Ollie Millroy lead the way in a strong start to the 2010 Michelin Formula Renault UK Winter Series for front running outfit Manor Competition. Two strong podium finishes saw him just one point adrift at the top of the standings, until a controversial post-race penalty in round two dropped him to fourteen points back in the standings.
A tricky qualifying session on a drying track saw Millroy line up lower than expected for the races, but superb starts in both saw him make up the deficit. Leaping from sixth to third in the first lap of the first race, the 20 year old took second at the Esses on lap eight to seal a strong performance. Another good start in the second saw him up to second, before the race's decisive moment occurred.
With a safety car called onto track, the leaders headed towards passing backmarker Evelin Frank. While the leader got past before reaching the safety car, Millroy couldn't, having to slot in behind. As they headed towards the restart, Frank tried to wave Ollie through. Believing she was going into the pits, Millroy passed her heading to the restart and went on to finish second. Though the officials decided the move was illegal, serving him with a five second time penalty after the race.
Reflecting on the decision, which dropped Ollie to fourth, Manor co-owner Tony Shaw said: “Ollie honestly thought Frank was pitting when they approached the re-start, having already done the right thing by staying behind her. Kvyat passed her illegally before they reached the Safety Car and Ollie knew that wasn't right so even though she tried to wave him by, he stayed put.
“He really thought she was pitting when the re-start came, it was an honest mistake. It's a frustrating decision by the officials as Ollie deserved second at the very least, he caught Kvyat easily over the last few laps and could have won. Moves need to be made to legislate for incidents like this.”
Making his debut for the team, as well as his series debut, was Formula Ford ace Josh Hill, who suffered a frustrating weekend. Starting on the fourth row in the first race, he slipped a couple of places before fighting back well to regain them, finishing a strong seventh. Race two started well, moving up from seventh on the grid to a superb third place. Looking good for the position, his car began slowing dramatically after the safety car period, forcing him into a disappointing retirement.
Returning to the team for the Winter Series was Alice Powell, who raced for the team in the main series in 2009 before leaving to win this year's Formula Renault BARC championship. A poor performance in qualifying left her 17th and 15th on the grid for the races, but she showed her class with a couple of great drives through the field, ending a superb ninth and seventh in the two races, leaving her seventh in the points standings.
Joining Hill in making his debut in the series was 16 year old karting sensation Jordan King. A solid qualifying performance saw line up 15th on the grid for the first race and after losing a couple of places, the youngster fought back to take a great 11th place finish. Starting 17th in race two, he produced another strong drive through the field to take a great tenth place.
“It's been quite a good start to the winter series”, added Shaw, “We're very frustrated regarding the decision to penalise Ollie and bitterly disappointed for Josh he had the problem costing a potential podium. All four drivers were impressive though and showed a lot of commitment. Josh, Alice and Jordan all proved their pace and potential and they'll only get quicker.”
The team now heads to Pembrey in South Wales for the Winter Championship finale next weekend, with two double headers over the weekend of 13th/14th November.