Twenty drivers will line-up on the grid at Snetterton 200 Circuit this weekend, 11th/12th May, for the first triple-header event of the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship – and if the opening two races at Donington Park are a barometer of what to expect, race-goers are in for a real treat.
Truly sensational wheel-to-wheel racing got the season off to an excellent start three weeks ago, from which Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens) emerged with a substantial 20-point lead after backing up a maiden category win in round one – plus fastest lap – with an unbelievably close runner-up spot in round two behind MGR Motorsport team-mate Jorge Cevallos (Northampton).
Mexican racer Cevallos, a member of the Escuderia Telmex Driver Development Programme, also became a first time winner in Protyre Formula Renault with his slim 0.069 second success over the Briton and both will be aiming to continue the winning momentum at Snetterton.
Tied on points with Cevallos in second place in the championship is Lebanese star Joe Ghanem, the MTECH Lite driver having delivered his best performance yet in the category at Donington with very consistent fourth and fifth place finishes. In truth, Ghanem can count himself unlucky not to have climbed the podium on the opening weekend as he was a front-running threat throughout.
Fourth in the standings is the highest placed car racing newcomer, Fortec Motorsports driver Sam MacLeod (Cambridge). The karting graduate got his category debut off to a remarkable start with a double pole position in qualifying at Donington, before taking second position in his first Protyre Formula Renault race.
Another championship newcomer, Matteo Ferrer (Colchester), is tied on points with MacLeod after enjoying a consistently strong debut. Despite only a single year of experience, the MGR Motorsport racer – who is descended from Venezuelan, German and Italian heritage – took a best result of fifth on the opening weekend of the season.
Rounding out the top six is another of the international drivers, experienced Chinese racer Hong Wei Cao (Stoke-on-Trent) who battled through superbly from the back of the grid in the first two races of the year – after a spin in qualifying – to record and seventh and sixth place finishes for Fortec.
Donington Park podium finisher Ivan Taranov (Oxford) will be looking to score as heavily as possible during rounds three, four and five, particularly after heading the recent officially timed test day at Snetterton for Scorpio Motorsport.
The Russian’s season didn’t start as he wanted when round one contact led to a costly non-finish, but he bounced back superbly in race two to take third and set the fastest lap. He is currently ninth in the standings, just behind Hillspeed team-mates Jake Cook (Rotherham) and Matt Rao (Oxford).
Malaysia’s Weiron Tan (London) is the other driver to have taken a podium so far, the AirAsia Caterham F1 Team Driver Development Programme talent racing to an excellent third place on his championship debut. The Fortec driver did, though, suffer an unfortunate non-finish in round two.
Joining Protyre Formula Renault at Snetterton will be single-seater rookie Piers Hickin (Knaphill) who will drive for the returning Core Motorsport squad. The 16-year-old impressed during the recent test day at the Norfolk track with the 13th quickest time.
Established squad SWB Motorsport will also make a welcome return to Protyre Formula Renault, fielding a car for Finnish racer Ilari Hakanen. The 18-year-old will arrive in the championship with just a single season of Formula Ford action under his belt in his native Finland, although he has raced in the UK in the 750 Motor Club’s 750 SSC series – formerly known as Formula 4.
Scorpio’s Henrique Baptista (Eastbourne), meanwhile, will be getting his year off to a belated start having been forced to miss the first two rounds. Notably, the Brazilian was second fastest to team-mate Taranov in the officially timed test run on the 200 Circuit.
Qualifying for rounds three and four of the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship will take place at 09.00 on Saturday, 11th May, with the round five session following at 12.10 and the opening race scheduled to start at 16.15. On Sunday, 12th May, round four will commence at 11.05 while round five will get underway at 15.30.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.
Provisional 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship Standings (after Rd2):
1st Chris Middlehurst, 62pts; =2nd Jorge Cevallos & Joe Ghanem, 42pts; =4th Sam MacLeod & Matteo Ferrer, 36pts; 6th Hong Wei Cao, 34pts