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Archive for March, 2011

Ronan McKenzie12 year old Ronan McKenzie has finished his debut in the first round of the Easykart European Junior 100cc Series in eighth place overall, at Jesolo, Italy on 20th March 2011.

McKenzie, the reigning Easykart UK Cadet 60cc Champion and the current leader of this year’s Easykart UK Junior 100cc Championship, is in his second year of an option contract with Italian Kart Manufacturing giant Birel on their International Easykart Driver Program for talented drivers. Birel’s Easykart European Series comprises of two rounds – the first in Italy and the second in Poland. Each round has two finals on race day, and of the four total races across the two rounds the best three results will count to decide the Series Champion.

In his first international race only two weeks after his stunning Easykart UK 100cc Junior Championship debut, McKenzie had mixed success in the double round after qualifying in sixth position. In his first 10-lap heat McKenzie started fourth on the grid and was up into third on the first corner after overtaking Benedetti, but he reclaimed the position on the second lap. The race settled down and McKenzie remained in fourth until the chequered flag, finishing behind Italians Benedetti, Orsini and the winner, fellow Easykart Driver Program member Drudi. After the race Orsini was given a ten second penalty for jumping the start which gave McKenzie third place.

McKenzie suffered a disappointment in the second heat where contact on the first lap caused a tyre puncture, forcing him to retire from the race on lap three, but recovered in the first Final race, going from grid eighth to third within four laps of the twenty lap race, eventually finishing in fifth giving him 11 series points.

Another disappointment followed in the second Final race, where starting in fifth on the grid McKenzie was hit from behind in the first corner launching him off the track and onto the grass, where another three karts were also pushed off. McKenzie, now in last place, jumped out of his kart and dragged it back onto the track, then he got back in and set about closing the ten second gap to the back of the field. In what was undoubtedly the most spirited drive of the day, McKenzie had the race of his life catching the pack and during the 20-lap race overtaking seven karts one by one to finish in fourteenth place. After the race Benedetti was penalised 20 laps for contact with fellow Italian Lazzari which gave McKenzie another place, to finish in thirteenth place – which still earned McKenzie 3 series points.

The Easykart European Series standings after the first round sees McKenzie in eighth place. “I am happy with the kart and my driving, it is disappointing to have a DNF in the heat and being taken off in the second Final, but I think I came back well. The next round in Poland is at a track I’ve raced before, and with some good results I am still in with a shot at the title,” said McKenzie after the event.

The second round of the Easykart European Series will be at the Stary Kisielin track in Poland on 17th July and McKenzie’s next UK race will be at Teesside Autodrome in Middlesboro on 1st May.

Ronan McKenzie is competing in the following events in 2011:

Easykart UK Junior 100cc Championship
Easykart International European Junior 100cc Championship
Easykart International Junior 100cc World Finals
Easykart UK “E” Plate Open Championship

For more information about Ronan McKenzie please visit www.ronanmckenzie.com

Press enquiries and Sponsorship enquiries please email info@ronanmckenzie.com

Seb MorrisRising star Seb Morris has his eyes firmly set on winning the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship, as the 15 year old returns to the series for a second year, once again run by Hillspeed. TCF caught up with Seb at the recent Ginetta Media Day to chat about his experiences last season and the new campaign ahead.

Last season saw Morris graduate into the series after three years in karting. With it being his first season in car racing, the year was a real learning curve for him, as he explains: “I was trying to learn all the tracks and the characteristics of the car. Basically how fast the car can go around the corners and what to do if it slides, basic stuff like that and just knowing the hints and tricks behind the circuits and how they all work.

“Towards the end of the season I was really getting to grips with the car and the car wasn’t driving me, I was driving the car, so it felt a lot easier for me and wasn’t scared of being on the limit. It just really came to me and then the Winter Series was when last year’s car and driver package was at its peak.”

That extra confidence in the car allowed Morris to work his way up the order over the year. This resulted in a great result of fourth at Knockhill, followed by his first podium finish at Donington Park in Round 18, which Seb admits was his highlight of the season: “It’s got to be the podium at Donington, which I was so ecstatic about. What no one knows is that my steering rack was completely broken so I actually had a big chance of winning the race, but it was sliding down the straight and I was losing about a second a lap. That’s why I was dropping back, so I would have had a chance to win the race but I was very happy to settle for third.”

Morris’ year reached its peak when he competed in the Ginetta Junior Winter Series at Pembrey in November. The youngster took two victories and a second place in four races to take the crown, though admits it wasn’t as straight forward as it seemed: “Even though we did win it, we had a lot of ups and downs. Because we were so fast, the mentality was kind of ‘well I’m really good, get out my way’. I actually spun in one of the races, so instead of winning it on the first day which we could have done, I had to do well in the other two races, which put a bit more pressure on, which taught me a lot. We really had the car and the package, so it was good.”

