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Archive for May, 2012

Alexandre ImperatoriAfter the opening rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia’s tenth triumphant season last month saw some of the most spectacular racing ever seen in Asia, the region’s premier sportscar series takes the championship battle to Southern China for Rounds 3 and 4 from June 1 to 3 at the 4.3km Zhuhai International Circuit.

The exceptional Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car grid features an unrivalled line-up of international professionals and exciting newcomers, all eager to prove their mettle against seasoned veterans.

Topping the leaderboard as the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia heads to Zhuhai is PICC Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori, whose impressive pole position and two race wins in Shanghai makes the 24-year-old the driver to beat. With new reverse grid regulations for race two, the Shanghai-based Swiss star put on a dazzling display as he maneuvered his way through the hard-charging pack to grab his second victory of the weekend. Having seized victory in the opening rounds, Imperatori’s rivals are determined to break his six-race winning streak, which began last August, and turn the tables in Zhuhai.

Said reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion, LKM Racing’s Keita Sawa of Japan, currently second in the overall title race: “Defending the championship is not going to be easy with so much talent and experience this season. Alexandre has so far set the pace, and now I must step up to the challenge and find a way to make up the seven points which separate our team and first place.”

Sportscar and series newcomer Tung Ho-Ping, racing with Budweiser Team StarChase, lies third in the points. Tung’s eighth-place finish in Round 1 gave him pole position for the second race, where he took the final podium place.

Fourth in the standings after a strong debut is fellow series newcomer, Benjamin Rouget of France with Team Yongda Dongfang, one of three new Porsche China dealer team entries. Also expected to be right on the pace in Zhuhai are Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila of Macau, and talented Austrian Martin Ragginger with new Porsche China dealer Team Eagle – Jiejun & Junbaojie.

At the wheel of the Team Carrera Cup Asia Porsche 911 GT3 Cup will be guest driver and 2004 champion Matthew Marsh.

Reigning Class B champion, Wang Jian Wei of Team Betterlife, will be on the hunt for his first overall podium finish in Zhuhai, while Italian Davide Rizzo returns to the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in Zhuhai, having won five Class B races in his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia debut in 2011.

Fifth overall and second in the Class B title fight, one point behind Rizzo’s BBT team mate Anthony Liu of China, is series newcomer Egidio Perfetti with Seminole Racing Team. The Singapore-based driver made a stunning debut in Shanghai, with a second-place finish in Round 1 and his first Porsche Carrera Cup Asia victory in Round 2. Currently third in Class B is Wayne Shen with Modena Motorsports, whose exciting battle with on-track rival Francis Tjia of OpenRoad Racing in Round 2 saw him earn the final Class B podium place.

Qualifying and Round 3 of the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be held on Saturday, June 2, while Round 2, where the top eight finishers in the first race will be reversed on the grid, will be held on Sunday, June 3.

Rounds 3&4 – Provisional Entry List
No.1/Keita SAWA (JPN)/LKM Racing Team
No. 3/*Matthew MARSH (HKG)/A/Team Carrera Cup Asia
No. 5/Yuey TAN (SIN)/B/McElrea Racing
No. 6/ZHENG Ting (CHN)/B/BBT
No. 8/Benjamin ROUGET (FRA)/Team Yongda Dongfang
No. 9/WANG Jian Wei (CHN)/Team Betterlife
No. 11/Ringo CHONG (SIN)/Team Kangshun
No. 16/Wayne SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsport
No. 18/Marcel TJIA (HKG)/B/OpenRoad-ART Motorsports
No. 20/Rodolfo AVILA (MAC)/Team Jebsen
No. 21/Francis TJIA (HKG)/B/OpenRoad Racing
No. 23/Paul TRESIDDER (AUS)/B/Hewlett Motorsport
No. 25/Christian CHIA (CAN)/B/OpenRoad-ART Motorsports
No. 27/Adrian Henry D’SILVA (MAS)/B/Nexus Racing
No. 28/John SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsports
No. 31/*TBC/PS Racing
No. 37/Davide RIZZO (ITA)/BBT
No. 55/*Sean HE/PS Racing
No. 66/Rose TAN (CHN)/Team C&D
No. 68/MAK Hing Tak (HKG)/B/OMAK
No. 78/ZHANG Da Sheng (CHN)/Team Basetex
No. 81/HUANG Chu Han (CHN)/B/Hede
No. 83/Dr. MA Chi Min (HKG)/B/Dr. Ma Chi Min
No. 86/Martin RAGGINGER (AUT)/Team Eagle – Jiejun & Junbaojie
No. 88/Egidio PERFETTI (SUI)/B/Seminole Racing Team
No. 96/LI Chao (CHN)/B/Asia Racing Team/Team JR
No. 98/Ho-Pin TUNG (CHN)/Budweiser Team StarChase
No. 99/Alexandre IMPERATORI (HKG)/PICC Team StarChase

