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Archive for July, 2012

Alice Powell29 July 2012: Briton Alice Powell displayed improved progress once again as the GP3 rookie achieved the 8th fastest lap of the final race at the Hungaroring with Status Grand Prix this weekend.

Arriving for her inaugural race in Budapest, Alice’s car crew were all set and ready to take to the track on Friday for free practice after a track sweeper had been sent out to wash turns one and 14 before the session, leaving a fair amount of damp track. As this was Alice’s first time at the Hungaroring the decision was made to send her out early to collect as much data and give her as many laps as possible ahead of the weekend’s competition on a drying track. By going out early Alice’s tyres peaked before the track was optimised by rubber going down therefore she completed her planned programme in P21 unable to improve on her best time of 1:40.657.

Alice showed improved and strong performance through many of the corners of the very technical track during qualifying on Saturday morning. The front of the field – with many GP3 veterans and drivers with Hungaroring experience – was a close fought contest and another tenth of a second would have seen Alice improve her qualifying position by several places. She qualified in 19th position with a 1:37.730 – only 1.67 seconds behind pole sitter Vainio.

The English GP3 rookie made a very good getaway to race one on Saturday afternoon, but she was forced off-line during the opening lap and lost all the places she had won. She kept pace with the midfield group throughout the race and challenged Alex Fontana, an F2 race winner, for some time, but had to settle for 19th at the chequered flag.

Alice made an extremely good start to race two on Sunday morning from P19 and was up to P13 by the end of the first lap. She made up further places on ambitious moves and took advantage of on-track incidents to make up ground. Picking up race pace and achieving the 8th fastest lap time for race two in the process, Alice was running in 16th when she came in for her scheduled pit stop. A delay of 25 seconds due to a wheel nut issue meant that she returned to the action in P20 and was unable to make up lost ground until the chequered flag.

Alice Powell, Driver #16 Status Grand Prix, GP3 Team
“It was a tough weekend as I was new to the circuit and it is not easy to learn in such difficult weather and driving conditions. However we made progress all weekend although in race one, I couldn’t overtake and was pushed aside from P15, so I ended the race in a disappointing 19th position. Race two was looking much better and I had made good progress through the field until the pit stop. It is a massive shame because our results from Hungary do not show our true potential and so we have a lot to do before our next race in Spa.”

Simon Cayzer, #16 Engineer, Status Grand Prix, GP3 team
“It was a better weekend for us, but there were many elements against Alice this weekend. During race one we struggled with car balance, although she drove exceptionally well and was only ever 0.5 second behind those in front of her. The race was a bit processional and she became a victim of that, hence her final result. Race two was eventful. We took a gamble on tyre choice for all three cars on the grid due to the drying track on Sunday morning and opted for wets. Our set-up was challenging and so we decided to change to slicks in the pit stops. Up until that point Alice had raced really well, challenged and won position and was looking to be in the top 15 at least. Our strategy was the right one, as the eventual race winner pitted for slicks then too, but we had a wheel issue during Alice’s pit stop which cost her 25 seconds and ultimately a final race position reflective of her true pace. P20 is not where we wanted to be and Alice achieving the 8th fastest lap time of the race indicates that if we had executed her pit stop perfectly even a points position could have been a possibility. Overall Alice did a great job at another new track and we shall work hard over the next four weeks to prepare as much as possible for Spa.”

Felix RosenqvistFelix Rosenqvist came away with fourth as his best result when the FIA European Formula 3 Championship took to the legendary grounds of Spa-Francorchamps this weekend. Rosenqvist faced competition from 28 other drivers from both the European and British F3 series, and got off to a solid start with fifth place overall on his first acquaintance with the challenging Belgian venue behind the wheel of an F3 car in the opening free practice session.

The Swede, however, was later held back by yellow flags on no less than three out of his four flying laps in qualifying, but still managed to haul himself back up to fourth among the European Championship drivers in the first race of the weekend – aided by a strong conclusion to the event which saw him constantly lap among the fastest on track.