Morris, who is receiving continued backing from Liberty Properties Plc., admits his preparations for the new campaign haven’t gone as smoothly as he’d hope: “It’s gone okay. But because I’m not 16, I can’t do general test days so I have to do track days. I have to go out with lots of people in their everyday road cars which can be quite tedious, because some of them go quite slow. It’s quite good for the overtaking techniques, but as soon as you get a clear lap you have to go for it. We’ve not had quite as much testing as we’d like but that’s the same for everyone so were just doing the best we can.”

2011 sees a couple of tweaks to the Ginetta G40 Junior model, changes which Morris is a fan of: “I like the new changes they’ve made with the gearbox and the cut slick tyres. It’s brought it towards me a bit because I drove a Formula Renault when I was 13 and I was only 0.2 seconds off James Theodore who finished third in the championship. That was on slicks and sequential so I like the changes and they should be good for the season, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Over the winter, Morris, like many young drivers, has had to face the tricky task of juggling his testing commitments with his school work, a job he admits is tough:

“I have to do a lot of work at home to keep on top of all my school work,. Mr Ramse, Head Master at the Kings School, Chester, is very supportive of my racing and I’m very, very grateful for that”.

After his success towards the end of last season and in the Winter Series, Morris is clear with his goals for the new campaign: “Obviously I want to win the championship and I’ll try anything to achieve that goal. I’ve been working on my fitness off the track and I’m trying as hard as I can to be the best I can and achieve the goal of winning the championship.

The Ginetta Junior Championship has become synonymous with close, exciting racing over the years and Morris knows he will have many rivals to overcome if he is to win the title: “There are a few very good new drivers that are coming into the championship and obviously a few that have stayed. I’m not sure yet who’s up there as I haven’t looked at any times or anything. We haven’t had enough time on track to see whose good and who’s bad, but obviously whoevers good enough to fight at the top deserves to be there.”

With Seb entering his second and probably final year in the series, he briefly looked ahead to what his future after Ginetta Juniors could hold: “We haven’t got a definite next step yet, but there are a lot of possibilities as to what we could do. Maybe Formula Renault BARC, Formula Renault UK or maybe a series elsewhere, Abarth, Formula BMW, we’re not sure yet. It’s really whatever sponsorship opportunities we can get. I would also be happy going into tin top racing, anything that allows me to earn a career out of it, and have fun doing what I love best!.”

Seb Morris - Ginetta G40Seb Morris, one of the most exciting young talents in British motorsport, cannot wait for the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship to begin at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit next weekend, 2nd/3rd April, where he aims to get the new season off to a winning start.

Already a champion, even though entering only his second year of car racing action, the 15-year-old from Marford near Wrexham goes into the new season with an extremely realistic chance of more title glory in the high profile Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support class.

Seb, who away from the race track studies GCSEs at Kings School in Chester, made sparkling progress during his debut season in 2010. Taking a maiden podium finish during the penultimate weekend of the main championship at Donington Park, he went on to earn a place in the record books by taking the Winter Series title at the tender age of just 14 years and 349 days!

Having proven himself as a true front-runner with massive potential, the Welsh-born racer is hungry for continued success this year. Not only will he enjoy the fantastic continuity of remaining with the Hillspeed team which won the championship during its first season in the category in 2010, Seb will also receive vital support from Liberty Properties Plc and commercial property agency Legat Owen.

“I really am so excited about the new season, we had a fantastic first year in Ginettas in 2010 and I’m confident we can continue to be successful in 2011”, he said, “I learnt so much last year being team-mate to the eventual champion (Tom Ingram) and I’d love to follow him by taking the title this year. It’s going to be really tough, there will be a lot of quick drivers, but we’ve got a great chance!”

Despite still being one of the youngest drivers in the championship this year, Seb will be the most experienced racer in Hillspeed’s line-up. Taking over the mantle from 2010 Ginetta Junior Champion Tom Ingram, he aims to put every bit of experience into practice as he strives for title glory.

Following two pre-event free practice sessions at Brands Hatch next Friday, 1st April, the Ginetta Junior runners will benefit from an additional practice on Saturday, 2nd April, before the first qualifying session of the new season at 15.15.