*Non series registered

Alice Powell MonacoChipping Norton racer, Alice Powell, finished a fantastic 11th place in Race One of the Formula One supporting, GP3 series in Monaco. It was the first ever visit to Monaco for the GP3 Series, as well as the Status GP team and Alice.

In the 40 minute practise on the Thursday, for the first half of the session, Alice was a stunning P5, but slipped down the order while she was making changes in the pits. Due to traffic, Powell was not able to improve, so ended up P17.

Qualifying was slightly different to as it was in Barcelona. The field of 26 cars was split into two groups. Alice was in the first group to venture out of the pit lane for the 14 minute qualifying session. Powell managed P6 in her group, which put her P12 on the grid for the race, a superb result for the ex Cotswold School student, who is the least experienced driver on the grid, in terms of seat time in the GP3 car.

For Race One, Alice got a good start and managed to avoid the stalled car of Barcelona race winner, Conor Daly. From then on, she pulled a good gap of over two seconds from the group of cars behind her and put fellow Brit, Alex Brundle, under pressure for 10th place. Powell eventually crossed the line in 11th place, setting the 10th fastest time.

Race Two saw Alice get another good start from P11. However, her race took a huge blow as contact at the first corner, damaged her front wing and badly damaged her steering, which meant she had to pit sort the damage. When she exited the pit lane, she was at the back of the grid in P24. The race was red flagged on lap 13, due to a big accident which left debris over part of the track. Alice ended the race in P22.

Commenting on the weekend, Alice said “This weekend was an incredible experience for me! To race around the streets of Monaco is nearly every race drivers dream! Qualifying was pleasing, as was Race One, as we showed our pace and potential. Race two was a terrible shame, but that is classic Monaco for you, the first corner is very tight. I am just glad that the people who were involved the huge crashes are okay. The Status team have done another fantastic job this weekend, and yet again I exceeded my expectations. I am still learning the car and cannot wait for the next race in Valencia.”

The next race is at the Valencia Street circuit on the 22-24 June.

Photo by Daniel Kalisz.

Champion motor racer Nathan Freke clocked up his second finish in the world famous Nurburgring 24 hour race in Germany. In addition to completing the gruelling race around the 13 mile Green Hell Nordschleife circuit the Jaguar XF24 took an unexpected class win after a near faultless run, ending up 92nd overall in front of more powerful and better funded cars in the 190 starters. Nathan drove the car for 8 out of the 24 hours registering the fastest lap in the car of the 3 drivers.

“I am ecstatic to have brought the car home in what is probably the most difficult of the 24 hr races on the calendar. The mix of cars means that you have to be concentrating a peak level all the time and as the circuit is so long you never really get to master it completely. Driving in the dark is particularly hard when the faster cars can be closing with speed differentials of 50 mph with their lights flashing. To finish is fantastic, to finish 92nd even better, and to win the class in the cars first 24 hour race is unbelievable. My thanks to my co drivers, Colin White, and Rob Carvell, and to Carvell Racing for doing a super job keeping the car going.”

Macaulay Walsh - RockinghamProtyre Formula Renault BARC Championship racer Macaulay Walsh continued his impressively strong start to the season at Rockingham near Corby over the weekend, 19th/20th May, by climbing into fourth place in the series standings and closing to within just four points of the top three.

Round four was the highlight of the weekend for the Northampton teenager, an excellent fifth place finish from eighth on the grid. In round five though, significant damage to the front of his FR 2.0 car – a legacy of contact on lap 13 while dicing for fourth position – made for a difficult final few laps, but Macaulay worked wonders to salvage a solid top 10 finish.

