Bristol youngster Mitchell Hale saw his Formula Renault BARC Championship dreams shattered after enduring a tough weekend at the season finale at Thruxton. The 16 year old headed into the weekend with a 16 point lead at the top of the standings, but controversial contact in the first race, followed an individual error in the second, caused the championship to slip out of his hands.
Hale's weekend began well after a strong showing in qualifying. The 16 year old put his Fortec Motorsport machine on pole for Round 11, and saw his second best time put him fourth on the grid for Round 12. Despite losing his lead early in the first race, he was running comfortably in the top five until his race turned sour.
Contact from behind by Dino Zamparelli pitched him into a spin, dropping him down to 12th. He eventually recovered to eighth, but with title rival Alice Powell finishing second, his lead was narrowed to two points heading into the finale.
A strong start saw him move up to third, but with Powell leading, the pressure was on to gain places in order to secure the title. Pushing hard, Hale ended up making a mistake seeing him run wide across the grass, dropping him down to 13th. Despite a superb recovery drive to fifth, it wasn't enough, with a victory for Powell seeing her taking the crown.
Reflecting on his weekend, Hale said: “Qualifying was good. I got pole but my second lap wasn't good enough – I thought I was a little bit unlucky in traffic. But it was a good base to work from.
“The first race I was running in a good position and then I got hit. I'd like to think that it was unintentional, but it cost me a season's work, because we've been leading the championship all year. It damaged the car, but it was OK to drive, although it got a lot worse on the last lap.”
“The team did a good job repairing the car for the second race, but I made a little bit of a mistake and ran wide onto the grass. From then on I just got it lit up really – there was nothing else I could do but go for it.”
Richard Dutton, team principal of Fortec Motorsport, has expressed his interest in retaining Hale within the team's set up for 2011, with the team running cars in many more senior single seater categories.
“I'm sure he would be very good in a more senior category,” said Dutton, “He needs to get out in a car soon to put what happened today to the back of his mind. It's such a shame, but what he has to take away from this is that it has been a fantastic year for him. One bad weekend shouldn't be what he remembers, and after what happened in the first race it was pretty much out of his hands. He's very disappointed, but he's only 16 and he has plenty more years on his side to win championships.”