Josh Webster winning Rd9 at Croft

Josh Webster (Stowmarket, Suffolk) closed to within just seven points of Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship leader Scott Malvern (Barkingside, Ilford) at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire on Sunday, 22nd July, thanks to a flawless double victory in rounds eight and nine of the season.

Fresh from a class-winning debut in Formula 3 the week prior at the RTL GP Masters of F3, Webster continued his superb run of success on his return to Formula Renault BARC with his third and fourth wins of 2012 for MGR Motorsport and also posted fastest lap in the opening encounter.

“Ultimately this is what we wanted to do, close-up on Scott [Malvern] and take a double win – it’s exactly what I needed”, said Webster, “The team has done a phenomenal job here, the car has been awesome all weekend so massive thanks to the guys at MGR.”

Cullen Motorsport racer Malvern took fourth in race one, having emerged unscathed from multi-car contact at the complex on lap three which ultimately led to retirements for Scorpio Motorsport’s Macaulay Walsh (Northampton) and Fortec Motorsports’ driver Seb Morris (Marford, Wrexham). In race two, Malvern secured his sixth podium of the year and added the bonus points for fastest lap.

Hillspeed’s Kieran Vernon (West Chiltington, West Sussex) and MGR’s James Fletcher (Windlesham, Surrey) and David Wagner (Glasgow) each enjoyed podium success. For erstwhile series leader Morris though, a second luckless race meeting on the trot means he is now 73 points shy of Malvern.

Wagner secures maiden pole position as MGR dominate qualifying
Both qualifying sessions on Saturday, 21st July, were affected by red flag stoppages midway through, in fact the round nine period had to be halted twice – the second time due to a huge accident for Sean Walkinshaw (Chipping Norton) in which his car was pitched into a roll exiting the chicane.

Thankfully, the MTECH Lite racer emerged unscathed and in a show of true sportsmanship and sheer decency, championship returnee James Theodore (Telford, Shropshire) stopped on track to ensure Walkinshaw was unharmed. Although five minutes remained, the session didn’t resume so Wagner took his maiden pole position by just 0.095 seconds from round eight pole-sitter Webster.

Webster made a great start at the beginning of Sunday’s opening encounter and consistently increased his lead throughout the 15 lap duration to take a dominant six second victory ahead of Vernon and Fletcher, who ran second and third throughout as per their starting positions.

“We did the best we could”, said Vernon, “I grained the front tyre a little bit and from halfway through I didn’t think there was any point trying to push – it made more sense to try and save the tyres for race two.” Third placed Fletcher added: “It’s a nice feeling after Thruxton, I’m not really sure what went on there to be honest so it’s good to be back where I want to be – third is good.”

Morris initially ran in fourth ahead of Malvern and Walsh but at the complex on lap three, shortly after Malvern had moved to the head of the train, the trio were involved in contact. As Malvern held the inside line for the second part of the left-right sequence, Morris was outside with Walsh behind Malvern and the ensuing incident led to significant damage to the fifth and sixth placed cars.

Morris continued for a few laps, with his entire left sidepod completely missing, but at the end of the sixth tour he retired to the pits. Walsh’s race ended just two corners after the incident – a left-front puncture, missing front wing and suspension damage causing him to crash-out at Clervaux.

While Malvern finished fourth, just 0.7 seconds shy of the podium, Theodore produced a sensational race from 11th on the grid in his Cliff Dempsey Racing-run machine to claim a superb top five result ahead of Wagner who raced brilliantly from 14th on the grid.

Fortec’s Mexican driver Diego Menchaca grabbed seventh off Walkinshaw on the penultimate lap at Tower, although eighth was still, by far, the MTECH driver’s best result so far. Jorge Cevallos took ninth ahead of JWA-Avila’s Michael Epps (Hemel Hempstead) and Middlehurst Motorsport’s Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens, Lancashire) who starred from 16th and 19th on the grid respectively.

Ahead of round nine, Walsh’s bad weekend continued when the driveshaft on his FR 2.0 failed on the lap to the grid. Bitterly disappointing for the Scorpio crew, which produced a herculean effort to repair his car after the race one accident, Walsh did manage to rejoin a lap down to salvage enough points to just stay ahead of Fletcher and Vernon in the championship table in fifth place.

Webster was made to work much harder for his race two win, keeping Malvern at bay by only 0.6 seconds in a race extended by two laps due to a Safety Car period. Wagner wasn’t able to make the start he wanted and slipped from pole position to third as Webster and Malvern moved ahead.

Although opening a 1.5 second advantage on the first lap alone, Webster’s lead was then whittled down to almost nothing by Malvern as he reeled off a series of fastest laps. Following the Safety Car, battle resumed and Webster just managed to see-off his title rival to claim his third win on the trot.

“It’s been an ok weekend – a bit of damage limitation really”, commented Malvern, “In second qualifying I’m sure we could have had pole, the data showed the lap I was on when the red flags came out was good enough. I knew this would be the hardest weekend but we’ve had a podium and almost a win so I’m happy enough.”

Wagner managed to fend off Theodore for third during the closing stages by just 0.2 seconds, the latter impressing again from seventh on the grid. Vernon took fifth ahead of the ever-improving Menchaca, sixth his best result of the year, with Cevallos seventh and Fletcher eighth.

“It’s been a bit of a while since the podium at Snetterton”, said Wagner, “We managed to get pole on Saturday, which was good, and the team produced a really good car here. I’m disappointed not to win, if the start had gone better maybe we could have – I need to win one before the year is out.”

Morris, who started 10th after missing out on a quick lap in the red flagged second qualifying session, made a sensational getaway and climbed into sixth but contact with Fletcher at the hairpin on the final lap dropped him to 11th place. Morris’ Fortec team worked tremendously hard to repair his car after incidents in practice and the opening race and all certainly deserved more from the weekend.

Donington Park in the East Midlands will host the penultimate event of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season, the second of the campaign’s triple-header events, over the weekend 18th/19th August.

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 Rd9):
1st Scott Malvern, 234pts; 2nd Josh Webster, 227pts; 3rd Seb Morris, 161pts; 4th David Wagner, 147pts; 5th Macaulay Walsh, 144pts; =6th Kieran Vernon & James Fletcher, 143pts