Qualifying on Saturday started in very wet and rainy conditions and the resulting red flag stoppages were almost inevitable. Macaulay was one of the drivers worst affected by the interruptions as each time he was on a lap capable of a top three grid slot, the session was curtailed.

Frustrated to line-up on row four of the grid for the opening race, round four, the 17-year-old made a great start and moved into the top six before taking fifth at Deene Hairpin on lap two. Following a short Safety Car interlude between laps seven and nine, Macaulay set about challenging Jake Dalton for fourth but also had to be mindful of an attack from series returnee Kieran Vernon.

As Dalton defended heavily at each corner, so Macaulay was backed-up into the clutches of the vastly more experienced Vernon. With five laps to go, he was unfortunately usurped but both drivers did get by Dalton so Macaulay ended the race fifth and with 20 points to add to his total.

Planning a potential podium challenge in round five, despite starting seventh on the grid, the Mike Craig Electrical Products Limited and Piers Sexton-backed racer almost made it happen but contact during the closing stages wrecked his hopes.

Running in fifth place into lap nine, the Scorpio Motorsport driver started to apply heavy pressure to Ivan Taranov ahead and after being heavily rebuffed for several laps he saw his chance into Deene on lap 13.

“He [Taranov] was defending, I gave him room and then he moved back across so I thought I could go for a move on him into the hairpin but he shut the door again”, explained Macaulay, “I had nowhere to go, went over the back of his car and it damaged the top wishbone, bottom wishbone, pushrod and I lost half of my front wing…so it was quite a struggle from then on!”

Somehow managing to keep his car circulating at a fairly competitive pace, Macaulay did slip down the order but just managed to see off Raoul Owens on the final lap to claim 10th position by a mere 0.1 seconds.

“I’m pleased to be in the championship top four but it’s not been a great weekend”, he added, “In testing we weren’t all that fast and in qualifying we knew we could have been much better but all the red flags ruined that. The first race was good, but I wanted better than fifth really.

“In race two, I got dropped back to 10th at turn two where there was a little incident but I came back through to fifth, chasing Taranov, and when I saw [James] Fletcher make a mistake ahead I thought I could maybe get a podium. Unfortunately it all went wrong then pretty quickly but we’ve still come out of it ok championship wise.”

Rounds six and seven of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship will take place four weeks from now on Sunday 17th June, at the ultra-fast Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire. The event will mark Macaulay’s first ever visit to the hugely challenging track.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd5):
1st Seb Morris, 140pts; 4th Macaulay Walsh, 95pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Hillspeed's Kieran VernonChampionship returnee Kieran Vernon delivered two sensational race drives during rounds four and five of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC season at Rockingham on Sunday, 20th May, to earn fourth and fifth place finishes for Hillspeed on his first appearance in the series for almost a year.

Vernon didn’t have things easy by any means, and neither did team-mates Jacob Nortoft and Marcus Allen, with rain-affected qualifying on Saturday, 19th May, proving to be a major headache – four red flag stoppages in the first session and two more in the second hampering each drivers’ efforts.

Nonetheless, the trio each delivered excellent performances in race conditions with round five a particular highlight as all three Hillspeed cars finished inside the top nine – Vernon taking fifth place, Nortoft eighth and Allen ninth. The result marked the Hathersage team’s best multi-car finish in the popular single-seater championship since its title-winning 2010 season.

Vernon, who despite his previous experience in Protyre Formula Renault BARC had never had any true wet running in an FR 2.0 prior to this weekend, started round four from ninth position and made immediate progress to gain two positions on the first lap alone.

Taking sixth place at Deene Hairpin on lap three, he closed-down fifth placed Macaulay Walsh but had to hold fire on any attack when the Safety Car appeared at the start of lap seven. Running close behind Walsh and fourth placed Jake Dalton at the re-start, Vernon made his move on lap 14 to pass both drivers and pull away by 1.6 seconds during the final three laps.

In round five, the 22-year-old had a mountain to climb from 17th on the grid – the result of an unfortunate excursion in qualifying under braking for Tarzan Hairpin. Nonetheless, he made superb progress through the field and by the end of lap one he was already in 12th position.

