throttle on his last flying lap due to cautionary yellow flags being shown on circuit, Alexander hoped to be able to replicate his 2007 Donington Park performance with race victory.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that smoothly for the multiple karting champion and he ended the race in ninth position after a character-building drive.

Making a good start, Alexander pulled alongside pole-sitter Adriano Buzaid on the run to Redgate Corner and as the pair turned into the right-hander side-by-side, contact forced the Manor ace over the kerbs and onto the dirt, resulting in a spin.

Dropping outside the top 10, a major recovery drive was needed and by lap four Alexander had moved into ninth position as he started to make quick progress to help limit the damage to his championship placing.

Setting the fastest race lap at that point on the fourth tour – and with it a new lap record – he moved into the top eight and then rapidly into seventh place at the expense of Joshua Scott following a terrific move at McLeans Corner.

As the fastest driver on track, Alexander looked set to make even greater inroads but a spin at McLeans late in the race saw him drop to ninth position where he remained to the chequered flag. Nonetheless, the 12 points he achieved in the race could be crucial at the end of the long, 20-round championship.

The fastest circuit on the Formula Renault UK Championship calendar, Thruxton in Hampshire, will provide the next challenge for Alexander two weeks from now, 17th/18th May, for the seventh and eighth rounds of the 2008 season.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey PHotography.

Andrew HerronNorthern Ireland’s Andrew Herron recorded his maiden SEAT Cupra Championship podium finish at Donington Park in Leicestershire yesterday, Sunday, 4th May, to truly kick-start his 2008 campaign.

The 19-year-old Brian Herron Contracts backed ace, who only has one season of saloon car race experience under his belt, fought well to achieve a terrific third place finish during round six – the result only going to validate the pace he has shown throughout official testing.

Coupled with a fourth place finish in the earlier fifth round yesterday, where he missed out on climbing the rostrum by just 1.5 seconds, Andrew has risen to seventh place overall in the championship standings with 49 points.

Lining up third on the grid for the first of the weekend’s races, Andrew consolidated his position well and by lap four he was within just four 10ths of a second of Carl Breeze.

As round five entered its final third, the Dromore-based racer continued to press Breeze but he also came under pressure himself from 2007 ELF Renault Clio Cup Champion Martin Byford. Running nose-to-tail into the penultimate lap, Andrew defended the inside line into Redgate.

But Byford, with more grip at his disposal, managed to cut back from the outside on the exit of the turn and make the pass for third on the run through Hollywood. Forced to settle for fourth position, Andrew was disappointed but nonetheless pleased to record a highly creditable result.

Starting from second on the grid for round six, Andrew slipped behind Breeze into Redgate for the fist time and on the opening lap came under some pressure from the reigning SEAT Cupra Champion Jonathan Adam.

Andrew soon found his rhythm though, lapping quickly and consistently to close to within three 10ths of a second of Breeze into lap four. Into Goddards at the end of the lap, he then produced an outstanding piece of late-braking and overtaking to seize second place.

Immediately beginning to pull away from his rival, the JHR Developments racer opened up a 1.5 second gap inside two laps but as the race entered its closing stages, Andrew started to come under attack once again as he began to lose grip.

The outcome was decided at the final corner, Goddards Chicane, on the last lap. Having to defend from Breeze at Coppice meant Andrew made a slower exit from the turn and as the cars ran along the straight under the Dunlop Bridge, Breeze pulled alongside.

Under braking for the corner, contact occurred between the two which allowed Byford to sneak through and take second but Andrew did manage to hold on to claim third ahead of Breeze who straight-lined the chicane.

Commenting on round six, the Northern Irishman said: “I was fast at the start and I was really disappointed that Carl (Breeze) pipped me to the first corner as I knew I would be quicker than him during the early laps and I knew I had to try and build a gap.

“I need to work on my driving style a little bit to get the most out of my front tyres but to come away from this weekend with my first podium in SEAT is great. My first podium last year in the Clio Cup kick-started a good run for me so I hope this can do the same.”

Although afflicted by bad luck during the first two race meetings of the year at Brands Hatch and Rockingham, Andrew’s season now appears to be turning a corner and he’s hopeful of continued podium success during the next SEAT Cupra Championship event a fortnight from now at Thruxton in Hampshire.

“During Thruxton testing, my lap-by-lap race pace was as quick as anyone else out there so I’m feeling really confident for the next two rounds”, said Andrew, “I hope this success at Donington will be the first of many podium finishes in 2008.”

The SEAT Cupra Championship will resume in two weeks on 17th/18th May at Thruxton for the seventh and eighth rounds of the season.

Photo by SEAT Sport UK.