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Matty Graham - SWROxfordshire motor racing team SWR is setting its sights on three consistently strong results when the BRDC Formula 4 Championship resumes at Oulton Park this coming Saturday, 6th July, where the front-running squad will be striving to get its 2013 season back on track during rounds 10, 11 and 12.

Suffering a major dose of bad luck at Snetterton a fortnight ago, Matty Graham, Jack Barlow and Zou Sirui – who won’t be in action at the weekend due to a clashing commitment at home in China – all got caught-up in unfortunate incidents.

With Barlow and Graham slipping down the championship standings to seventh and ninth position respectively as a result, the Chipping Norton team is determined to reignite its charge and mount a bid for a return to the podium.

So far during its maiden season SWR has enjoyed great success, having claimed its first victory with Hastings driver Barlow in only the second race of the campaign at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit before Edmundbyers teenager Graham secured his debut podium in round three at the squad’s ‘home’ track. SWR is, therefore, confident normal service will be resumed in Cheshire on Saturday.

“Snetterton really was a very tough weekend for a variety of reasons”, commented team owner Sean Walkinshaw, “That’s in the past though, we’re all focused on Oulton Park and confident we can get back into the podium battle there.

“The whole team has done a fantastic job so far this season and Matty had a very good test at Oulton last Friday, so that’s given us a boost ahead of this weekend. Formula 4 is tough, there are some strong, experienced racers at the front, but if all goes smoothly next weekend we’re certain we can be consistently back at the sharp end in all three races.”

Helping SWR’s bid for a successful outing at Oulton Park International Circuit will be new sponsor Saka Natural Mineral Water, one of the country’s fastest-growing water brands, which recently agreed a deal to become an official team drinks partner alongside Mad Dog Energy Lemonade.

All of the Formula 4 action at Oulton Park will take place on Saturday, 6th July, with qualifying set to begin at 08.40 and rounds 10, 11 and 12 set to follow at 11.40, 14.30 and 18.00 respectively.

2013 Provisional BRDC Formula 4 Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
7th Jack Barlow, 121pts; 9th Matty Graham, 110pts; Zou Sirui – Does Not Score

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Matty GrahamLeading BRDC Formula 4 Championship team SWR enjoyed a consistently strong showing during the second event of the year at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit over the weekend, 18th/19th May, with Matty Graham a mere 0.058 seconds away from claiming his second podium of 2013 during round six.

All three of the Chipping Norton team’s F4 rookies, Graham, Jack Barlow and Chinese racer Zou Sirui, produced impressive race performances across the three outings at the 1.2-mile Kent track. Each also had the boost of meeting 2009 FIA Formula One World Champion Jenson Button, who was a special guest at Brands Hatch on Sunday for the visiting DTM touring cars.

“It all turned out quite well for us really”, said team owner Sean Walkinshaw, “Our drivers were quick all weekend, we had some good results and were just a bit unlucky really not to come away with a podium. Matty and Jack scored well, they were seriously quick and Zou did a good job too. All three of them delivered some strong showings.”

Quick from the off during practice on Friday, 17th May, Edmundbyers teenager Graham started the weekend very impressively with the fastest time during the first of the two free practice sessions and went on to qualify sixth fastest for the opening race of the weekend.

In an incredibly close session Barlow was ninth fastest, little more than five hundredths of a second outside Graham’s time, while fellow SWR racer Sirui had to settle for 19th on the grid for race one, even though only 0.5 seconds outside Barlow.

Making a great start to Saturday’s fourth round, Graham moved into fifth while Barlow slipped back to 10th but for Sirui the outing only lasted a few yards when he was forced to pull off the track on the run to Paddock Hill Bend with a technical issue.

Graham edged away from the chasing pack during the early laps and by mid-distance he had managed to latch-on to fourth place. Just 0.2 seconds behind into lap 19, Graham got a good run out of Paddock and dived up the inside into Druids to take the position before closing on third towards the finish. In terms of lap times, he was a mere fraction outside the quickest of the race.

Hastings racer Barlow remained in 10th position throughout, pressuring erstwhile championship leader Seb Morris while at the same time fending off the attentions of Diego Menchaca. With overtaking between the evenly matched competitors proving impossible, only a mistake – which wasn’t forthcoming – would have opened a sufficient passing opportunity.

For round five on Sunday afternoon, Graham held onto fifth position off the start with Barlow retaining 10th place and Sirui making progress into the top 20 from the back of the grid after an excellent first couple of laps.

