Less than a week remains until the final two rounds of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Winter Series with Michelin take place at Rockingham on Saturday, 10th November, and the title battle simply couldn’t be closer – only three points split the top four drivers in the championship.
With a grid of 20 cars confirmed for rounds three and four of the hugely competitive Winter Series, the action at the Northamptonshire venue’s 1.94-mile International Sportscar Circuit is expected to be fierce. Just one mistake, one tiny error, will mean the difference between success and failure.
Heading the championship going into the finale is Matt Mason (Nottingham), the MGR Motorsport driver having made a sparkling return to Protyre Formula Renault BARC during the first two rounds of the Winter Series at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit just over a fortnight ago.
Although a costly excursion in round one, while leading, enabled Seb Morris (Marford, Wrexham) to open his championship bid with a victory, Mason hit back in the second encounter to win. With the addition of fourth position points from race one, and bonus points for setting the fastest lap in each encounter, Mason holds a slim two point advantage over Morris ahead of this weekend’s action.
Morris, who drives for Fortec Motorsports, enjoyed a sensational maiden season in single-seaters in the main Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship where he racked-up no less than five wins on his way to third in the standings. Notably, two of those victories came at Rockingham…
Series rookie Jack Aitken (Kensington, London) and Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens) are equal third in the Winter Series table, just one point behind Morris. Taking a second and third place finish apiece in the Brands Hatch races, both drivers are very well placed to try and take the fight to the top two.
Aitken, team-mate to Morris at Fortec, starred on his Protyre Formula Renault BARC debut while Middlehurst, who runs with his family-led Middlehurst Motorsport GTR team, continued the great late-season form from the main series which saw him claim two podiums in the penultimate event.
Hillspeed’s George Gamble (Nottingham) leads the next group of drivers, 19 points further adrift, after a very impressive single-seater debut last time out – his first active competition since April when he withdrew from the Ginetta Junior Championship. His closest rivals are experienced Chinese racer Hong Wei Cao and Rockingham local Cameron Twynham (Great Bowden, Market Harborough).
One of the front-runners not featuring in the points table, due to his international racing licence, is American-born Australian Matthew Brabham, grandson of F1 legend Sir Jack Brabham. Part of the Team USA Scholarship, Brabham was fifth in rounds one and two but it was his storming recovery drive in race two which made headlines – battling back from 17th place after an opening lap tangle.
So highly rated is the latest generation of the Brabham dynasty, a crew from Sky Sports will be on hand at Rockingham to film a feature on the youngster which will be screened as part of the US Grand Prix coverage over the weekend 17th/18th November on the Sky Sports F1 Channel.
Joining the Winter Series grid this weekend, having missed the opener at Brands Hatch, will be main season competitor Tom Oliphant (Tarporley, Cheshire), who replaces Gustav Malja at MGR, and Lebanese driver Shahan Sarkissian who rejoins MTECH Lite.
Meanwhile, Indonesian newcomer Patrick Armand will take over the seat at Fortec vacated by Laura Tillett but, like Brabham, he will be ineligible to score points due to his international race licence. In total, seven nationalities will be represented on the grid at Rockingham this coming Saturday.
“We’re delighted to have 20 cars confirmed for the final two rounds of the Winter Series, the first weekend at Brands Hatch was a great success and we’re looking forward to a really hotly contested championship decider”, said championship promoter Simon North, “With only three points between the top four drivers, the scene is set for some fantastic action at Rockingham.”
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 Winter Series with Michelin Standings (Rds1&2):
1st Matt Mason, 56pts; 2nd Seb Morris, 54pts; =3rd Jack Aitken & Chris Middlehurst, 53pts; 5th George Gamble, 34pts; 6th Hong Wei Cao, 32pts