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Archive for November, 2010

Menasheh IdafarDonington Park – which is set to return to the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series calendar next year – provided a new challenge for Menasheh Idafar today, Tuesday, 23rd November, during general winter testing.

Although having competed at the East Midlands track previously during his time in Formula Renault, the 19-year-old hadn’t experienced the recently revamped circuit at the wheel of his Volkswagen powered Dallara F310 before today.

Like most of his outings of late, the track surface was damp for the first half of the day but did dry during the afternoon. Continuing his winter test programme well with the T-Sport team, Menasheh enjoyed the run and – other than a minor excursion at Coppice – everything went according to plan.

“It was good to run at Donington today and experience the track in the A Class car”, said the current National Class British F3 Champion, “I like the layout of the chicane since the track was changed, it flows well and you can carry a lot of speed down towards the first corner.

“Our plan is to get as much mileage as possible before the weather gets too bad and to obviously keep learning about the car before next season – it’s going to be a really big step-up. So far things have gone well, the T-Sport guys are doing a fantastic job.”

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

Menasheh Idafar - Silverstone GPMenasheh Idafar made more strong progress with his Volkswagen-powered Formula 3 car during testing at Brands Hatch and Silverstone this week – the 2010 National Class Champion working to gain as much mileage as possible ahead of next year’s Cooper Tires British F3 International Series.

The 19-year-old, who will graduate to the headline International Class of the championship in 2011 with the front-running T-Sport team, wasn’t able to enjoy any dry running over the course of the two tests in Kent and Northamptonshire but the track time still proved very beneficial.

At Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on Wednesday, 17th November, the track didn’t dry all day but this was largely due to an application on the surface intended to prevent freezing. This left conditions very tricky indeed and although the use of slicks was attempted, it was too slippery and the requisite heat couldn’t be generated to attain the level of performance needed for dry-weather tyres.

Menasheh therefore ran on treaded rubber for almost the entire day and, other than his newly confirmed 2011 team-mate Yann Cunha, the teenager was the sole F3 runner on track although it was fairly busy with Formula Ford and Formula Renault machinery also in action.

Running at Silverstone’s Grand Prix Circuit on Thursday, 18th November, the British-born Bahraini continued to make small improvements to his car and ended the outing very pleased with his performance. Starting on a completely wet track, the surface didn’t dry fully but towards the end of the day Menasheh was able to enjoy some laps using slicks.

“We’ve had another couple of really good days in the car and although the conditions weren’t ideal, we were able to work on some things”, he said, “At Brands Hatch it was really slippery so that made things quite difficult but Silverstone was much better. Even though it was never fully dry, we did a lot of good work and did plenty of laps.”

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Josh Webster - FR BARC Winter ChampionEmerging motor racing talent Josh Webster capped off his first year of single-seater action perfectly at Pembrey in South Wales on Sunday, 14th November, by sealing his maiden championship crown with a dominant success in the Formula Renault BARC Winter Series.

Over the course of the six round campaign Josh, who hails from Stowmarket in Suffolk, has been the class of the field and during this weekend’s action he delivered a series of strong performances in tricky conditions to take four podiums from the four races contested – including a class victory.

In the end he earned the title by an extremely healthy 22 points and, added to that, he sealed the BARC Class pole position for all four Pembrey races by significant margins and also set the fastest lap in each encounter with seriously dominant pace.

All told, the MSA Academy driver won half of the Winter Championship races and finished runner-up in the other three – a tremendous tally which will hopefully go a long way to helping him secure the required financial backing to graduate to the premier Formula Renault UK Championship in 2011.

“It’s incredible to win the title, I’m very happy to have done it but actually pretty frustrated as well as I had an unassailable lead in the first race on Saturday before red flags were shown and we had a stoppage. The win was there for sure, I was over a second a lap quicker than the others, but at the re-start I got boxed in behind some of the UK Class cars and that cost me.

“We should have won at least two of the races this weekend but we showed dominant pace and I proved what I can do. As always huge thanks to my sponsors – Nine Telecom Group, Sunwise, Admiral Voice and Data, Synergy One, Melbek Technology, Norfolkline Ferries, Everyone Active and Flying Saucer – for their great support and to all the guys at Fortec Motorsport for a great car.”

During qualifying for rounds three and four on Saturday, 13th November, Josh took his first BARC Class pole position of the series by 0.5 seconds and his second best time of the session was also good enough for pole again, this time by four 10ths of a second.