“This was always going to be a challenging weekend for all of the European Championship regulars as we had to adapt to the tyres and rules used in the British series, but Spa is just an amazing circuit and I thoroughly enjoyed driving here,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “I was unlucky in qualifying with all the yellow flags effectively destroying my session, which made things a bit more complicated for Race 1. I eventually managed to make up some of the lost ground to finish fourth, and it was particularly pleasing to see that we took care of the tyres very well towards the end. We were not fast enough to challenge for victory here, though, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

The second race of the weekend was cancelled completely when the infamous Spa micro-climate transformed the circuit into a lake within a matter of second shortly before the start. Rosenqvist was set to start the race from the front row, but the cancellation meant he never got the opportunity to convert his grid slot into a potentially strong result. In the final race of the meeting, the Mücke Motorsport man then retired after colliding with championship leader Raffaele Marciello in the poor visibility brought about by another shower of rain.

“I want to apologise to Raffaele for the clash in the final race; I couldn’t see anything in the spray as we headed into the Bus Stop chicane, and once I realised he was there, it was too late to react,” Rosenqvist concludes. “It obviously wasn’t intentional, and it marked the end of the race for me. This was a weekend of what-could-have-been had we managed to steer clear of the misfortune which seems to haunt us this year – but we’ll bounce back…”

Felix Rosenqvist’s next race outing will take place at the Nürburgring in Germany on August 17-19.

Gabby ChavesGabby Chaves re-affirmed his position as a young motorsports talent this past weekend (July 21-22), with two more trips to the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear podium at the Edmonton City Centre Airport circuit. The highly-regarded teenager showcased speed, racecraft, and maturity in the doubleheader, overcoming treacherous late race wet conditions in Round Nine to finish third, before repeating the feat in Round 10, despite a mechanical issue. Chaves now lies second in the Mazda Road to Indy series title fight, ready to continue his run of form in the final third of the 2012 season.

When Chaves first got behind the wheel of his CLARO/Marca Colombia/Tecpro Barriers-backed JDC MotorSports Mazda in March, the goal was the to challenge for top honors and showcase his talents in his return to North American formula car competition after two successful seasons in Europe. While the former Italian Formula 3 Championship Rookie of the Year certainly did that in the early season affairs, it his recent on-track displays that have emphasized the point.

Building on third and fourth place finishes on the streets of Toronto, Chaves wasted little time getting acclimated to the 3.631-km temporary course that the series was visiting for the first time in Edmonton, posting the third quickest lap in the opening practice session.

With added backing from OMP and GoPro, Chaves continued to show good pace in the second and final practice run, as well as the lone qualifying session, going fifth and fourth fastest respectively.

Race one of the Alberta doubleheader proved to a wild and dramatic affair. For Chaves it commenced right after the traditional standing start, as he was forced to take evasive action to avoid being contacted by other drivers. Quickly able to regain the lost positions, he was fourth when the dark overhead clouds opened up, soaking the track. With the entire Star Mazda field on racing slicks at that point, chaos ensued via cars slipping and sliding. Unfortunately for Chaves, while in the middle of a heated battle for position, he was given a drive through penalty for crossing the white line in turn one. Not letting the penalty take over his head, he instead rejoined the race and started posting the fastest laps of the race at that moment to catch up with the rest of the field. In what was ultimately a two-lap sprint to the checkered flag, the 19 year-old utilized his natural skill and the training received from the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy to charge from 12th to third, despite still driving a JDC entry with slicks on the very wet and treacherous track.

Thanks to the second fastest lap in race one, Chaves lined-up P2 for the start of race two in Edmonton one day later. The former Formula BMW Americas champion initially appeared poised to challenge for top honors. It, however, soon became apparent that something wasn’t quite right with his JDC MotorSports steed. As a result of what would post-race be determined as a differential blockage, Chaves struggled with overall grip. With Chaves squeezing every ounce of speed from the less than ideal car, he ultimately finished a well deserved third, giving him three podiums in the last four races, and five trips to podium in the 10 Star Mazda races to date.

