Rockingham PodiumMatthew Brabham turned on a masterful display in the final round of the Formula Renault BARC Winter Series at the Rockingham Race Circuit, fighting his way into contention for the lead on slick tires in damp conditions before finally having to settle for second place.

After a troubled qualifying session Matthew started from ninth on the grid and, after consultation with team Principal Cliff Dempsey, boldly elected to run slick tires on an extremely slippery surface. Virtually all the other front-runners chose to remain on wets.

Brabham picked up two places on the opening lap, worked his way into second by Lap 12 and closed quickly o nto the tail of race leader Jack Aitken. The Fortec Motorsport driver then employed some “robust” tactics to keep Brabham behind him, including almost driving him into the wall on the exit of the oval Turn One and later pushing him onto the grass at the exit of the Tarzan hairpin on Lap 14. Aitken’s brazen manoeuvres included nudging Brabham into a spin at the final corner on the last lap. This year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Champion quickly recovered to cross the line in third, but was credited with second when officials realized the race should have been concluded after 14 laps.

The top two finishers, Aitken and Brabham, were summoned to the stewards’ office after the podium ceremonies were completed, but no further action was taken.

“It was a bit disappointing,” said Dempsey. “Matt drove a fantastic race. The chief steward said that Matt deserved to win the race and probably would have won it if it had been a regular-season champions hip race. Honestly, we could have protested the decision but that’s not the way you like to win a race. Everybody saw how well Matt drove. He made his point.”

“We made a bit of a gamble and didn’t really have anything to lose so we decided to go for slicks instead of wets,” said Brabham. “I think everyone else just played it safe” In fact, Brabham spun on his reconnaissance lap but was able to continue and regain his original starting position.

“I caught a little bit of the wet line and it just tipped me around, so I wasn’t really too concerned about whether it was the right or wrong decision,” said Brabham. “I felt confident with the dry tires but it definitely made me think twice on the first lap so I was just really, really careful on the throttle in all the corners. I knew that if I could just get around the first couple of laps without having any incidents, I would be OK. Then I started to get into a rhythm and started pushing to the limits”

“It was de finitely different racing to what I’m used to! It was really challenging to try and get past him. I think it was a little bit of an extraordinary circumstance because it was the last race of the year and he hasn’t won a race yet so he really, really wanted to win and I really, really wanted to win so there was zero room given. It was definitely an eye-opener and I’ve never really seen that kind of stuff before so I learned a hell of a lot in that race. I’ll definitely take some of it back to America with me”

“We touched a few times but it didn’t fall my way in the end and I ended up having to settle for second place. But it was great to get on the podium for the last race. I’ve been aiming for the podium the whole time I’ve been here in the UK and I just can’t explain how happy I am for myself, all our Team USA Scholarship supporters and the Cliff Dempsey Racing team. It’s just been fantastic to get on the podium and have such a great last race. I really, really had a lot of fun and enjoyed it.”

The Team USA Scholarship is made possible by support from Doug Mockett & Company, Road Racing Drivers Club and its ground-breaking video tutorial initiative, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Double R Racing, INDYCAR’s Mazda Road to Indy, Mazda, David Heinemeier Hansson, Level 5 Motorsports, Honda Performance Development, NameSilo, Silicon Salvage, McMurry Inc.,, Dyson Racing, Allen Berg Racing Schools, Seat Time, LLC, PitFit Training, Sparco USA, RACER Magazine,, Speedstar Management, Styled Aesthetic and Manifest Group as well as numerous past Scholarship winners.