In the first race of the weekend he enjoyed a strong opening lap but the racing was interrupted almost immediately with the appearance of the Safety Car. The re-start came on lap four but as the encounter reached its scheduled mid-distance, the red flags were shown and racing had to cease due to a stranded car on the track.

Having built a clear lead in the BARC Class, the stoppage was especially frustrating for Josh and after a delay round three got back underway. By virtue of his great performance prior to the red flags, he lined up on the new grid in among UK Class cars and this worked against him at the re-start as he got boxed-in at the first corner. Having to settle for second place at the finish, he did set the fastest lap of 54.661 seconds (95.89mph).

In round four Josh ran second in class throughout and just missed out on the BARC victory by a mere 0.6 seconds, although he did secure the bonus points for fastest lap with a time of 54.475 seconds (96.22mph). Furthermore, he took the chequered flag on lap 20 over four seconds clear of one of the quicker UK Championship specification cars – underlining his pace and performance.

Sunday morning’s wet qualifying session saw Josh take the BARC Class pole position for round five by a full 0.6 seconds while his second best time was an even better 0.7 seconds quicker than his nearest rival could manage, giving him his fourth pole of the winter series for round six.

Holding his lead at the start of round five, Josh was never troubled as he eased to a winning margin of almost two seconds with a very impressive drive. Yet again, he also took the bonus points for fastest lap – 1m00.242 seconds (87.00mph) – underlining his prowess.

Lining up on the class pole for the last race of the winter series, the Suffolk A-level student hoped to conclude the championship on a winning high but a drying track made tyre choice critical and that proved to be the decisive factor in determining the outcome.

Conditions improved throughout the day after a very wet start to proceedings and with a drying line ever more prevalent, Fortec opted to run Josh on slick rubber which looked to be the correct choice. Due to a couple of Safety Car periods during the 25-minute race though, those on wet-weather tyres were able to maintain more performance than would ordinarily have been the case.

For that reason, Josh had to settle for the runner-up spot but was only a second shy of the class win at the chequered flag. Reeling in the leader at a rate of two seconds a lap, he missed out on the win by a fraction but again had the consolation of the fastest BARC lap of 58.893 seconds (89.00mph) – quicker than five of the UK Class runners and on a par with at least half a dozen others from the headline class who were also on slick tyres.

Final 2010 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship – BARC Class driver standings:
Champion: Josh Webster, 52pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

Outstanding young motor racing talent Seb Morris made history at Pembrey Circuit in South Wales on Sunday, 14th November, by sealing the 2010 Ginetta Junior Winter Championship in winning style at the tender age of just 14 – the Hillspeed team’s third title triumph in 2010.

Morris, a pupil at Kings School in Chester, took two victories and a further second place from the four races contested at the 1.45-mile track over the course of the rain-affected weekend to further underline his potential as a true star in the making in the ranks of British motorsport.

Having won the main 2010 Ginetta Junior Championship crown with Tom Ingram and the Protyre Formula Renault BARC title with Alice Powell already this year, Hathersage-based Hillspeed went into the Ginetta winter series knowing it had a great chance of success and Morris delivered in style.

“Seb did a fantastic job this weekend, we’re absolutely delighted to have won our third title of the year – it’s been an incredible 2010 for Hillspeed”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “He’s made history by winning the title at such a young age and it proves the talent we’ve always known he’s had. Seb has a huge future in motorsport, we can’t wait now for next season!”

The Welsh-born youngster, who resides in Marford and is backed by Liberty Properties Plc, went into the last of the four races tied for the lead in the championship with Max Coates while experienced Ginetta Junior racer David Moore was also within just three points of the duo.

Setting up a tantalising final round, Morris grabbed the lead on the opening lap from pole-sitter Adam Bonham and built a cushion of 1.6 seconds prior to the Safety Car being deployed. When the race resumed on lap 11 after a lengthy cautionary period, Morris continued to control things at the front before a stoppage was declared on lap 12 – therefore seeing him take the title with a fine win.

The Hillspeed ace got his campaign off to a fantastic start in round one on Saturday, 13th November, with an excellent victory from third on the grid – his first ever win in cars. Taking second on lap two, he passed Moore for the lead on the fourth tour before stretching out to a winning margin of five seconds. He also posted the fastest lap of 1m10.216 seconds (74.64mph) on the final tour.

