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.