Graham slipped to fifth on lap three and then, on the fourth tour, Barlow sustained damage to his front wing while dicing with Seb Morris for ninth as the latter moved across to the take the inside line on the pit-straight, which Barlow already occupied.

An ensuing spin for Morris resulted in the deployment of the Safety Car and after the re-start on lap 13 Barlow had to summon all of his skill and tenacity to fend off the cars behind. With a distinct lack of downforce due to his deranged front wing, the SWR driver was elbowed wide through the gravel on lap 19 and although slipping to 12th he somehow clung on to the place despite massive pressure.

Graham, meanwhile, also suffered contact during a battle with Sennan Fielding and although dropping to seventh he remained there to the chequered flag on lap 23. Sirui, determined to make amends for his race one disappointment, had an unfortunate tangle with Rahul Raj Mayer on lap four at Clearways and after pitting he eventually finished in 19th place.

In round six, hopes were high of a potential podium finish for Graham with the SWR racer lining-up on the second row of the grid in third place – having posted the third fastest race lap of the weekend to that point.

Although pushed back to fourth at Paddock Hill Bend, he challenged for third as the race wore on and during the closing stages he piled on the pressure. Trying everything he could, and lapping on the same pace as the podium drivers, he just missed out on third by 0.058 seconds on the line.

Barlow impressed with a great drive through from 16th into the top 10 and although his progress was stunted slightly on lap 15, during a battle with Diego Menchaca and Jake Hughes, he fought through to 10th five laps from the conclusion.

Sirui, lining-up on the back row, faced another tall order but produced an impressive drive to climb into the top 20 at one third distance. Although sporting the scars of slight contact which led to the top plane of his nose cone coming loose, Sirui remained focused and worked his way into 17th place.

“Jack did really well in race two to hold everyone off with a damaged front wing”, said Walkinshaw, “In the third race he overtook four or five drivers which, at Brands Hatch Indy, is quite an impressive effort. Matty was quick enough for the podium but, unfortunately, just couldn’t get past. It was great to see Zou get a good finish as well, we definitely ended the weekend on a high.”

SWR now has a four week break from competitive action with the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship season taking place on 15th/16th June at Snetterton in Norfolk.

2013 Provisional BRDC Formula 4 Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
4th Matty Graham, 97pts; 5th Jack Barlow, 91pts; Zou Sirui – Does Not Score

Photo by BRDC Formula 4 Championship/Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Car racing rookies Jack Barlow and Matty Graham starred for SWR during the opening race meeting of the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Championship season at Silverstone over the weekend, 27th/28th April – Barlow winning only his second ever car race and Graham taking a maiden podium in round three.

Marking a sensational start to the brand new championship for the Chipping Norton team, Barlow’s stunning victory on the full Grand Prix Circuit in round two on Sunday was book-ended by top six finishes in races one and three. The 17-year-old from Hastings, therefore, concluded the event an impressive fourth in the points table, as well as being the highest placed single-seater newcomer.

“To get a win from the first weekend is amazing”, said Barlow, “I’ll come away from Silverstone now thinking about the championship, not just trying to get on the podium which was the aim before the weekend started. I never, ever expected to come out on top, it’s a fantastic start to the season.”

Team-mate, and fellow karting graduate, Graham rounded off his debut weekend in cars with a richly deserved third place finish in the final encounter. Making significant progress throughout the event, the Edmundbyers 16-year-old finished ninth and sixth in the two preceding races and ended the event sixth in the championship.

He also posted the fastest lap in race two and that ended up being the quickest racing lap of the weekend, earning Graham the BRM Rapide Award which he received from FIA Formula One World Championship star Mark Webber.

“I didn’t think a podium was possible really on the first weekend, I was hoping for the top five after seeing how competitive it was in testing”, commented Graham, “To be in the top three is amazing to be honest, I started on pole and was quite nervous and didn’t get the best start but to hold third was great. Our pace has been good, walking away with a trophy too and some prize money is nice!”

Chinese racer Zou Sirui, making his UK race debut this weekend at the home of the British Grand Prix, faced a tough challenge due to almost no pre-season testing and an electrical fault in qualifying which placed him at the back of the grid for the first race.

Fighting his way through into the top 15 in round one, the Guangzhou driver took an improved 14th place in the second encounter but then had the misfortune of contact early on in round three which resulted in retirement to the pits at the end of lap two.

“It wasn’t my weekend really, in qualifying we had the problem so I started from behind for the first race but it was OK in the end and quite a good race”, said Sirui, “In race two I should have been P10 or something like that but I made a couple of mistakes. I had a good start to the third race, I was up to like P10, but then on the second lap I got hit on the rear wheel – that was it.”