Round two was a less straightforward affair for the 14-year-old. Moving into the top three on lap four, having started on the second row of the grid, Morris dropped to eighth on the subsequent tour following a moment but he mounted a good fightback to take fifth on the penultimate lap. Once again, he proved his pace with the fastest lap of 1m09.489 seconds (75.43mph).
Lining up second on the grid for round three on Sunday morning, Morris held position and remained there to the finish to set up the thrilling climax to the championship. By taking victory in round four, the result also marked his second career win in cars.

Final 2010 Ginetta Junior Winter Championship driver standings:
Champion: Seb Morris, 123pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

Andre HeimgartnerOne round into the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship and already Dannemora, Auckland East, teenager Andre Heimgartner has picked up some pretty special silverware.

Andre made a brilliant start to the championship at Pukekohe this weekend, winning the prestigious Ron Frost Memorial Trophy and ending the round a close second on the championship point standings.

Fifteen-year-old Andre was in the thick of the typically close Formula Ford action from the beginning of proceedings. He looked assured of a front row grid position as qualifying came to a close only to be bumped to fourth on the grid but that would not hamper him at this venue where slipstreaming and passing is a common occurrence.

All three races were superb affairs with massive battles for the top placings. The opening race on Saturday afternoon saw Andre right amongst it. After what he described as an “average” start Andre was battling for the lead with Matt Williams and Tim Vickers. Just after the mid-point of the race Andre got a great draught down the front straight to pass Vickers. He then attempted to pass Williams around the outside into the fast sweeper. Unfortunately the effort saw Andre run wide and go onto the grass, dropping him to fifth place. Over the remainder of the race distance Andre managed to fight his way back to fourth place. During the course of the contest he set the fastest lap of the race.

The following morning Andre was again fourth on the grid for the second race of the round. The Mygale was running a tall first gear for the super fast Pukekohe circuit and consequently once again his start was not the best. However Andre was soon in a battle for second with Tim Vickers which lasted until Vickers lost control and spun. At that point a train of five cars caught the leaders and a massive dice developed with frequent positional changes. Andre managed to close in on leader Matt Williams and crossed the line in second place just 0.086 seconds behind the Cantabrian.

His efforts in the second race put Andre third on the grid for the finale – the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy Race – named after one of New Zealands most influential motor racing administrators. This was the feature race for the category over 12 laps and it was a fantastic spectacle. Andre said later he had never seen so much draughting since his Formula First days. Williams, Vickers and Andre traded the lead many times over the first nine laps and the crowd were loving it! Williams tried to outbrake Andre at the end of the main straight on two occasions and eventually he went off the track. That left Andre and Tim Vickers to battle it out on the final lap. Tim darted out of Andre’s slipstream on the run to the flag but the Mygale hung on to give Andre the win by 0.016 seconds!

Andre received the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy for winning the race, his name joining other illustrious winners such as Shane Van Gisbergen and Paul Radisich – fine company indeed. Andre was also on the podium for the overall round, placing second just three points behind Williams with team mate Stefan Webling in third place.

It was a very happy Andre Heimgartner who left Pukekohe on Sunday evening just three points behind Williams heading into Round 2 at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna in Christchurch in three weeks time.

Andre’s efforts in the 2010/2011 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship are supported by Superlux, New Balance and Harmony Homes.

Photo by sportpromedia.com

Formula 3 racer Menasheh Idafar concluded his latest winter test outing at Oulton Park in Cheshire this afternoon, Wednesday, 10th November, delighted with the continued progress he’s making at the wheel of his F310 Dallara-Volkswagen.

Coming off the back of confirmation at the start of the week of a newly agreed 2011 race deal with T-Sport to graduate to the main headline class of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, the past couple of days have gone extremely well with the 19-year-old able to enjoy plenty of running in both wet and dry conditions.

On Tuesday, 9th November, the weather was mixed but today’s outing was, importantly, totally dry which enabled Menasheh and his Brackley-based team to work through a number of options with the car’s set-up and continue their excellent recent progress.

In the end, it’s believed the reigning National Class Champion emerged as the fastest driver on both days at the challenging 2.7-mile International Circuit configuration although all timings were, of course, unofficial.

“Both days have been really good for me but today was amazing”, said Menasheh, “We’ve made fantastic progress with the car, I feel really comfortable now as we’ve tried a lot of things and we’re getting the set-up how we want it.

“We’ve been consistent and quick both days so I’m really pleased. Perhaps the most important thing was for it to be completely dry today, we tried stuff we’ve never tried before and found some things which really work well.”

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Gravity Sports Management have signed an agreement with young Kiwi, Richie Stanaway (18), which states that they intend to sign him as a works Gravity driver for 2011 and beyond – a sensational breakthrough for the 2009 New Zealand Formula Ford Champion, then this year’s German ADAC Formula Masters champion.