“I want to thank my team for the hard work and giving me a car to be a top competitor,” commented Chaves. “We will keep working hard to keep improving and deliver victories in the coming races.”

The chase for Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear supremacy resumes on August 4-5, with a pair of races around the historic street circuit in Trois-Rivieres, Canada. Chaves enters the final of back-to-back-to-back events in Canada as not only one of the hottest drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy series, but also as the new second place man in the driver standings.

Nathan BlokNathan Blok, 2011 Formula 1600 Champion and current 2012 points leader, overcame his battles during the Summer Classic weekend at the famed Mont-Tremblant Circuit. The fifth and sixth races of the 2012 Formula Tour 1600 Championship took place under very hot & humid conditions while Blok dealt with a minor wrist injury from a qualifying session incident.

A shunt by Michel Bonnet during Saturday’s qualifying session left Blok off-track and into a tire wall, luckily leaving the car with minimal damage, but Nathan was left with a sprained wrist. Back on the circuit, Blok qualified his #1 Aurora Tools / Great Slave Helicopter Van Dieman 2nd out of a field of 26 competitors and shared the front row of the starting grid with pole-sitter Matthew Di Leo. Despite the troublesome injury, Blok would finish the weekend out on the podium, with the help of a lot of ice, Advil and a Tensor bandage.

The first F-1600 feature race of the weekend quickly became an impressive 3-way duel between Blok, Di Leo and Michael Adams who started from the third spot. Despite a full-course caution that brought out the Safety Car for two laps, Blok and Adams impressively battled for position the entire 15-lap heat. Coming into the final lap, Di Leo was in the lead when Adams attempted to pass Blok in Turn 4 but was not able to complete the move. Blok and Adams exited side-by-side and remained that way all the way to Turn 7 when Blok came out ahead. Blok defended another passing attempt by Adams in the next corner and would take the checkered flag in 2nd place.

“From the time I was sitting on the grid I knew I would be at a big disadvantage because of the injury I had from qualifying, but fortunately I was able to put it aside, and fight with Matthew (Di Leo) and Michael (Adams) for the early lead,” said Nathan. After the caution, Matthew got an excellent start, and began to pull away, but it was a very intense and fair race for second with Michael, and I was pleased to have come out on top.”

Sunday’s qualifying session for Race 6 of 2012 saw Blok a mere 0.02 seconds behind 2nd place Adams while Di Leo repeated his pole-position.

At the drop of the green flag, Adams made a move for the lead passing Di Leo in Turn 1. Blok stuck with the leaders and in Turn 7 he made his own pass on Di Leo grabbing 2nd place. Now pressuring the leader, Adams put two tires off the road during Lap 3 and Blok capitalized on his mistake taking the lead. Blok and Adams would trade places for the next few laps passing the first lapped car of the field on Lap 8.

A full-course caution eliminated the 11.5 second gap between the two front-runners with Jesse Lazare in 3rd position. When the course returned to green, Blok and Adams made an awesome restart to open the gap between them and Lazare, leaving the two to battle it out for the win. On the 15 th and final lap, Adams got by Blok in Turn 10 for the lead. Blok made two attempts to pass, under the bridge and again in the infamous Namarrow Corner but was unable to make the move stick, settling for his second 2nd place finish of the weekend.

“I was able to pass Mathew and Michael very early in lap 1, and I drafted with Michael to pull a big lead from the rest of the field. Unfortunately the late race caution reduced the gap we had, and after the restart, there was only a few laps to go, and we both fought for the lead to the end. Although i came in second, I am pleased to have extended my lead in the points heading into the prestigious GP3R! I would like to thank the Britain West Motorsports team for preparing an awesome car all weekend, and my many sponsors and supporters for helping me get to the podium.”

Blok enters Rounds 8 & 9 leading the 2012 Formula Tour 1600 Championship by 39 points.