The opening two races of 2011 will be contested at the Kent venue’s 1.2-mile Indy Circuit on Sunday, 3rd April, at 11.05 and 17.45 with live television coverage to be screened on Freeview, digital satellite and cable channel ITV4 and also on the brand new ITV4 HD channel. Live timing throughout the season will be available online at www.tsl-timing.com.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Menasheh Idafar - Oulton Park InternationalMenasheh Idafar delivered by far his most promising performance of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series pre-season at Oulton Park today, Tuesday, 22nd March, by ending the outing a fantastic second quickest overall – the highest placed of the Volkswagen powered runners.

The T-Sport racer, who has driven well throughout officially timed testing over the past few weeks, came to the fore with a stunning performance at the Cheshire venue’s 2.69-mile International Circuit to finish the day just 0.3 seconds shy of the top of the times.

His best lap came in the first of three sessions, a time of 1m27.989 seconds (110.14mph) placing him second quickest and confirming the reigning National Class Champion’s potential as a very exciting prospect in the category’s headline division this year.

In session two he continued his impressively high level of performance with the fourth quickest lap of 1m28.662 seconds (109.30mph) – just 0.3 seconds shy of the head of the times again – and in the third and final outing he was within 0.2 seconds of the top, albeit in seventh position with a time of 1m28.445 seconds (109.57mph).

“My car was perfect from the start this morning, it was amazing all day”, said the 20-year-old British-born Bahraini, “On older tyres we were really fast, I didn’t find quite as much time as I should have done on the newer ones but it’s still been an incredible day for us. To be second fastest, and the best of the Volkswagens, is a really great feeling and gives us a lot of confidence.”

Oulton Park’s International Circuit, which traditionally stages the curtain-raiser to the British F3 season, will host the second event of the 2011 championship on Saturday, 23rd April, and Monday, 25th April – no track action will take place on Easter Sunday, 24th April.

In the meantime, the final pre-season test outing for the drivers and teams will come two weeks from now on Tuesday, 5th April, and Wednesday, 6th April at the newly configured Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk. From there, the 2011 championship will get underway less than a fortnight later with the first three rounds of the season on 16th/17th April at the world famous Monza circuit in Italy.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

Felix RosenqvistFelix ended the second and final official Formula 3 Euro Series pre-season test in third place on the timesheets after a fierce dispute with Roberto Merhi and Nigel Melker over top spot during the afternoon session at Circuit de Catalunya today.

The trio – who are all racing with Mercedes engine power this season – all took turns at the top of the list in an intense chase for fractions during the final hour of the day, with Felix eventually winding up third – just 0.197s shy of Merhi, who once again stamped his authority on proceedings by going fastest. Some methodical work in the beginning of the day ensured Mücke Motorsport was able to adapt Felix’s car according to his overnight feedback, a fact which partly eradicated the problems on new tyres that had marred pre-season running up to date. Team-mate Melker also continued his convincing testing form, going second-fastest in the afternoon on a circuit which gave the Dutchman the first-ever GP3 Pole Position last year. Earlier in the day, Melker had posted the outright fastest lap of the test in more favourable conditions this morning.

Felix was ninth in the morning session as work carried out to find a better set-up required most of his attention.

Several teams used the opportunity of the final real test before the season-opener to conduct race simulation work. With three races at each championship meeting – and two of them spanning approximately 40 minutes – consistency and tyre management are set to become major factors in 2011. A number of small but time-consuming technical gremlins – including a re-build of the Dallara chassis in order to dial out an imbalance – meant Felix’s programme was slightly interrupted, but he still managed to complete at least a couple of long runs on old tyres.

Before the season kicks off for real at the former F1 circuit of Paul Ricard in France on April 1-3, Felix will get back behind the wheel of his Formula 3 Euro Series machine one more time as Mücke Motorsport travels to EuroSpeedway Lausitz (Germany) for a final, unofficial test later this week.

Felix:
“A mixed day. We worked systematically to try and improve a number of things which we weren’t happy with this morning, and then I was stood in the pits for about an hour as we set about re-building the car after lunch. When I got back out on the circuit, though, the balance felt much better and I think we have taken a big step forward here in Barcelona. It’s still as hard as ever to try and predict how strong we will be this year – these times won’t count for much when we get to Paul Ricard – but I have a positive feeling and, more importantly, I think I’ve found a good way of working with the team.”

Felix RosenqvistJust a few days after the first Formula 3 Euro Series test of the year took place in Valencia, Felix and the rest of the field travelled north on the Spanish east coast as preparations for the up-coming season continued at a sunny Circuit de Catalunya in the outskirts of Barcelona today.

As a newcomer to the venue, Felix had to spend the morning adapting to the 4.655 km circuit – which traditionally hosts the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix each year – as he learnt the ropes for the first time. Once acclimatised, though, he was a regular feature in the top three for the rest of pre-lunch running. Perhaps most interesting, however, was his consistent pace on used tyres – one of the real performance differentiators in 2011 with two 40-minute races at each championship meeting.