“This is great news and a huge step towards my goal of reaching the top ranks of motorsport. It is wonderful to be able to repay the faith and funding that a group of Kiwi business people, friends and family have had in me. Over the next few weeks, I will have more details of what series etc the Gravity people will want me to compete in next season, but in the meantime, I have plenty more testing on tracks and simulators to do, and then the next round of the Formula Renault UK Winter Cup at Pembrey this weekend.”

Since the conclusion of the 2010 ADAC Formula Masters championship, Richie has been very busy being involved in winter testing programmes for various teams. Starting with a brief stint in a Formula 3 car, Richie went to the F1 circuit at Barcelona, Spain, for a test day in a Formula Renault 2.0 with championship-winning team, Koirannen Bros Motorsport, and then underwent a thorough evaluation programme with Gravity Sports Management, the organisation that runs what is the Renault F1 team’s junior/development programme. (The Chairman of Gravity Sports Management is Eric Bullier who is also the Renault F1 Team Principal). This involved four test days in France with Tech-1 Racing in a Formula Renault 2.0, matching him against numerous other ‘hopeful’ drivers, the result of which has led to his participation in the 2010 Formula Renault UK Winter Cup.

The first round of the Winter Cup was held this past weekend with Richie driving for Atech Grand Prix, after three days of testing.

“The seat/driving time I have had since the ADAC Formula Masters Championship has been great for me and I know I have improved my driving a lot, learning all the time, working with different teams at different circuits – something like 12 test days over five weeks which is well over 1,000kms of intensive driving. Then, when it came to the first round of the Winter Series, I don’t think I have ever raced in a more competitive field with many experienced locals who were front runners in the UK Championship as well as many other international drivers including the two Red Bull junior team drivers, Carlos Sainz’s son and Danil Kyvat.

“In qualifying which started on a damp track, I was on pole for virtually the whole session with the track drying, but for the last two laps I came across traffic and was held up, seven drivers capitalizing on the drier track to better my earlier fastest time – so I was bumped back to eighth. In the first race I got a flying start and managed to finish third, wondering what might have been the result if I had qualified nearer the front of the grid. I started the second race from sixth position and again got an excellent start and swiftly moved up to second and began pressuring the leader. However, I touched a wet patch of tarmac in a fast corner and slid off onto the grass and wasn’t able to continue in the race. My mistake – and another lesson learned,” said Richie.

During this week, Richie will visit the Renault F1 Human Performance Centre followed by some simulator testing and then track testing prior to the next round of the Winter Cup at Pembrey this coming weekend.

Stowmarket racing driver Josh Webster utterly dominated the BARC Class on the opening weekend of the Michelin Formula Renault Winter Championship at his home track, Snetterton, on Saturday, 6th November, with a pair of faultless race victories, two fastest laps and a new lap record.

The 16-year-old, who has turned a lot of heads throughout his maiden year of car racing action, was in a class of his own in the BARC contest and never looked likely to be challenged as he won rounds one and two by nine and 15 seconds respectively.

Driving for crack squad Fortec Motorsport – the team with which he finished a highly impressive fourth overall in the main Formula Renault BARC Championship this year, a mere three points shy of the coveted top three – Josh heads to Pembrey for the winter series finale next weekend, 13th/14th November, with a six point class lead.

“Snetterton was absolutely fantastic”, said the MSA Academy and A-level student, “I want to say a huge thank you to the team for giving me a great car as always. Qualifying didn’t go according to plan as we were on the wrong tyres but in the races I was able to show my true pace. Two wins is a perfect way to start the winter series and to set a new BARC lap record was the icing on the cake.

“I also need to thank my fantastic sponsors for their on-going support. Special thanks go to James Palmer of Nine Telecom Group and Graham McMullen of Admiral Solutions and Support for helping me race in the winter series and also to Doodson Broking Group for their valuable contribution.”

During officially timed testing on Friday, 5th November, Josh lapped a full second quicker than his closest rival but unfortunately missed out on the class pole position on Saturday morning on a tricky drying track. Running slick tyres from the off, in the expectation the circuit would dry sufficiently, it didn’t quite work out for him as the surface was more suited to wet-weather rubber.

He wasted no time in surging to the front of the BARC Class though on the opening lap of the first race and immediately set about stamping home his authority. The Safety Car had to be deployed at the beginning of lap four, therefore eliminating Josh’s early advantage, but at the re-start he made no mistakes and set about building a substantial lead once more.

