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Kieran VernonSilverstone hosted the finale of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship in which Kieran Vernon secured his fourth podium of the campaign to conclude the season an excellent fifth in the driver standings, despite having missed the opening three races of the year.

Round 14 was the pick of the two for the Hillspeed racer – qualifying on the front row, a mere 0.028 seconds shy of pole position, Vernon did unfortunately slip to third off the start and was then pushed back to fifth on lap two before mounting a determined recovery.

Profiting from a lap eight tangle between Chris Middlehurst and Macaulay Walsh, Vernon sliced back by at Brooklands to take third where he remained to the conclusion on lap 21; taking the flag just 0.9 seconds behind newly crowned champion Scott Malvern. In round 13, Vernon finished seventh after a good drive through from 11th on the grid.

Team-mate Struan Moore climbed from 18th on the grid in race one to a season-best 13th place on only his second weekend in single-seaters. Gaining a spot on lap one when David Wagner crashed out, Moore gradually worked his way up the order to finish just 0.9 seconds shy of the top 12.

In race two, he again made good progress by slicing his way through from 24th on the grid into 17th place ahead of a number of more experienced Formula Renault BARC competitors. Moore’s pace was impressive in both encounters, but especially the first in which he lapped just 0.5 seconds outside the fastest lap of all.

Championship newcomer Matt Rao, making his ‘slicks and wings’ debut just one week on from winning the ‘Duratec Class’ title in the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, delivered an impressive account of himself in the first race on Saturday.

Qualifying 21st on the grid, within 0.9 seconds of pole position, Rao made good progress early in the race and took 16th just after mid-distance where he remained to the flag. In round 14, the series rookie raced impressively from 20th on the grid to climb into the top 14 by the end of lap eight but on the 16th tour he was tagged into retirement by Max Robinson at Becketts.

“It was absolutely incredible to get Kieran up there on the podium in the final round of the BARC season, especially off the back of Pepe winning such an incredible race in the Ginettas”, added Ollerenshaw, “Kieran’s had a great season, with hardly any testing he’s managed to produce some fantastic results which shows his quality.

“Struan is getting quicker all the time and has impressed us on only his second weekend in the Renault, he’s certainly a fantastic prospect for next year and Matt did everything we could have asked on his debut – he was very unlucky in race two, just one of those things unfortunately.”

While the Protyre Formula Renault BARC season has now concluded, rounds 19 and 20 of the Ginetta Junior Championship, the final two races of the season, will take place at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit two weeks from now on 20th/21st October.

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.

Kieran VernonKieran Vernon produced a pair of outstanding race performances during rounds six and seven of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship at Thruxton on Sunday, 17th June, to take Hillspeed back onto the category podium for the first time this year.

Having only made his return to competitive action last month at Rockingham with the Hathersage team, the 22-year-old was in supreme form as he sliced his way through the order from seventh and sixth on the grid respectively to post third and second place finishes.

So impressive has the West Chiltington racer been so far in 2012, with nothing in the way of testing Vernon is already eighth in the championship standings – only nine points shy of the top six – despite having contested just four of the seven races held so far.

“Kieran did an absolutely outstanding job this weekend”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “I didn’t realise before we arrived at the track he hadn’t actually been to Thruxton since he raced in Ginetta Junior several years ago. It’s been a fantastic weekend for him, he raced superbly and he’s shown precisely what he’s capable of. It’s great for everyone at Hillspeed to be back on the podium.”

Danish team-mate Jacob Nortoft, part of his homeland’s Dansk Automobil Sports Union young driver development programme, delivered two strong midfield performances on his debut at the fearsome 2.35-mile Hampshire race track to climb into 14th position in the championship standings.

Improving his pace throughout the race meeting, which packed free practice, qualifying and two races into just one day, the 18-year-old made excellent progress and concluded the event with a pair of 14th place finishes from the 24 car field.

“Jacob’s making great progress each time he’s in the car and we’re very pleased with the rate of development he’s showing”, said Ollerenshaw, “Thruxton is a very difficult track at the best of times, for a rookie like Jacob to come in, have no incidents and take away a good haul of points is as much as we could have asked. It’s been a very positive weekend for Hillspeed.”

Vernon’s qualifying performance was hampered after picking up some damage to his car, hence the seventh and sixth place starts. In race one, round six, he sliced his way into the top five on the opening lap and then took fourth on lap four at the expense of Mexico’s Jorge Cevallos. One lap later, the Hillspeed ace was into third after passing Jake Dalton and he remained there to the flag.

Nortoft, meanwhile, started 18th on the grid and after being shuffled down the order on lap one, he mounted a superb fightback to climb from 20th into 15th place. He then gained a further position post race due to a penalty for James Fletcher.

In round seven, Vernon was again inspired and rocketed into the top four off the start before moving into the podium placings on lap two. Following a six-lap Safety Car period, the Hillspeed racer was just a second shy of Josh Webster and Scott Malvern but an incident between the two leaders on the penultimate tour enabled Vernon to grab second. He also ended the race with the third best lap.

Nortoft slipped to 19th off the start but again made strong progress at the wheel of his FR 2.0 and on lap two he was into the top 15 after avoiding a multi-car collision at Allard which accounted for a total of four cars.

When racing resumed following the Safety Car period, the Dane took 14th on lap 10 and although he was pushed back a couple of places soon after, he regained the lost ground to take 15th at the finish. Once again, he profited from a post-race penalty, this time for Tom Oliphant, to take 14th on the amended classification.

Rounds eight and nine of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship will take place five weeks from now over the weekend 21st/22nd July at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire. Before then, Hillspeed will actually travel up to Croft next weekend, 23rd/24th June, for rounds nine and 10 of the Ginetta Junior Championship season.

Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd7):
8th Kieran Vernon, 95pts; 14th Jacob Nortoft, 44pts; 20th Marcus Allen, 31pts

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.