For information on Nathan Blok and sponsorship, visit www.nathanblok.com or contact Steve Blok at (613) 582-3867

Photo by Flagworld.com 

Adrian Quaife-HobbsBriton Adrian Quaife-Hobbs has won the 2012 AutoGP Championship with two races still remaining. Displaying a dominant performance in both free practice sessions and qualifying, the 21 year-old topped the times in all three, to net his fifth pole position in the series.

In the races, the Tonbridge racer was unable to add to his tally of five previous victories. However such has been his dominance in the 14-race series, the former Formula Renault and GP3 racer cannot be beaten regardless of his results in the final rounds at Sonama, California in September.

Once again Quaife-Hobbs proved the pacesetter in practice to serve notice of his intention to take the title for Supernova Racing. Powering the Zytek V8-engined Lola to a record three consecutive AutoGP pole positions, Quaife-Hobbs knew he just had to finish ahead of nearest title rival Pal Varhaug, however the former T-Cars Champion still wanted to finish his season on a high.

Lining up on the front row for race one, the BRDC Member didn’t get the best of starts, dropping down to fourth, but a strong opening lap soon saw him back up into third place, and quickly pushing for second. At the mandatory pit stop for fresh tyres however, his chances of securing another podium were ended with a problem replacing the right rear wheel, which cost him valuable time and eventually netted sixth at the flag.

On the top eight reverse grid, he lined up on the second row for race two and a lightening start allowed him to leapfrog the front-row starters and take the lead. For 19 laps, Quaife-Hobbs was the class of the field, gradually extending his advantage over the field ahead of his mandatory tyre stop. With race victory in his sights though, and in an otherwise faultless race, he missed the braking point on the entry to the pits, clipping the grass and hitting the tyre barrier, his race over.

“Naturally I’m very happy to have won the series, with two rounds remaining, but I really wanted to win the series with a race victory,” said Adrian. “Our pace in practice and qualifying showed that once again we were more than capable of doing that, but for a number of problems, we were denied that in race one.

“In the second race, everything was going really well but I just misjudged the braking on the entry to the pit lane.”

The final rounds of the AutoGP series, championship previously won by Lotus F1 racer Romain Grosjean, will take place at Sonama, USA, over the weekend of 22&23 September.

For more information click onto www.quaifehobbs.com and follow the latest news and live timings on www.autogp.org and http://www.supernovainternational.com/ with live twitter feeds.

Alice PowellChipping Norton racer, Alice Powell suffered another disappointing weekend in the 2012 GP3 Series, in what was Alice’s first visit to the Hockenheim circuit.

In the 45 minute practise on the Friday, the track was drying throughout the session, with all the cars on slicks. Alice used the session to experience the conditions and learn the track.

Qualifying was slightly different as the sun was out shining and the track was bone dry. For the first half of the 30 minute session, Powell was P12, but slipped to P16 when she pitted for new tyres. After that, traffic and yellow flags denied the youngster to move up the order, so she dropped to a disappointing P20.

For Race One, Alice was promoted to P17 as a few other drivers received penalties. On the grid it started to spit with rain, but the team opted to stay on the slick tyre, anticipating that it would stop raining. However, the rain increased but there was not enough time to change the tyres, and Powell pitted for wets at the end of the first lap. The race was then stopped after Alice had pitted, due to too many cars being on slicks as the heavens opened. Sadly, because Alice has pitted, she was now at the back of field. The race then restarted under safety car, but the weather conditions did not improve until after the halfway mark of the race. The safety car then entered the pit with 6 laps of the race remaining, only enough time for Alice to move up to P20.

Alice lined up for Race Two in 20th place, but a strong start for the Chipping Norton racer, saw her move to P17 by turn 4. On the entry to turn 6, a huge crash in front spread debris across the track, and in avoidance, Alice ran wide. However she collided with another car that was doing the same, damaging her gearbox and ending her race.

Commenting on the weekend, Alice said “It was another disappointing weekend, which had so much potential to be better. I was really ready for a good result this weekend as preparation had gone well. Sadly, it was not to be, but I will not let the disappointment get me down and I am really looking forward to the next race this weekend! The team are continuing to work hard and I am thankful for the continued support by all my sponsors and fans. ”

The next race is in Hungary on the 22-24 July.