Much like in Valencia earlier in the week, Felix then fell back slightly as the teams began their work on brand new Kumho rubber in the afternoon. Sixth overall still represented a solid continuation to his Formula 3 Euro Series adaption process, with Mücke Motorsport team-mate Nigel Melker in second place just behind pace-setter Roberto Merhi (Prema Powerteam).

Felix:
“I had a very productive and good morning. We tested several interesting things, and I think I adapted quite quickly to this challenging circuit. In the afternoon, I missed out on my chance to set a good lap time when I was unable to extract the most of my set of new tyres – I peaked on lap seven while the rest of the field posted their quickest efforts on laps 3-4 of their stints. The work continues tomorrow and we have got no technical issues with the car, which is great.”

Felix RosenqvistThe second and final day of the first Formula 3 Euro Series test of the year in Valencia sent a clear message of just how competitive the championship will be in 2011. On a day which started out on a sodden circuit but ended in fully dry conditions, nine of the 12 participating drivers were separated by less than half a second.

Despite threatening forecasts which almost exclusively promised rain, the Spanish sun was shining for the majority of the day to provide Felix and the rest of the drivers with their first real taste of dry-weather running this year. The semi-dry lap times of yesterday were quickly obliterated, and at the end of the morning session, Felix was sat in second place on the timesheets – fractions behind his team-mate Nigel Melker. A good start to the day for Mücke Motorsport, who worked with Melker in GP3 last year but will rely on an all-new driver line-up in Formula 3 Euro Series in 2011.

Following lunch, Felix continued work on the same set of tyres which he had used in the final part of the morning – while several other drivers opted for brand new Kumho rubber. Despite the difference in grip levels, Felix’s lap times remained competitive, and with half an hour left on the clock all teams shod their cars with new tyres for what would become an almost qualifying-like conclusion to the day. Felix momentarily jumped up to second place, but eventually found himself in seventh by the time the session was over – 0.411s behind series veteran Roberto Merhi, Prema Powerteam. Three one thousands of a second behind Felix was Daniel Juncadella, with 2010 Macau Grand Prix runner-up Laurens Vanthoor a further seven hundredths adrift.

The next Formula 3 Euro Series pre-season test takes place at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, with the first session set to take place on Sunday. The test will conclude one day later.

COMMENT | FELIX
“I’m happy about the way my first Formula 3 Euro Series test went. It’s extremely close already, which I find very motivating. It’s obviously still early days, but this will be the most competitive F3 series in the world this year and there will be absolutely no room for mistakes.”

“I didn’t get the most out of my new tyres today, and I know we have a number of areas we need to work on – but that is only positive at this stage of the year. Barcelona is a completely different type of venue all over, and the test there will allow us to work more on our high-speed performance. All in all, a solid first few days of testing.”

Jono LesterJono Lester has finished his Toyota Racing Series debut in fourth overall, driving for ETEC Motorsport at the Battery Town 200 at the Taupo Motorsport Park over the weekend.

In what was his first appearance in a ‘wings and slicks’ single seater, Lester scored fifth, fourth and fourth place finishes over the weekend’s three races, after qualifying in seventh position.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience on and off the track. The team, the organisation, the competition, and of course the racing, which was pure excitement!” Lester said.

With the opportunity presented to Lester by ETEC Motorsport and Barrie Thomlinson of the Toyota Racing Series just days before the event, the 21-year old put together a support package from a number of loyal supporters and arrived at Taupo with a clear and open mind.

“The intention was never to go out there and be a hero, as we knew how tough the competition in TRS is. Right from Thursday’s first run in the car, we improved steadily, chipped away at the lap times, and came to grips with the car and how it needs to be driven.

As you can imagine, it’s quite a lot different to a Porsche, but I didn’t realise just how much until official testing. I felt like I was on the limit and Mitch [Evans] was still streaks ahead. He provided a terrific benchmark all weekend. It was just a pleasure to be out there doing it again, I must say!”

The event was Lester’s first on New Zealand soil in two years, but the lack of recent racing impacted little on his hunger on the track. Three close and competitive races saw a number of passing manouvres and high pressure situations, on both offence and defence.

“They were three of the most exciting races I’ve ever experienced. I was learning on the go, picking up tips from the other drivers every lap and getting my first feel for using aero effectively when you’re tucked up under somebody’s gearbox. But at the same time, it was clean and respectful racing.”

Lester and his supporters are now looking ahead to the rest of the 2011 season and into the future.

