Scott Malvern (Barkingside, Ilford) surged to the top of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship standings for the first time at Thruxton in Hampshire on Sunday, 17th June, thanks to his second win of the season in round six added to a top five finish, and fastest lap, in round seven.
The 23-year old Cliff Dempsey Racing with Cullen Motorsport driver, in his maiden season of ‘slicks and wings’ action, holds an impressive 21 point cushion over round seven winner – and double pole position qualifier – Josh Webster (Stowmarket, Suffolk) who was second to Malvern in round six.
Erstwhile championship leader Seb Morris (Marford, Wrexham), meanwhile, endured a nightmare weekend with engine problems in qualifying setting the scene. His streak of pole positions came a to a sudden halt due to the lack of power and although a swift engine change got him on track for race one, a multi-car incident in race two led to the 16-year-old’s first non-score of the campaign.
While Morris had to contend with an uphill battle throughout the race meeting, Malvern – who had never ever seen Thruxton prior to this weekend – and MGR Motorsport’s Webster were very evenly matched in both encounters. The racing actually became a little too close for comfort in round seven though when the pair made contact while dicing for the lead on the penultimate lap.
“I thought I was on for two wins today as I had the pace”, said Malvern, “But I’m pleased to be in the lead of the championship for the first time and will be trying hard to hang on to it. The next round is Croft and I’ve never raced there either, there’s a lot of racing left in this championship so I’m happy with where I am and will continue to take it a race at a time.”
Webster and Malvern evenly matched
In qualifying, Webster sealed pole position for round six by almost 0.3 seconds ahead of Malvern with something of a surprise upper order thereafter; MGR’s Jake Dalton (Audley, Stoke-on-Trent) third on the grid ahead of MTECH Lite’s Mexican racer Jorge Cevallos, the consistent David Wagner (Glasgow) in fifth for MGR and Sean Walkinshaw (Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire) sixth for MTECH.
At the beginning of the opening race, Webster led away from pole but Malvern moved ahead on lap three with a sensational pass at one of the fastest parts of the track, Goodwood. Although Webster was never more than a few tenths of a second behind throughout, and set the fastest lap, Malvern was able to control the race for his second victory of the season.
“We both had to hold our breath as I came through but it was a clean move”, said the winner, “After that I could hold the gap comfortably until the closing stages when Josh [Webster] was no longer under pressure from behind but, although he got close and loomed large in my mirrors, I held on.”
Webster added: “The nature of the circuit here is slipstreaming and it’s very hard to break the tow if you’re leading, plus the strong wind didn’t help me once Scott [Malvern] was in front. I’m disappointed not to have won from pole position but I’m still happy to have secured a good score.”
Hillspeed enjoyed its first podium of the year thanks to an outstanding drive into third place from recent series returnee Kieran Vernon (West Chiltington, West Sussex). Forced to start from seventh on the grid after sustaining car damage in qualifying, Vernon made quick work of getting past MGR Motorsport duo Wagner and Dalton and then set about chasing Webster.
“Hillspeed did a great job to repair the car after qualifying and the set up felt really good so I was able to get past quite a few cars early in the race”, reported Vernon who only made his competitive racing return during the previous event at Rockingham.
Dalton finished in fourth position ahead of an impressive Macaulay Walsh (Northampton), the Scorpio Motorsport racer climbing the order superbly from 12th on the grid to finish ahead of Wagner, Cevallos and Antel Motorsport pairing Raoul Owens and Ivan Taranov.
Despite joining the grid mere seconds before the race got underway following feverish work by Fortec to replace his engine, Morris worked his way through from 16th into the top eight but was given a 10 second penalty for an out of position start so took 10th place on the final classification.
Vernon and Walsh profit from Malvern misfortune
At the beginning of round seven, Webster made a clean start to jump into the lead with Malvern on his tail and closely followed by Dalton and the fast-starting Vernon – the latter up from sixth on the grid. The pattern of the race though was dictated by a major incident at the start of lap two when Wagner, Owens and Morris were involved in a multi-car tangle at the fast right hand Allard corner.
The Safety Car was deployed while the debris was cleared and the although the race distance was extended to 15 laps, by the time marshals had cleared the circuit there were only seven live racing laps remaining. At the re-start, Malvern set about pressing Webster for the lead while Vernon and Walsh were locked in a battle of their own for third place.
On lap 12, Malvern made his move at the chicane and passed Webster to take the lead but it all changed on the penultimate lap when contact between the pair dropped Malvern to fifth. Webster assumed the lead and held on to win ahead of Vernon, Walsh and Dalton with Cevallos capping his best weekend yet in sixth.
Rounds eight and nine of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship will take place five weeks from now at Croft Circuit, near Darlington in North Yorkshire, over the weekend 21st/22nd July.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault BARC is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.
Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd7):
1st Scott Malvern, 182pts; 2nd Josh Webster, 161pts; 3rd Seb Morris, 151pts; 4th Macaulay Walsh, 140pts; 5th Jake Dalton, 117pts; 6th David Wagner, 104pts