Josh Webster - ThruxtonProtyre Formula Renault BARC Championship title contender Josh Webster kept his hopes of claiming the 2011 crown alive at Thruxton on Saturday, 3rd September, with a brace of hard-earned podium finishes.

Hot on the heels of being invited by the prestigious British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) to be one of its latest ‘Rising Stars’, the Stowmarket 17-year-old raced brilliantly to third place in each encounter at the 2.35-mile Hampshire circuit after clutch problems compromised his starts on each occasion.

Despite being disappointed at not being able to challenge for victory this weekend, Josh’s sixth and seventh podiums of the year do help set the scene for a mouth-watering season finale at Silverstone in mid-October.

In order to take the championship he will need to overturn a 19 point deficit to series leader Dino Zamparelli. Despite having finished on the podium in seven of the 10 races so far, Josh is at a distinct disadvantage due to the fact he has two unfortunate retirements compared to his rival’s one.

“I want to win every time I go out but two thirds have definitely kept the championship alive for us”, said the Suffolk racer, “I am disappointed we couldn’t take a win this weekend, we didn’t have the pace I expected, but finishing on the podium twice isn’t a disaster at all. Plus I’ve been invited to be a BRDC Rising Star which is a massive honour, I’m really proud to be part of the club.

“I did struggle with the starts, each time I was mobbed into the chicane and dropped to fifth or sixth so I had to race quite hard to get back onto the podium. We later found out there was a problem with the clutch though. We’re looking ahead to Silverstone now, it’s one of my favourite tracks and I know we can still win the championship from here – so that’s what I’m going out to try and do.”

Qualifying didn’t quite go according to plan for the Nine Telecom Group, Admiral Group, Integra ICT, Sunwise, Melbek Technology, Everyone Active and Flying Saucer-backed driver as he missed out on picking up the essential ‘tow’ required at Thruxton for the quickest lap times. Even so, he managed to secure fourth on the grid for round nine and an improved third on the grid for round 10.

With 35 sponsors and guests looking on, Josh headed into the opening encounter aiming to get to the front of the pack as quickly as possible but the aforementioned clutch issue – unidentified at that point – meant he wasn’t able to make one of his usually sharp getaways.

The net result was that he was attacked from all sides heading through Allard and into the complex, slipping to sixth place but battling back superbly into fifth on the first lap and then moving back into the top four on lap two.

Chasing down third placed James Thorp, both drivers then gained a place at the expense of Kourosh Khani who dropped back from second. Before Josh had an opportunity to try and get fully on terms with Thorp though, the race was stopped following a two-car incident at half-distance. With the result declared from the end of lap eight, Josh took third just 0.7 seconds adrift of second place.

Another frustrating start in round 10 dropped Josh from third to fifth but he mounted a great recovery once more and after passing Khani for fourth position on lap two, he then took third from Steven Durrant on lap four. By the time the MSA Academy driver had fought his way through to third though, the top two had broken clear so he focused on claiming third and more good points.

Protyre Formula Renault BARC now takes a six week break from action ahead of the grand finale, rounds 11 and 12 of the season, which will be contested over the weekend 15th/16th October at Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire.

Marking the biggest race meeting of the year for Josh and his rival competitors, the concluding event of the campaign will run as support to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Round 12 of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship will therefore receive live television coverage on Freeview, cable and digital satellite channel ITV4 and in High Definition on the ITV4 HD channel.

Provisional 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Standings (after Rd10):
1st Dino Zamparelli, 243pts; 2nd Josh Webster, 224pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.