SWR rookies make major impression as F4 gets off to superb start
Having qualified an excellent fifth fastest for round one on Saturday, Barlow made a good initial launch from the third row of the grid but was shuffled back to the tail of the top 10 through Copse and into Maggotts. Battling back up to seventh place on lap two, he ran just ahead of team-mate Graham – up from ninth on the grid after a good, clean first couple of laps for the Durham racer.

At mid-distance, Graham had been pushed back to ninth and then had to defend as well as trying to attack as part of an ultra-tight four car scrap. Although unlucky to slip back to 10th, Graham regained ninth on the final tour while Barlow also moved up a place on the last lap to take sixth. Sirui made good progress early on, motoring into the top 15 by lap three where he stayed to the flag.

Round two was the clear highlight for Barlow and it all started superbly as the SWR racer sliced his way through into the lead at the exit of Copse from third on the grid. Despite immense pressure from experienced single-seater racer Seb Morris, Barlow held the lead impressively but on lap three at Village he slipped to second.

Undeterred, Barlow applied pressure of his own during the second half of the race and out of the Maggotts and Becketts sequence of corners on the penultimate lap he managed to get alongside on the exit to move through into the lead once again which he brilliantly held to the chequered flag.

Graham, starting ninth, also made a great getaway and took seventh on lap one before slipping to eighth. Regaining seventh on lap four, he zeroed in on Charlie Robertson ahead and sensationally posted the fastest lap of the race in the process before grabbing sixth on the penultimate tour.

Team-mate Sirui again put together an impressive first lap and climbed from 15th into 12th before slipping back to 14th place. Moving into 13th on lap six, ahead of Russ Gunn, Sirui had to give best to his rival a couple of laps later and so finished in a, nonetheless highly creditable, 14th position.

By virtue of his round two fastest lap, Graham started the final race from pole but slipped to third on the opening lap. Barlow, who started in fourth, pressured his fellow SWR runner into lap two and the pair traded places with some very close, yet very fair, racing. Graham was back ahead by the start of lap three and as the race entered its second half he made the podium place secure.

In the tight battle for the top six, Barlow found himself elbowed to the tail of the lead group and although re-taking fifth from Matt Bell on lap eight the experienced single-seater competitor moved back ahead just over a lap from the finish. Sirui was an outstanding 11th at the end of lap one, up from 15th on the grid and on course for a potential top 10, but the lap two contact ruled him out.

Barlow, Graham and Sirui will be back on track for the second event of the BRDC Formula 4 season, rounds four, five and six, on 18th/19th May at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent, where the category will run as support to the DTM ‘German touring cars’.

2013 Provisional BRDC Formula 4 Championship Driver Standings (after Rd3):
4th Jack Barlow, 60pts; 6th Matty Graham, 47pts; Zou Sirui – Does Not Score

Matty GrahamOxfordshire motor racing team SWR declared itself happy with the progress made during official BRDC Formula 4 Championship testing at Snetterton 300 Circuit on Tuesday, 23rd April, with Matty Graham and Zou Sirui gaining more vital experience ahead of this weekend’s season-opener.

With just a few days remaining until the first three races of the inaugural F4 championship take place at SWR’s ‘home’ track, Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, on 27th/28th April, 16-year-old Graham enjoyed a consistently strong test and concluded the outing ninth quickest overall on combined times.

In bright and dry conditions the former CIK-FIA Under 18 World Karting Champion, who makes his car racing debut this year, lapped in 1m52.682 seconds (94.85mph) during the morning to go fifth fastest at that point. Improving by half a second in the afternoon, the Edmundbyers teenager set a best time for the day of 1m52.195 seconds (95.26mph).

Chinese driver Zou Sirui, who only had a brief outing in his MSV F4-013 at Brands Hatch last Friday prior to yesterday’s test, spent time learning the track – which will host two race meetings during the season – as well as the car and set a day’s best of 1m56.593 seconds (91.67mph).

Sirui arrives in the UK this year for his first season of racing outside the Far East where, in 2012, he was a front-runner in the Chinese Formula Pilota Championship. SWR’s third signed driver, karting graduate Jack Barlow, didn’t run but will be back in action on Friday, 26th April, at Silverstone.

“We’re pleased with how the test went overall, it was a decent day”, said SWR team owner Sean Walkinshaw, “We managed to complete plenty of laps and continue the preparations for the opening round this weekend. Matty carried on developing his understanding of the car and we were pleased to see him end the day in the top 10, although we weren’t focusing on times too much.