Breaking into the top 10 on lap six, Vernon picked off drivers one by one until he made it into fifth on the penultimate lap before closing in on fourth placed Hong Wei Cao over the last 1.94 miles, taking the flag just 0.5 seconds adrift. He also set a best lap just 0.3 seconds shy of the fastest of the race.

“Kieran showed his class this weekend, he has massive potential as a driver in single-seaters and sportscars”, said team boss Richard Ollerenshaw, “To come to Rockingham, having only done one day of testing with us prior to the weekend, shows what a capable and truly professional driver he is. His race drives, after a nightmare in qualifying, were exceptional.”

Nortoft and Allen prove potential with season-best results
Danish teenager Nortoft enjoyed easily his best weekend yet in Protyre Formula Renault BARC, a pair of top 10 results confirming his undoubted potential and also enabling him to shoot up the driver standings into the top 16.

Qualifying 12th for round four, the Dansk Automobil Sports Union driver progressed into 10th by the start of lap four and served up one of the moves of the race on lap six at Deene by taking ninth place around the outside of Ivan Taranov. Although the Russian hit back after the brief Safety Car period, Nortoft moved back past on lap 11. He also posted a best lap within 0.3 seconds of Vernon’s pace.

In round five, which he started from 16th on the grid, the 18-year-old initially ran in the thick of the midfield action before starting to make his way through the order again from lap four. Into the top 12 on lap 11, Nortoft then managed to avoid getting caught-up in a multi-car incident at Deene to slice his way into the top eight, his best finish of the year so far and he also matched his pace from race one.

British racer Allen delivered outstanding drives through the order in both encounters, having been further back on the grid than anticipated in qualifying like his two team-mates. Round five was the stand-out race for the 21-year-old in terms of the end result, climbing through from 20th on the grid into an excellent ninth place.

Putting together a fantastic opening lap, Allen sliced his way into 14th place before quickly gaining another position and remaining there until lap 11 when he claimed two further scalps. Like Nortoft avoiding the problems at Deene on the penultimate lap, he emerged in ninth just behind the Dane and the pair ended the race just 0.377 seconds apart.

The earlier fourth round offered a thankless task for Allen as he had to start from the rear of the 28 car grid due to an excursion in the wet, first qualifying session. Into the top 20 by the end of lap one alone, he steadily progressed through the order into a highly impressive finish of 14th place. In total, his points haul moved him to 15th in the standings while Vernon is equal 12th after just two races.

“Unfortunately, qualifying wasn’t the best due to the number of red flags we had”, commented Ollerenshaw, “Marcus had to start at the back for race one but did a fantastic job to come all the way through into 14th place, Jacob too made very good progress and they both showed a very high standard of driving.

“The second race was the highlight for us though, our best multi-car finish since 2010 and proof all three drivers have what it takes to be consistently inside the top 10. We’ve had some very good results this weekend, a huge improvement on the first event at Snetterton so we’re delighted.”

Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire will host the sixth and seventh rounds of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC season on Sunday, 17th June. Before then, Hillspeed’s Ginetta Junior Championship squad will be back in action for rounds seven and eight of its season on 9th/10th June at Oulton Park in Cheshire.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd5):
=12th Kieran Vernon & Jack Dex, 42pts; 15th Marcus Allen, 31pts; 16th Jacob Nortoft, 28pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

FIA InstituteGabby Chaves returns to the USA after a five day workshop at the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy, which focused on one of the most important aspects of the programme: road safety. To help with this, the Academy has been making use of the resources and coaching available at Test & Training International’s Road Safety Training Centre in Teesdorf, Austria.

Here the drivers have been educated in all areas of safety from learning the right mental approach to understanding the engineering advances such as anti-lock braking and stability control.

They then took to the track to further increase their knowledge with tests on variable road surfaces to demonstrate how to deal with driving hazards. The emphasis throughout has been on behaviour-orientated training for the drivers so they can convey passive and active road safety information in both a practical and theoretical form.

