Kieran Vernon (West Chiltington, West Sussex) and Dino Zamparelli (Bristol) took their first wins of 2011 at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on Sunday, 15th May – making it four winners from the opening four rounds in the ultra-competitive Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship.
Vernon’s richly deserved round three success marked his landmark maiden victory since graduating to Formula Renault BARC at the start of the season. For category returnee Zamparelli, his first win of the year rocketed him into second place in the driver standings – up from fifth in the table.
With overtaking notoriously difficult for ‘slicks and wings’ single-seaters on the 1.2-mile Kent track, and with little to choose between the front-runners, Vernon headed a Fortec Motorsport podium lock-out in the first race of the weekend ahead of Josh Webster (Stowmarket, Suffolk) and Archie Hamilton (Hook, Hampshire) – the top three unchanged throughout from their grid positions.
Disappointment unfortunately followed for Vernon in round four though when his throttle stuck open when heading down from Druids into Graham Hill Bend – leading to a heavy impact with the tyre barriers and an instant retirement.
“Today I’ve felt every emotion”, he said, “The first race was perfect, it was great to take my first win of the season. I was going really well in the second race but then my throttle stuck open at Graham Hill Bend and there was nothing I could do to stop from slamming into the tyre wall.”
Round four delivered a similarly unchanged outcome from grid order although Zamparelli’s winning margin was more substantial, three seconds clear of championship leader James Thorp (Evesham, Worcestershire). Kourosh Khani (Ealing, London), meanwhile secured his maiden podium in third for Scorpio Motorsport – the 21-year-old making history as the first Iranian driver on the series rostrum.
“I’m really happy with my first podium, which is also the first for a driver from my country and I think I can now really challenge to stay among the top three”, he said at the conclusion of the weekend.
In terms of the driver standings Thorp now holds a slightly decreased 11 point lead ahead of Zamparelli with Hamilton third, a couple of points further adrift, and Steven Durrant (Oxford) down to fourth despite a couple of impressively committed drives this weekend – rising from 13th to eighth in round three and eighth to a fantastic fourth in round four. Only 17 points now cover the top five.
Vernon takes maiden win and new lap record…
Saturday morning’s round three qualifying session certainly underlined the competitiveness of the championship and it simply couldn’t have been closer at the front with Vernon securing his maiden pole position by the slimmest of margins, just 0.005 seconds to be precise.
The original race start to Sunday’s third round was nullified due to a couple of stalled cars on the grid but at the next attempt, Vernon led away and although under major pressure from Webster – who in turn had Hamilton in close company behind – the leader held firm.
On lap nine, the Safety Car was deployed but the interlude was brief – three laps – and racing resumed at the beginning of the 12th tour. Nothing changed among the lead trio while behind, in fourth, Khani was enjoying a strong run having leapfrogged Howard Fuller (Kingston-upon-Thames).
Vernon managed to increase his advantage slightly to just over a second during the final few laps and on the 17th tour he posted the new lap record of 45.427 seconds (95.72mph). Webster took an excellent second, 1.9 seconds clear of Hamilton in the end – both confirming their title credentials.
Khani was only 0.2 seconds shy of the podium with Fuller equalling his season’s best of fifth, Zamparelli coming through to sixth – from eighth – and Zaamin Jaffer (Cardiff) rising from eighth to seventh. Sixth place starter Victor Jiminez was forced out on lap one.
Zamparelli shows class with dominant round four win…
Round four qualifying turned the order of the first session on its head, underlining the importance of securing a prime grid slot. Zamparelli bagged his second pole of the season by 0.1 seconds from a much improved Thorp with Khani a tremendous third, Vernon fourth, Hamilton fifth and Webster sixth – the latter having problems with a dislodged floor which cost him vital track time.
Antel driver Zamparelli wasted little time in opening up a sizeable cushion at the front, ending lap one a second to the good before pulling further clear. Driving impeccably, he took the chequered flag three seconds ahead of Thorp who just managed to keep Khani at bay during the closing stages.
Durrant leapt from eighth to sixth on the first lap to once again display his overtaking prowess and after going fifth on lap two, his impressive rise was complete on lap 11 when he moved into the top four – albeit at the expense of Vernon who crashed out spectacularly with his sticking throttle.
Webster finished fifth, over-turning team-mate Hamilton, with MGR’s Matthew Mason (Nottingham) an exceptional seventh for a career-best result. Fuller, who lost ground at the start from seventh on the grid, finished eighth ahead of fellow Hillspeed runner Jaffer who raced very well from 12th on the grid. The top 10 was completed by MGR youngster Russell Danzey (Sheffield).
Race winner Zamparelli commented: “On the grid I really focused on making sure I didn’t get too much wheel spin and that worked as I made the perfect start. I got my head down and put in some fast laps to build a lead and then concentrated on keeping a gap between me and James (Thorp) who I could see had a fight on his hands. It’s great to get my first win of the season as it takes me up to second in the points, so my season really starts here.”
Thorp added: “Brands is my weakest track so I knew it could be a tough weekend and it didn’t start well in qualifying as I struggled to find the pace I had at Donington. I’m relieved to still be leading the championship and I’m looking forward to the next rounds at Oulton Park as it’s my favourite circuit.”
Rounds five and six of the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season will take place just under a fortnight from now on Saturday, 28th May, at Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, the championship is additionally supported by ELF, Michelin and NGK Spark Plugs.
Provisional 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Points (after Rd4):
1st – James Thorp / MTech Lite 99pts
2nd – Dino Zamparelli / Antel Motorsport 88pts
3rd – Archie Hamilton / Fortec Motorsport 86pts
4th – Steven Durrant / RPD Motorsport 83pts
5th – Josh Webster / Fortec Motorsport 82pts
6th – Kieran Vernon / Fortec Motorsport 73pts