“My career intentions remain clear – I want to pursue a career in sports car endurance racing overseas. As much as I’ve loved my single seater debut, and as much as I’m learning and will continue to learn, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. These young guys are just as hungry as me and they have age on their side.

“But for the 2012 Toyota Racing Series season, we will be pushing hard to be on the grid. For my development as a driver, it would be a great championship to compete in.”

Jono Lester was supported in his Toyota Racing Series debut at Taupo by Radiance “Supplements for Life”, Gourmet Direct “100% NZ Grown Meat”, Opti Flex, Vortex Racewear, Hornet Performance Nutrition, AAA Roofing and iSign It.

Felix RosenqvistFelix went second-fastest in his very first day of Formula 3 Euro Series testing at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia today. Felix finally got his first chance to work with his new team – Mücke Motorsport – and ended up with a lap time just under half a second adrift of Signature driver Laurens Vanthoor.

Efforts to get up to speed following his move to the highly-rated championship ahead of this season got off to a bad start this morning, as technical problems forced Felix to sit out most of the early running. Four hours into the day, he had still just completed 15 laps, but a busy afternoon ensured Felix still got a decent opportunity to evaluate the new tyres from series partner Kumho. As the circuit began to dry following intense showers throughout the night, several drivers became increasingly eager to push their limits, resulting in quite a few offs in the concluding couple of hours.

There was no such drama for Felix, though, who continued work on the programme set up by the team before travelling to Valencia. With 20 minutes to go, the circuit had dried enough for some exploratory laps on slicks; times tumbled quickly, and Felix eventually wound up an impressive second-fastest behind Formula 3 Euro Series stalwart Vanthoor. The third best time of the day was set by Daniel Juncadella, while Felix’s team-mate Nigel Melker was denied the opportunity of a run on slicks after going off when conditions were at their worst.

Testing continues in Valencia tomorrow, with more rain forecast for the day’s running. With teams eager to increase their understanding of the new-for-2011 Kumho rubber compounds, the prospect of not having any real dry-weather running under their belt before the next test at Barcelona will be slightly worrying.

COMMENT | FELIX
“I think we got off to a decent start with our preparations for the year ahead today. There are many new things I have to learn before the season kicks off in a few weeks, and the disruption this morning certainly wasn’t what I had hoped for. Nevertheless, I think we compensated for that quite well by running much more extensively on a drier circuit in the afternoon.”

“I didn’t feel too comfortable behind the wheel at the beginning of the day – I haven’t driven a metre since I climbed out of the car at the end of the race in Macau in November – but I pretty much fell back into the rhythm in the afternoon. It’s good to see that I have finished my first Formula 3 Euro Series test among the frontrunners, but it has to be said that lap time performance probably isn’t the major concern for anyone right now. Being half a second off Vanthoor, one of the benchmark drivers this year, still is an OK start. I enjoy working with the team and am hoping for some sun tomorrow – although the chances of that look rather slim at the moment!”

Ronan McKenzie12 year old British driver Ronan McKenzie, who is the reigning Easykart UK Cadet 60cc Champion and Easykart UK Cadet 60cc 2009 “E” Plate Open Champion, has got off to a sensational start after moving into the Junior 100cc class winning the first round of the Easykart UK Junior Championship at Ellough Park on 6 March 2011.

Ronan’s sole race mechanic, his father Jason McKenzie, who also provided Ronan with a Championship winning Cadet kart during 2010, has clearly quickly got to grips with the Junior kart despite only acquiring it in November.

Ronan, in his second year of an option contract with Birel Motorsport on the Easykart Driver Program, qualified in Pole Position, then won the Heat and the Pre-Final races leading throughout.

This formidable father and son team took on more experienced race teams and drivers up to the age of 16, and provided the most talked about racing of the event -
The Junior Final culminated in a nail-biting finish with Ronan, who led the entire race, claiming victory crossing the line five hundredths of a second ahead of the current 15 year old Junior Champion.

Ronan’s stunning first round performance sees him leading the 2011 Easykart UK Junior Championship, the youngest winner of a Junior UK round to date. Ronan will be taking part in a KF3 test with Birel Motorsport in the coming months which if successful will result in a contract for WSK 2012.

Ronan McKenzie is competing in the following events in 2011:
Easykart UK Junior 100cc Championship
Easykart International European Junior 100cc Championship
Easykart International Junior 100cc World Finals
Easykart UK “E” Plate Open Championship

For more information about Ronan McKenzie please visit www.ronanmckenzie.com

Press enquiries and Sponsorship enquiries please email info@ronanmckenzie.com