FIA Institute experts were also on hand to provide further education. FIA Institute Medical Advisor Dr Paul Trafford gave a presentation on all areas of motor sport medicine, including driver preparation, accident response and vehicle extraction. FIA Institute Sustainability Advisor Even Wiger gave a presentation on environmental developments in motor sport, a subject that will become increasingly relevant for the young drivers.

Equipping them with this knowledge will not just help them on a personal level but also give them the ability to deal with sensitive questions about safety and sustainability in motor sport.

The drivers themselves have embraced this education, with some of them already actively participating in road safety campaigns in their own countries…
Read article FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy

Race car driver Gabby Chaves has been leading a campaign in his home state of Florida to encourage people to stop texting while driving, and he will now introduce this campaign in his native country, Colombia.

Gabby Chaves will travel to Indianapolis this Wednesday for the fifth round of the Star Mazda Championship, which will take place on May 26 at the Lucas Oil Raceway, the night before the Indy 500. This will be Gabby’s first experience racing in an oval track.

“I am looking forward to this new experience. We have been working very hard with my engineer Rick Cameron and my team JDC Motorsports, to be able to get the best set-up of the car and I am very happy with the progress we’ve made so far. This is a completely different type of race, plus it will also be my first time racing at night, which makes it even more interesting. I have been preparing mentally and physically and with everything that I’ve been learning at the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy, I am ready to take on this new challenge.”

Josh WebsterStowmarket’s Josh Webster endured a luckless second event of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season at Rockingham in Northamptonshire over the weekend, 19th/20th May, but the MSA Team UK driver still managed to score enough points to remain in the coveted series top three.

Arriving at the Corby venue with a 14 point championship lead, having taken one win and two other podiums during the season-opening race meeting at Snetterton in early April, the 18-year-old had realistic hopes of continuing his excellent start to the campaign.

Everything started to unravel for the MGR Motorsport racer though in the very first qualifying session on Saturday, a spinning car at Turn One of the oval banking leaving the British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star with nowhere to go and the resulting impact almost wrecked his FR 2.0 car.

Forced to miss the second session due to the severity of the damage, Josh had to start round four from an uncharacteristic 16th on the grid while for round five he had to line-up at the rear of the 28 car field with an absolute mountain to climb in just 15 scheduled laps.

Gaining several places in quick order in the first race on Sunday, despite his front wing collapsing, Josh moved into 11th by lap four and following a mid-race Safety Car period he broke into the top 10 on the 13th tour. During the last couple of laps, the wing problems became more severe leading to greater and greater understeer but he managed to wrestle his car to the finish in 13th position.

His start to round five was nothing short of sensational, Josh managing to climb 12 places up the order into 16th position before moving into 14th by lap three – meaning he had overtaken half the 28 car field by the third racing lap!

Soon after though at Tarzan Hairpin, he was unceremoniously hit from behind under braking and pitched into a spin which relegated him to the tail of the field. In the end, he managed to battle his way back into the top 20 to achieve a couple of extremely hard-earned points.

Even though carrying damage to his car and locked in the lower order, the Nine Group, Admiral Solutions & Support and Integra ICT-backed racer managed to lap within just 0.4 seconds of the race winner’s pace – proof of what would have been possible without the catalogue of misfortune.

“It all spiralled off from the crash in qualifying, it was a really big shunt and the team did an amazing job to get the car back together”, said Josh, “The bad luck didn’t end there though. In the first race we had a problem with the front-wing detaching itself right from the start of the race, so I had monumental understeer which worsened throughout the race making it almost impossible to drive.

“In the second race I’d had an awesome first three laps, making up 14 places, but into Tarzan someone just smashed into me and I had to wait for everyone else to go by before I could spin the car round. It’s been an awful, awful weekend but you still have to take away the positives – at least we scored some points!”

He added: “The team did a fantastic job, massive thanks to Peter my engineer, Mark my mechanic and everyone else at the team for their hard work. It’s really gutting to have lost the championship lead through no fault of our own, but at least we took a few points and can maybe use one of these races as our drop score at the end of the year. We need to focus now on bouncing back at the next round.”

There is now a four week break in the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship calendar with rounds six and seven of the season taking place on Sunday, 17th June, at Thruxton in Hampshire.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd5):
3rd Josh Webster, 99pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Seb MorrisTwo superb lights-to-flag victories for Seb Morris at Rockingham on Sunday, 20th May, enabled the 16-year-old racer to move to the top of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship standings in only his second race meeting in the ultra-competitive one-make series.

