Hillspeed's Howard FullerHillspeed’s Howard Fuller underlined his promise as a Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship front-runner during the opening event of the 2011 season at Donington Park over the weekend, 24th/25th April, thanks to a highly competitive top five result in round two of the 12-race series.

The 18-year-old, from Kingston-upon-Thames, led the Hathersage team’s charge during round one qualifying on Saturday with the seventh fastest time and he continued to be the quickest of Hillspeed’s trio in the round two session with the fifth quickest lap.

Unfortunately Fuller wasn’t able to capitalise on his fourth row grid slot in the opening encounter when contact at Schwantz Curve on the first lap led to an immediate retirement. Determined to bounce back strongly in round two, the Surrey racer did exactly that with a fantastic drive to fifth.

Running in sixth place early on, having been passed by race one winner Josh Webster, Fuller lapped extremely competitively and regained fifth place on lap 13 when Webster’s car expired. Pushing hard to pressurise fourth placed Steven Durrant as the race neared its conclusion, the pair were separated by just 0.7 seconds at the chequered flag and Fuller also set the fourth fastest race lap.

Like Fuller, team-mate Zaamin Jaffer showed strong pace throughout his maiden weekend of ‘slicks and wings’ action but troublesome qualifying periods restricted what the Indian-born racer was able to achieve. Even so, a best result of seventh position in round one hinted at much more to come as the season progresses.

The 21-year-old delivered a very strong drive in the opener and thankfully saw-off a last corner lunge to secure a good haul of points. Having avoided Fuller’s unfortunate incident on the first lap, Jaffer settled himself down well and was only three seconds shy of the top six at the finish.

In round two, he again raced impressively from 12th on the grid into the top eight and looked on course for another substantial score. Frustratingly, contact to the rear of his car two laps from the finish resulted in a puncture and Jaffer was forced to crawl home in an eventual 14th place.

Hillspeed’s least experienced driver, Sean Walkinshaw, delivered a good account of himself on his car racing debut and after finding more than a second in time between the two qualifying sessions on Saturday, the Chipping Norton driver went on to finish 17th in the first race. Unfortunate contact on the third lap of race two though ended his weekend early.

“It’s been a reasonably good weekend for us”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “Sean has made massive steps forward. It’s disappointing a pure racing accident cost him another good points finish in round two but he’s positive about everything and is continuing to improve all of the time.

“Zaamin had an excellent first race, he did everything we expected. It was obviously a great shame he received the hit to the back of his car near the end of race two though which led to the puncture and a drop down the order. Howard was very quick but his true potential in race two was marred by some flat spots on his tyres from the race one incident. Even so, he did a fantastic job with fifth.”

Hillspeed’s incredibly busy run of action continues next weekend, 30th April/1st May, at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire for rounds five and six of the 2011 Ginetta Junior Championship. The team’s Protyre Formula Renault BARC squad will resume its season three weeks from now, 14th/15th May, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent.

2011 Provisional Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Standings (after Rd2):
11th Zaamin Jaffer, 23pts; 12th Howard Fuller, 20pts; 21st Sean Walkinshaw, 4pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.