The 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship is shaping up to be an intriguing season, with an exciting mix of series returnees and talented rookies set to compete over twelve races across the country. The increasingly popular series has grown into the best subscribed junior single-seater category in the UK, with twenty-one cars set to take to the grid at the series opener at Donington Park on April 23rd/24th.
Out of these, two drivers have stood out in pre-season testing as the early favourites for a championship charge, Archie Hamilton and Dino Zamparelli. Both drivers return to the series in which they competed in during 2009, with Zamparelli taking three wins on his way to third in the standings, while Hamilton took a best result of third as he finished ninth overall.
Over the winter, Fortec Motorsport's Hamilton and Antel Motorsport's Zamparelli have been inseparable at the top of the timesheets during the official tests. Zamparelli has led the way, but Hamilton has not been far behind, meaning the season is set for a close duel between the two.
A couple of drivers who have made late entries into the championship and are hoping challenge them for the title are Fortec pair Josh Webster and Keiran Vernon. 17 year old Webster returns to the series after impressing in his debut season in 2010, taking four podiums on his way to fourth in the main championship, before going on to win the BARC Winter Cup, taking three wins and three second places during the six race series.
Vernon was set to compete in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB this season after winning their Scholarship programme, but unable to raise the budget for the sportscar series, has instead moved back into single seater racing, after finishing fourth in last year's Formula Palmer Audi series with three race wins.
Leading the line-up for defending champions Hillspeed will be Indian racer Zaamin Jaffer. The Derbyshire based outfit took the title in 2010 with Alice Powell and hope 19 year old Jaffer can lead them in their defence of the crown. He comes into the series after two years in Formula Ford, in which he finished fourth in the Scholarship class in his debut season.
Also looking to impress for Hillspeed will be Howard Fuller. He took seventh in the 2010 Formula Palmer Audi championship, before making his Formula Renault debut in Winter Cup, taking three podiums on his way to third in the BARC points. Completing the line up at Hillspeed will be Sean Walkinshaw, son of the late Tom, who is making his car racing debut in 2011.
Returning to the series this year and looking for success are Scorpio Motorsport. The team won the series in its debut season in 2008 with Ollie Hancock and then won again in 2009 with Kieren Clark. They come back with Hampshire-based Hector Hurst, who has impressed throughout winter testing and is looking to mount a championship bid in his debut season in car racing.
Returning for a third season in the championship will be Steven Durrant, running for his own RPD Motorsport team. The Oxford-based racer took the 2009 Privateer Cup in the series, before taking thirteenth overall last year. For one round last season he came up against James Thorp, who returns to the series full time with Mtech after taking two seventh place finishes in the Thruxton finale.
Two driver's hoping to keep in touch with their team-mates at the front will be Spaniard Victor Jiminez, who joins Hamilton, Webster and Vernon at Fortec, and car racing rookie Callum Bowyer, the Peterborough driver working alongside Zamparelli at Antel.
A team making their debut in the full series this year after making their debut in the Winter Series are MGR Motorsport, led by renowned engineer Mark Godwin. Scottish racer David Wagner leads their line up after finishing runner up in the BARC class of the winter series and will be joined by two karting graduates, Nottingham-based Matt Mason and Yorkshireman Russell Danzey.
Returning for their second season in the championship is SWB Motorsport, who took a race win with Luke Wright in their debut season last year. Competing for the team in 2011 will be experienced driver Andrew Jarman, who is set for his third full season in the BARC series, and three car racing newcomers, South African Raoul Owens, Northampton-based Macaulay Walsh and 18 year old Jack Dex from Daventry.
Completing the field for the series are two more fresh faces to the series, Chesterfield-based Tom Walker, running with JWA Racing, and Russian Ivan Taranov, competing with new team Daytona Motorsport.
Promoter of the series, Simon North commented: “We really are looking forward to an absolutely fantastic season. We have a great mix of experienced championship front-runners, exciting Formula Renault rookies and talented young karters making the step-up to cars for the first time. All in all we have every ingredient to make the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season the best ever.”
For 2011, the championship is supported by headline sponsor Protyre and additional partners ELF, Michelin and NGK Spark Plugs.
Provisional 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Entry List:
#1 Howard Fuller Hillspeed
#2 Archie Hamilton Fortec Motorsport
#4 Kieran Vernon Fortec Motorsport
#5 Josh Webster Fortec Motorsport
#7 Callum Bowyer Antel Motorsport
#8 Dino Zamparelli Antel Motorsport
#9 Zaamin Jaffer Hillspeed
#14 Matt Mason MGR Motorsport
#17 Tom Walker JWA Racing
#18 Steven Durrant RPD Motorsport
#23 Russell Danzey MGR Motorsport
#25 Victor Jimenez Fortec Motorsport
#26 Macaulay Walsh SWB Motorsport
#27 Jack Dex SWB Motorsport
#28 Andrew Jarman SWB Motorsport
#29 Raoul Owens SWB Motorsport
#33 Sean Walkinshaw Hillspeed
#35 Hector Hurst Scorpio Motorsport
#36 James Thorp MTech
#43 David Wagner MGR Motorsport
#55 Ivan Taranov Daytona Motorsport