“It was Zou’s first ever experience of Snetterton, and only his second time in the car, so we just wanted him to get to grips with the circuit and acclimatise as much as he could. We’re satisfied with the work we’ve done throughout the pre-season and can’t wait for the racing to start this weekend.”

All three of SWR’s drivers will be on track at Silverstone this coming Friday for general testing ahead of the first ever qualifying session for the BRDC Formula 4 Championship at 10.40 on Saturday, 27th April. Round one will follow at 14.40 on Saturday with rounds two and three taking place on Sunday, 28th April, at 11.55 and 15.05 respectively.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Jack Barlow - PembreyPembrey in South Wales was the latest stop on BRDC Formula 4 Championship team SWR’s comprehensive pre-season testing schedule on Thursday, 4th April, with confirmed 2013 signing Matty Graham joined by aspiring F4 racer Jack Barlow.

Although cold, and extremely windy, the day remained dry and enabled the Chipping Norton squad to make significant progress with both young karting graduates. Graham, the 2011 CIK-FIA Under 18 World Karting Champion, continued his preparations for the opening event of the season strongly and completed 114 laps in total.

“It was a good day”, reflected the Edmundbyers-based 16-year-old, “We’ve had tests in the wet and dry now and that experience has been really good, I’ve learnt from that and we also worked on learning some different lines and things.

“I’m feeling a lot more confident with the car now, and also more confident with other cars around me on track which is very important. Now we’re looking forward to continuing the pre-season next week at Snetterton where the aim is to keep improving.”

Hastings 17-year-old Barlow, who is eyeing graduation into car racing this year off the back of a glittering British and European karting career, thoroughly enjoyed his maiden run in one of SWR’s MSV F4-013 single-seaters. He quickly got down to competitive lap times and concluded the day with 108 laps under his belt.

Like Graham, Barlow has a huge karting pedigree and won no less than three prestigious UK titles in 2011 – the Super 1 Junior Rotax Championship, Kartmasters Grand Prix and Rotax Cup. Debuting in 2007, he won the Formula Kart Stars Rotax Mini Max title two years later and during his final season of karting last year, he was third overall in the Super 1 British KF2 Karting Championship.

“Considering the last time I was in a car testing was at the end of last year, and that was in a BARC Renault at Brands Indy, I think the test went really well”, said Barlow, “It was all new to me, a new car, but we picked up steadily during the day and everything came really naturally.

“F4 is definitely what we’re hoping to do this year, it’s what we’re focused on. I have an important sponsor coming to Snetterton next week for the test there so hopefully that will go well and we’ll know at that point if we’ll have the budget we need.”

SWR will be back on track at Snetterton in Norfolk next week where the team will run two of its three F4 cars for Graham and Barlow on Tuesday, 9th April, and Wednesday, 10th April.

Rounds one, two and three of the inaugural BRDC Formula 4 Championship season will take place on 27th/28th April at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire.

Matty Graham - Oulton ParkNewly signed BRDC Formula 4 Championship driver Matty Graham and the SWR team made a positive start to pre-season testing with a successful outing at Cheshire’s Oulton Park this week – the teenage karting graduate making a strong impression during his first run on slick tyres in the F4 car.

In bitterly cold conditions on Wednesday, 27th March, the 16-year-old enjoyed a trouble-free test as the team mainly focused on enabling the former CIK-FIA Under 18 World Karting Champion to learn as much as he could about the MSV F4-013 chassis.

With it being the first time Graham had ever run on slick rubber in the SWR car too, the Chipping Norton squad elected to pay a lot of attention to the Yokohama tyres in order to gain as good an understanding as possible ahead of its next test outing following the Easter break.

“Matty did a good job at Oulton, particularly when you take into account the cold weather which made getting heat into the tyres a big challenge”, said team owner Sean Walkinshaw, “The main aim of the day was to enable him to get used to the car, understand what it was doing and to get to grips with the slicks. He quickly got down to consistent lap times, which was very encouraging.

“We’ve got a strong pre-season testing schedule in place over the next four weeks, where we’ll be continuing Matty’s preparations and evaluating several other drivers as we look to complete our 2013 line-up.”

SWR’s next outing will come on Wednesday, 3rd April, and Thursday, 4th April, at Pembrey in South Wales where Graham will be joined by multiple Autosport Young Guns (latterly the InterSteps Championship) race winner Max Cornelius.

The inaugural BRDC Formula 4 Championship – which will benefit from television coverage on ITV4, ITV4 HD and Motors TV – will be contested over 24 races. Silverstone in Northamptonshire will host the opening three rounds over the weekend 27th/28th April.