Photo by Daniel Kalisz.

Kieran Vernon - Croft PodiumProtyre Formula Renault BARC Championship team Hillspeed celebrated its third podium finish of the season at Croft in North Yorkshire on Sunday, 22nd July, thanks to a tremendous drive by Kieran Vernon to take second place in round eight of the campaign.

Added to fifth position in round nine, the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star is tied on 143 points with rival James Fletcher but by virtue of Vernon’s better race results on count back he is classified sixth overall for the Hathersage squad.

Danish team-mate Jacob Nortoft enjoyed one of the most competitive weekends of his rookie season and impressed on his first ever visit to the 2.1-mile Darlington track to record a best result of ninth position in the second of the weekend’s two races; consolidating 15th place in the points table.

Vernon was immediately on the pace during the brief 15-minute free practice session on Saturday, 21st July, with the second fastest time, a mere 0.019 seconds shy of the best of all. Into the round eight qualifying period, the West Sussex racer was again second fastest to confirm his pace and in a truncated round nine session he posted the fourth quickest time.

Holding second place at the start of race one, Vernon ran within a second of pole-starter Josh Webster during the early going but soon elected to conserve his tyres and maintain the runner-up spot rather than take too much life out of the Michelin rubber ahead of race two.

In round nine, the Hillspeed ace slipped to fifth initially behind Fletcher but produced a great pass around the outside at Tower Bend to reclaim fourth into the Jim Clark Esses. Unfortunately, Vernon’s tyres started to lose grip quite early in the race and so he ended up fighting a rearguard action and slipped to fifth on lap five where he remained to the finish following a mid-race Safety Car period.

“Race one was a good showing from Kieran”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “Qualifying second was great and it’s just a shame we were fourth in the second qualifying. All in all, the first race was a good strong outing – once [Josh] Webster had got a cushion it was obvious Kieran was just keeping the gap and concentrating on not overworking the car or the tyres for no benefit.

“He got a bit too much wheelspin off the line in race two, which was unfortunate, and then it was a case of struggling with tyre wear. It’s tough with the set-up at Croft, the first race takes a lot out of the tyres so I was quite happy to see the Safety Car come out to give the tyres a bit of a break. We might have gone a bit hard on the tyres at the end but fifth is still good points.”

With no prior track time at Croft, 18-year-old Dansk Automobil Sports Union-backed driver Nortoft made great progress between practice and qualifying to secure ninth on the grid for the opening race of the weekend – just 0.6 seconds shy of pole position – while in the round nine period he was 12th fastest and a similar gap to the front of the grid.

Running in 10th place on the opening lap of round eight, Nortoft bedded himself into the race nicely and gaining confidence and pace with each lap he started to make progress. In ninth position at mid-distance, the Dane coped impressively with pressure from behind but an unfortunate spin under braking for Tower Bend on lap 13 resulted in an instant retirement.

Determined to learn from the mistake for round nine, the DASU racer performed very strongly and after moving into the top 10 at the beginning he coped well with the mid-race Safety Car period to maintain position and take ninth at the finish at the expense of Hillspeed’s former Ginetta Junior Champion Seb Morris who slipped back to 11th.

“Jacob’s done a fantastic job this weekend”, said Ollerenshaw, “He hadn’t even seen Croft before Friday and didn’t have the benefit of a pre-race test. From just 15 minutes free practice, he qualified just inside the top 10 and just outside the top 10 for the two races so that was very good going.

“One small mistake in race one, when under a lot of pressure, just cost him a good finish but he came back in race two, got on with things, and did a great job. We’re really pleased with what we’ve got out of the weekend as a team and delighted with Jacob’s progress.”

Protyre Formula Renault BARC will return to action four weeks from now, on 18th/19th August, at Hillspeed’s ‘home’ track, Donington Park in the East Midlands. One week earlier, the team’s Ginetta Junior Championship squad will recommence its season at Snetterton in Norfolk on 11th/12th August.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
6th Kieran Vernon, 143pts; 15th Jacob Nortoft, 55pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Josh Webster - Croft Double WinnerStowmarket racing driver Josh Webster moved to within only seven points of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship lead during rounds eight and nine of the season at Croft on Sunday, 22nd July, after claiming two superb race victories – his third and fourth of 2012.

