Josh MulhollandNorthern Ireland’s exciting single-seater car racing rookie Josh Mulholland battled the odds valiantly at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent yesterday, Sunday, 23rd August, to maintain his place in the thick of the battle at the head of the 2009 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship standings.

Departing the venue’s renowned 1.2-mile track with a fine fifth place from round eight and a well deserved top 10 finish from round nine – having been forced to mount a stirring recovery drive on two occasions in the latter – the Alpine Motorsport star is now fifth in the title race, just 10 points shy of the coveted Vice-Champion’s position.

“There have been good points and bad points to the weekend but overall we’re taking away some big positives”, commented Josh, “It’s been the most competitive we’ve been at any meeting this year. Our lap times were only one or two 10ths of a second behind Kieren (Clark – championship leader) throughout so I’m really happy with that, especially considering this is only my first season.”

During round eight qualifying on Saturday, 22nd August, the 20-year-old from Randalstown took fifth on the grid with a time of 46.274 seconds (93.24mph). His performance in the round nine period was even better though, an outstanding lap of 46.378 seconds (93.04mph) earning him a place on the front row alongside experienced series leader Clark.

At the beginning of the opening encounter Josh got a very good start but wasn’t quite able to find the space he needed to make up ground at the first corner, Paddock Hill Bend. On the run to Druids hairpin on lap two, the Co. Antrim racer was pushed back to sixth after a late move up the inside by Kourosh Khani but Josh hit back on lap six with a perfectly timed move at the same corner.

From that point on Josh remained in fifth position but during the closing stages he piled huge pressure on fourth-placed Ahmad Al Harthy, setting the second fastest lap of 47.062 seconds in the process. Importantly, the top five result also maintained the Mulholland Scrap Metals-backed racer’s runner-up spot in the championship standings.

Determined fightback bags Mulholland deserved top 10
Round nine wasn’t as fruitful but even though Josh saw his podium hopes disappear with a pair of unfortunate incidents, he still mounted a determined fightback to secure a well deserved top 10 result which could prove absolutely crucial in terms of the championship.

Lining up on the outside of the front row of the grid, he initially looked to move away well but the clutch dropped too quickly and the car stalled. Getting going in 13th place, Josh had a huge amount of work to do but he gained one position almost immediately and by the end of the lap he was 10th.

He then passed David Sutton on the third tour for ninth position and grabbed eighth spot from Khani with a superb move up the inside into Paddock Hill Bend. Pressuring seventh-placed Don De Graaff, Josh went to make a pass up the inside at Druids on lap seven but De Graaff moved across at the apex and the resulting contact pitched the Northern Irishman’s car into a spin.

Dropping down the order to 15th position, Josh fought back with a string of outstanding lap times and managed to get back into the top 10 by lap 22. To cap off a solid recovery drive, he also posted the second fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour with a time of 47.236 seconds.
Although disappointed to have missed out on at least one potential podium this weekend, Josh was nonetheless very pleased with his pace and carries a great deal of confidence into the next event at Rockingham in Northamptonshire a fortnight from now.

Reflecting on Brands Hatch, he said: “In the second race, starting on the hill I had to trail the brake a little bit to stop the car from rolling back and I just dropped the clutch too quickly which meant the engine stalled, it was completely my fault. Considering that though, and how far we fell down the order, I think I did a good job to recover into the top eight as quickly as I did.

“If I hadn’t spun at Druids after the contact with Don (De Graaff) I really think I could have had a good go at the podium, we certainly had the pace and I proved that with the second fastest lap of the race. There were definitely some passes I made which I’m proud of, especially at Paddock, and I want to say a huge thank you to the team for doing such a fantastic job with the car.”

Josh added: “I’m looking forward to Rockingham next, I raced there in the winter and it went well and in the pre-season test we were second quickest until we finished at the lunchbreak. From the way things have gone so far this year, I’m confident we can achieve some good results there.”

Rounds 10 and 11 of the 2009 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship will take place at Rockingham Motor Speedway, near Corby in Northamptonshire, on 5th/6th September.

Provisional 2009 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Standings (after Rd9):
1st Kieren Clark, 290pts; 2nd Dino Zamparelli, 201pts; 5th Josh Mulholland, 191pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.