On the 15th tour he posted the quickest BARC lap of 1m08.306 seconds (102.87mph) to gain two bonus points and in the end was able to cruise to the class victory with a huge gap of nine seconds, having doubled his cushion over the rest of the BARC runners over the course of the final six laps.

Starting second in class again for round two, Josh delivered an even more impressive demonstration of his skills with a crushing 15 second win. He also set a brand new lap record for Formula Renault BARC specification machinery at Snetterton with a time of 1m07.583 seconds (103.97mph) – again clinching two more bonus points.

Finishing lap one a mere 0.3 seconds behind BARC pole-sitter Mackenzie Taylor, Josh passed his rival for the lead on the second tour and never looked back as he scorched to an incredible 15 second winning margin. In terms of the BARC Class driver standings following the first two rounds of the winter series, Suffolk-based Josh holds a six point lead.

Next weekend’s winter series finale at Pembrey will be contested over a further four rounds so there will be absolutely everything to play for. Each day of the race meeting, Saturday, 13th November, and Sunday, 14th November, will feature one qualifying session and two races.

2010 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship – BARC Class driver standings:
1st Josh Webster, 17pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Reigning Cooper Tires British Formula 3 National Class Champion Menasheh Idafar will graduate to the main International Class in 2011 after today confirming a deal with Russell Eacott’s T-Sport team.

Remaining with the Brackley-based squad for his second season in the UK’s premier single-seater championship, the 19-year-old will campaign a Volkswagen-powered Dallara F310 in the headline class next year.

Having already experienced his 2011 challenger with a handful of test outings over the course of the past few weeks, Menasheh has made good initial progress and continued his learning curve this past Thursday, 4th November, at Donington Park in the East Midlands.

Developing a great relationship with T-Sport throughout the course of his first season in Formula 3, the British-born Bahraini is delighted to be able to continue with the team thanks to the renewal of a commercial agreement with backer Gulf Computer Services W.L.L.

“I’m so happy to be staying with T-Sport for my step-up to the International Class, everyone at the team worked really hard this year and we built a great relationship”, he said, “The tests we’ve done in the A Class car so far have been good, we’re definitely on the right track. It’s going to be a very big challenge but I’m ready and really looking forward to it.”

Sealing the National Class title during the final round of the 2010 season at Brands Hatch, Menasheh made headlines and turned plenty of heads in the F3 paddock by winning the championship with a sensational outright podium finish in atrocious conditions. The result also gave him his 18th National Class victory of the campaign – from 30 races – to perfectly cap off a tremendous season.

One of the most important aspects of Menasheh’s 2011 deal will be the continuity of remaining with T-Sport, one of the championship’s most highly respected and successful outfits, and team principal Russell Eacott is relishing the prospect of carrying their partnership through into the premier class.

He said: “We’re very happy that Menasheh is continuing with us. It’s good to be able to take a driver from the National to the International Class. So far the winter testing has gone very well so we are looking forward to another strong season.”

Although precise dates for the 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series are still unconfirmed, it has been announced the 60th anniversary season of the championship will again be contested over 30 races with visits to some of the world’s most famous race tracks.

Set to commence at Monza in Italy, the new calendar also features three other European venues, namely Paul Ricard HTTT in France, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and the Nurburgring in Germany. Six British circuits comprise the remainder of the schedule – Oulton Park, Donington Park, Brands Hatch, Rockingham, Snetterton and Silverstone.

Menasheh Idafar – Profile
Age: 19
Date of Birth: 13th March 1991
Nationality: British/Bahraini
Born: London, England
Lives: London, England and Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Sponsors: Gulf Computer Services W.L.L

Car Racing Highlights
2010:
Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series – National Class Champion with 18 victories from 30 races; secured an outright podium during the final round;
Named Sunoco Driver of the Weekend following the season finale at Brands Hatch

2009:
Formula Renault UK Winter Championship – 3rd overall with one podium;
Formula Renault UK Championship – best result of 10th position

2008:
Formula Renault UK Winter Championship – 12th overall with best result of fifth;
Formula Renault BARC Championship – 4th overall with five podiums and four poles

2007:
Formula Renault UK Winter Championship – 5th in ‘BARC’ Class with two podiums;
Formula Renault BARC Championship – first season of racing in the UK;
Formula BMW – one race at Bahrain International Circuit, finished in second place

2006:
Thunder Arabia Middle East Championship – 5th overall, two wins and five podiums

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.