The 18-year-old headed into the weekend brimming with confidence after his excellent Invitational Class victory during the RTL GP Masters of F3 the previous Sunday, 15th July, on his maiden outing in Formula 3 at Zandvoort in The Netherlands.

Taking the 15-minute practice session to adapt back to his MGR Motorsport-run FR 2.0 car, the MSA Team UK driver raced to an unchallenged six second victory from pole position in round eight – adding the fastest lap in the process – before expertly fending off title rival Scott Malvern in round nine to win again.

“Ultimately this is what we wanted to do, close-up on Scott [Malvern] and take a double win – it’s exactly what I needed”, said Josh, “After driving the Formula 3 car, physically the Formula Renault is easier so doing the F3 race definitely helped. The team has done a phenomenal job here, the car has been awesome all weekend so massive thanks to the guys at MGR.”

Securing his third pole position in succession in round eight qualifying with a time of 1m21.340 seconds (94.05mph), Josh just missed out on making it four in a row in the round nine session, which was shortened after an accident involving Sean Walkinshaw, by a mere 0.095 seconds.

Dominating the first race from lights-to-flag, the Nine Group, Admiral Solutions & Support and Integra ICT-backed racer held a lead of more than one second after the opening lap and proceeded to post fastest lap times throughout on his way to a faultless 6.1 second winning margin.

Lining-up second on the grid for round nine, Josh made a superb start to immediately move ahead of pole-sitting team-mate David Wagner before rocketing into a 1.5 second lead. Malvern closed in as the race progressed but Josh controlled the lead, saying: “Scott was in my mirrors for a period but I had things under control and felt in a comfortable position to take my second win of the weekend.”

The appearance of the Safety Car on lap eight could have made things difficult but the Suffolk driver did a good job at the re-start and fended off Malvern to the chequered flag on lap 17, just missing out on the fastest lap by less than 0.1 seconds.

“I’m really looking forward to going to Donington for the next three rounds”, said Josh, “I’ve got a good history there and I know the team will give me a great car again. This weekend has been great for us, it was really important for our championship to win both races so massive thanks as always to my sponsors for helping put me on the grid.”

There are just four weeks to wait until the next instalment of Protyre Formula Renault BARC action with rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the season taking place on 18th/19th August at Donington Park National Circuit in Leicestershire.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
1st Scott Malvern, 234pts; 2nd Josh Webster, 227pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Phil QuaifePhil Quaife will be back behind the wheel of a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 car this weekend (26-29 July) when the Blancpain Endurance Series visits Belgium for one of international motorsport’s biggest events: the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The 26-year-old Briton, whose competition programme has largely taken a back seat in 2012 as he concentrates on official test driving duties for McLaren Automotive, will again link up with Lapidus Racing with whom he contested the previous Blancpain round at Paul Ricard last month.

In a Pro/Am class packed with genuine victory contenders Quaife can count on the experience, speed and support of three familiar faces in the guise of former CRS Racing team-mates Klaas Hummel, Adam Christodoulou and Tim Mullen.

Quaife is also able to call on the knowledge of racing an MP4-12C GT3 at Spa last season where he finished as the highest placed McLaren driver in what was one of the car’s first competitive outings.

Phil Quaife: “It’s great to be getting back behind the wheel of a racing car again after spending most of the season testing for McLaren Automotive. As well as being very grateful to them for allowing me to drive this weekend, I would also like to thank Lapidus Racing for offering me the seat. The MP4-12C GT3 has been developed considerably since it raced at Spa last season so I’ve got high expectations of recording a strong result.

“The Blancpain Endurance Series – and especially its Pro/Am class – is incredibly competitive this season. Even so, I think our driver crew stacks up very favourably compared to the opposition, especially when you consider how much experience we have from racing together previously. Klaas has come a long way since we first raced together, while Adam and Tim are top-line Pros in their own right.

