Hillspeed's Joseph Reilly - RockinghamDerbyshire-based Formula Renault UK team Hillspeed concluded the 2009 Winter Championship on a high at Rockingham International Super Sports Car Circuit on Saturday, 7th November, with Joseph Reilly finishing the four-round series as the highest placed single-seater rookie.

The 17-year-old Londoner, who made his competitive car racing debut with Hillspeed last weekend during the winter series curtain-raiser, continued to make excellent progress at Rockingham with a top 10 qualifying effort and two good race results to seal ninth place overall in the standings.

“We’ve made wonderful progress over the last three weeks”, said Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “Joe has gone from finding the pace to getting very close to the actual pace and for someone who had never even sat in a Formula Renault until the middle of October, he’s done an exceptional job – very encouraging indeed.

“He knew he had to finish all four Winter Championship races and couldn’t take any unnecessary risks and his efforts have borne fruit as the best of the single-seater rookies. Joe is a promising young driver, he has a good head on his shoulders and we’re sure he’ll go far.”

As at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk a week ago, Reilly was faced with the prospect of a wet qualifying session for the two Rockingham races but he dealt with the conditions very well and posted the 10th best lap with a time of 1m27.502 seconds (79.81mph) – just 0.272 seconds shy of experienced Formula Renault UK racer Thomas Hylkema.

Round three of the campaign started well for the Hillspeed teenager as he climbed into the top eight after managing to avoid being eliminated from proceedings following a multi-car tangle at Deene Hairpin on the opening lap.

With the Safety Car deployed, Reilly held eighth place and at the re-start a lap later he immediately pressured fellow rookie Robert Foster-Jones before grabbing seventh position. Unfortunately he then slipped back to eighth but on lap four at Deene, an incident with Foster-Jones resulted in Reilly losing a lot of time and rejoining the race in ninth place where he remained to the chequered flag.

The final race of the Winter Championship, round four, had to be red flagged on the eighth tour when Foster-Jones had an accident at Gracelands and collided heavily with the barriers on the outside of the corner. For the re-start, Reilly had to line-up at the end of the pitlane rather than on the grid due to the fact repairs were necessary on his car to allow it to continue effectively.

Doing a sterling job, the Hillspeed mechanics ensured Reilly’s car was ready for the final seven laps of action and he came home in 11th place to end the series as the highest scoring Formula Renault rookie by a single point over Alex Lynn.

Although the Formula Renault UK Winter Championship has now concluded, Hillspeed returns to action straight away this week at Pembrey in South Wales with drivers testing both Formula Renault BARC and Ginetta Junior Championship cars.

Final 2009 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship Standings:
Champion: Harry Tincknell, 119pts; 9th Joseph Reilly, 41pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.