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.