Having made an outstanding start to his single-seater career at Snetterton during the first event of the season last month, the Marford youngster continued his dominance of qualifying by maintaining his 100 per cent pole position record with his fourth and fifth grid-topping starts from as many races.

From there, the Ginetta Ambassador – who is currently in the midst of his GCSE exams – sealed his second and third victories of the 2012 season to open-up a 12 point championship advantage over two-time McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist Scott Malvern.

“It’s good to get the championship lead, that’s what I’m always aiming for”, commented Seb, “We focused on our consistency a lot in the races. I made a small mistake in race one but in the second race all my lap times were within four tenths of each other, apart from when I missed a gear at the last corner on one lap. The car was handling perfectly thanks to the guys at Fortec.”

Round four qualifying on Saturday, 19th May, was badly affected by rain and red flag stoppages in equal measure but The King’s School, Chester pupil was unfazed by it all and simply delivered an excellent pole position lap of 1m41.055 seconds (69.11mph).

Conditions improved for the round five session, although the track was still slippery, but the end result was the same with Seb taking yet another pole position – this time with a lap of 1m33.380 seconds (74.79mph), more than 1.1 seconds clear of his nearest challenger.

Leading away well at the start of the first of the weekend’s encounters, the Fortec Motorsports driver opened up a substantial 1.3 second margin over the first 1.94 miles of racing and went on to build a cushion of four seconds prior to the emergence of the Safety Car on lap seven.

Eliminating his advantage, Seb had it all to do again but he made a good re-start on lap nine to open up a lead of around two seconds. Over the final few laps, Malvern did close the Welshman down but Seb never looked under threat as he took his second win of the year.

In round five, the winning margin was much greater – over three seconds to be precise – and Seb also bagged the bonus points for fastest lap with a time of 1m18.421 seconds (89.05mph). Again establishing a huge lead on the first lap, the reigning Ginetta Junior Champion ran unchallenged to his third win of 2012.

“Rockingham is one of my least favourite tracks so to come away with two poles, two wins and fastest lap in the second race isn’t bad going”, he added, “Thruxton is next, I love the high-speed corners and we have a good set-up there so I’m really looking forward to it – it should be mega.”

Rounds six and seven of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season will take place four weeks from now on Sunday, 17th June, at Thruxton near Andover – the fastest track on the calendar.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd5):
1st Seb Morris, 140pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Scott MalvernIn the first of today’s races, Malvern was the only driver to take the fight to pole-sitter Morris and was only 0.5 seconds shy at the flag. The Cliff Dempsey Racing driver also posted a new Protyre Formula Renault BARC lap record for the 1.94-mile circuit of 1m18.015 seconds (89.52mph).

Holding on to his advantage at the start, Morris built a lead of around four seconds by the end of lap six but the emergence of the Safety Car – due to some stray bodywork on the oval – eradicated his lead. At the re-start though, the 16-year-old made no mistakes and pulled away before Malvern closed the gap down to nothing during the closing stages.

Fletcher held third throughout the race and ended up over six seconds clear of the rest at the finish, the chasing pack headed at the chequered flag by Hillspeed’s Vernon who delivered a superbly impressive account of himself on his return to the series – climbing up from ninth on the grid.

Fifth placed Scorpio Motorsport driver Macaulay Walsh (Northampton) was another to make good gains in the race, moving up from eighth – having had his qualifying hopes badly affected by the red flags – to finish just 0.6 seconds clear of MGR’s David Wagner (Glasgow). The latter endured a dire first qualifying session with recurring alternator problems but he raced brilliantly from 11th to sixth.

There was disappointment for Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens, Lancashire) when a season-best fifth place qualifying performance came to nothing due to retirement on lap five. Jake Dalton (Stoke-on-Trent), meanwhile, dropped back from third on the grid to seventh and Martin Cao – now reverting to his Chinese name, Hong Wei Cao – slipped from fourth to eighth.

Webster raced through from 16th on the grid to 11th prior to the Safety Car, but damage to his front wing led to serious understeer during the second half and he slipped to 13th at the finish, losing the championship lead in the process to Morris.