“I really love racing at Spa and especially the 24 Hours. The week-long build-up and atmosphere are both similar to Le Mans and the action on-track is so intense. There are 70-plus GT3 cars entered this year which is an incredible number to have racing around a 4.3-mile circuit. I can’t wait!”

Live coverage of this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa will be shown across Europe on Motors TV. Check local listings for details.

Total 24 Hours of Spa schedule:

Thursday 26 July:
09:40 – 11:10: Free Practice
18:05 – 19:35: Pre-Qualifying
20:30 – 21:45: Qualifying 1
22:15 – 23:30: Qualifying 2

Saturday 28 July:
09:00 – 09:20: Warm-up
16:00: Race Start

Sunday 29 July:
16:00: Chequered Flag

For more information on Phil Quaife, please visit www.philquaife.com

Seb Morris - CroftFortec Motorsports driver Seb Morris endured a very tough outing in the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship at Croft in North Yorkshire over the weekend, 21st/22nd July, but still managed to conclude the event third in the title race with five rounds remaining in the 2012 campaign.

Although his championship hopes were dealt a huge blow last time out at Thruxton when engine problems severely compromised his chances, the 16-year-old took another hit this weekend with contact in round eight forcing retirement and more contact in round nine costing a strong score.

“It’s been a tough weekend but I’ve learnt a lot and that’s what this year is all about”, commented the Marford youngster, “We’ve lost a lot of points, at Thruxton and now at Croft, but we know we’ve got the pace to be back winning next month at Donington. It’s disappointing but sometimes things don’t go your way and that’s what’s happened here.”

Unusually, Seb’s weekend started with a rare excursion in the 15-minute free practice on Saturday, 21st July, in which his car sustained a lot of damage after an unfortunate visit to the barriers at the Sunny In, Sunny Out sequence of corners.

Working feverishly to get the Welsh teenager’s FR 2.0 repaired in time for round eight qualifying, the Fortec mechanics did an outstanding job and the Ginetta Ambassador was able to post the fourth fastest time in the session.

His misfortune continued in a red flag affected round nine session though which ended five minutes early. Building up his pace as the run neared its conclusion, before Seb was able to push for a truly quick time qualifying was curtailed due to an incident so he had to settle for 10th on the grid.

At the start of Sunday’s first race, Seb held fourth and began to pressurise James Fletcher for third but on lap three he was edged back to fifth by championship rival Scott Malvern. Into the complex, Seb held the outside with Malvern on the inside but both were challenged by Macaulay Walsh and the resulting contact was inevitable.

Seb’s car was lifted onto two wheels and the incident led to significant damage but, even with the entire left-hand bodywork of his car missing, the MSA Academy racer attempted to continue and pocket as many points as possible. On lap seven though, he had no choice but to retire.

With the Fortec team again doing a superb job to repair his car, Seb was determined to end the weekend with a strong result in round nine and an outstanding start and opening lap enabled him to slice his way through the order into sixth from 10th on the grid.

Bottled-up behind Kieran Vernon for the majority of the race, Seb tried everything he could to carve open a clean pass but Vernon held firm – all the while compromising Seb’s pace and leaving him open to attack from the advancing Fletcher who edged ahead on lap 15. Into the last lap Seb was all over the back of Fletcher’s car but a final corner attempt didn’t pay off, instead dropping him to 11th.

“I had a mega start, made up a lot of places and had very good mid-race pace”, explained Seb, “I was challenging [Kieran] Vernon but he was defending incredibly well and I didn’t have a chance to get past. The next thing I know, [James] Fletcher was down the inside and made it through at Tower.

“On the last lap though he was slow out of the second to last corner so I went for a move up the inside into the hairpin but we had some contact. It’s a shame it ended like that, up to then it was a great race and I really enjoyed it.”

Seb will be back on track four weeks from now, over the weekend 18th/19th August, for rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
3rd Seb Morris, 161pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.