Morris had greater control over round five but off the start he was put under pressure by Malvern, until the latter’s hopes of trying to stay with the pole-sitter were hit, quite literally, at Deene Hairpin when contact from Fletcher enabled Morris to pull clear. Malvern did edge to within 0.9 seconds of the leader by the end of lap seven but after that Morris set fastest lap and pulled away.

While the top three was set, although Fletcher did struggle with damaged suspension, front row starter Cao took by far his best Protyre Formula Renault BARC finish with fourth place after a coming together between Walsh and Antel’s Ivan Taranov. An inspired Vernon scythed his way into fifth from 17th on the grid while American Trent Hindman, who isn’t eligible to score, took sixth.

“I thought I might put Seb [Morris] on the ropes a little bit in the second race but I got a knock from behind so that ruined my plans”, said Malvern, “I’m not sure we had the pace here, I know we got fastest lap in the first race but we were really losing out on the straights. It’s been a pretty good weekend though, there’s a long way to go and I know we’re capable of winning.”

Fletcher added: “Unfortunately I hit into the side of Scott [Malvern] when we were battling and it bent my front wishbone, that’s why our pace dropped. After that, the car was understeering badly around left-handers so it was great to get another solid third place. We just need to keep this going, hopefully avoid any DNFs, and we stand a chance of being top three in the championship.”

Webster’s horrendous luck continued in the second race. Although lining-up at the back of the grid, he put together a sensational opening lap to gain an incredible 12 places but on the fourth tour he was tagged into a spin at Tarzan Hairpin. Forced to wait for the rest of the field to pass before he could recover, the MGR racer climbed back into the top 20 to at least salvage a couple of points.

There is now a four-week break in Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship action with rounds six and seven of the 2012 season taking place at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire, the headquarters of the British Automobile Racing Club, on Sunday, 17th June.

Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault BARC is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd5):
1st Seb Morris, 140pts; 2nd Scott Malvern, 128pts; 3rd Josh Webster, 99pts; 4th Macaulay Walsh, 95pts; =5th David Wagner & James Fletcher, 86pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Jono LesterJono Lester was poised for his first Super Taikyu victory at Sportsland Sugo over the weekend, before a failed suspension component forced a lengthy unscheduled pit stop for repairs to the #28 PETRONAS Syntium Team Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

The third round of the 2012 Super Taikyu Endurance Series saw Lester lead the field in Official Practice, converting this to his first pole position alongside team mates Tatsuya Kataoka (Japan) and Melvin Moh (Malaysia).

The race began in similar fashion, with Lester driving a clean, trouble-free stint to amass a 51-second lead in the first hour of the three hour race.

Lester was forced to pit soon after for repairs when a suspension component gave way on the back section of the 3.7km circuit.

The car rejoined the circuit with Moh at the wheel in 37th position overall.

Both Moh and Kataoka fought valiantly to bring the car back into contention, eventually finishing in third position in the GT3 class.

“Today was a day that promised a lot, and delivered very little,” Lester said.

“Our weekend up until the car problem was faultless – both on the part of my team mates, myself, and the PETRONAS Syntium Team.

“I picked up this place [Sugo] very quickly and really felt confident during my stint, despite early pressure from many GT3 class cars. However, the boys did well to elevate us back into a reasonable finishing position, and I must commend them on their efforts.”

Dato’ David Wong, team principal of PETRONAS Syntium Team said: “In only his third race of Japan, Jono has proven to be a star of the future. He’s new to Sugo, like he is with all the tracks in Japan, but he read the circuit quickly and out-qualified everyone. He then went on to lead the race for 36 laps against established top drivers, until the car ran into trouble. Fantastic drive from him – I look forward to more from Jono.”

Lester now returns to New Zealand for the mid-season break, before the next round of championship at the Suzuka circuit, which collectively hosts both Super Taikyu and the World Touring Car Championship.

Lester is supported in the 2012 Super Taikyu Endurance Series by PETRONAS Syntium, Opti-Flex, R Redpath Limited, Trinity Media Group, Mako Networks, Vortex Racewear and ThrillCapital.

Photo by PETRONAS Syntium Team.