Josh Webster and James Thorp won Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship at Donington Park over the Easter weekend. The duo took their debut series wins in front of a bumper crowd, as the single seater series ran on the bill of British Truck Grand Prix.
Qualifying on Saturday saw Antel Motorsport's Dino Zamparelli secure the first pole position of the year, ahead of Thorp, Archie Hamilton and Webster. A poor start for the pole sitter saw Thorp jump into the lead as they headed to Redgate for the first time, with Webster slotting into second.
Webster gained a good run out the corner and moved side by side with the leader down the Craner Curves, sliding into the lead. Zamparelli held third momentarily, but was quickly demoted to fourth when RPD Motorsport's Steven Durrant got past at the Old Hairpin.
Suffering an early end to their race was Hillspeed's Howard Fuller after contact with Fortec Motorsport's Hamilton at Schwantz Curve. The latter was able to continue in fifth, which soon became fourth after passing Zamparelli on lap four, the duo followed by Scorpio Motorsport's Hector Hurst, who had started fifth but dropped a couple of places at the start.
Ahead, Webster was beginning to pull a gap at the front, leading by over a second by mid distance from Thorp. Durrant followed in a solid third, but was soon to be caught by a charging Zamparelli, who had worked his way back ahead of Hamilton. The Fortec man was soon to lose another place, with Hurst making his way past at McLeans on lap twelve for fifth.
At the front though, Webster was having no such problems, cruising home for his first full championship win, following on from his successes in the BARC Winter Cup in November. Thorp took a solid second, with 2009 Privateer Cup champion Durrant taking his maiden podium in the series with third, followed closely by Zamparelli.
Fifth on his car racing debut was Hurst, ahead of Hamilton, Hillspeed's Zaamin Jaffer and MGR Motorsport pairing Matt Mason and Russell Danzey, with Fortec's Kieran Vernon completing the top ten.
Commenting on his win, Webster said: “I'm really ecstatic, first win in Formula Renault. I got a fantastic start, was up to second by the first corner, then got loads more traction out of it and went down the inside at the Craner Curves. Then I just controlled it from there really. It was a good test of mental strength, because I could have chucked it off anywhere. It really is a fantastic start to the year for us.”
Qualifying for the second race saw Thorp take his maiden pole position, with Zamparelli this time second ahead of Hamilton and Hurst in an impressive fourth. A great start saw Thorp seize the lead ahead of Zamparelli, while behind a jump start for Hurst saw him receive a drive through penalty.
Losing out early on was Zamparelli, losing a place to Hamilton and then to Vernon on the opening lap, before losing another place to Webster at the chicane on lap two. His slide was halted though when the safety car appeared, after a multi-car incident at Redgate saw Danzey and Hillspeed's Sean Walkinshaw end up in the gravel.
Thorp controlled the restart well to maintain his lead ahead of Hamilton and Vernon. There was soon to be a change for fourth, with Zamparelli dispatching Webster at Redgate, with the latter's race soon to be over, when his car cut-out on lap twelve.
Defending hard in second was Hamilton, who eventually lost the place on lap thirteen to Vernon, before coming under pressure once again from Zamparelli. A move around the outside at Redgate saw Zamparelli nearly get through, but contact at the exit of the corner pitched him into a spin, dropping him down the field.
Enjoying a clear run to the line was Thorp, winning by over a second from Vernon, taking his maiden Formula Renault podium. Hamilton followed for third, making it five different podium finishers in two races. Benefitting from others woes to take fourth was Durrant, after a superb drive from fifteenth on the grid.
Fifth place went to Fuller, with Victor Jiminez taking sixth for Fortec. David Wagner took seventh, a best result of the weekend for MGR, with Zamparelli recovering to eighth, setting a new lap record in the process. Compelting the top ten were Mason and SWB Motorsport's Andrew Jarman, while finishing thirteenth was Hurst, after suffering a second drive through penalty after taking his first during the safety car period.
Commenting on his weekend, Thorp said: “It's almost been a perfect weekend which is the sort of start I wanted to get. Second in the first race was ok but I wanted to go one step better in the second race, which we were able to do. I'm happy overall as we've got a big bag of points to carry through to the next round.”
The weekend's surprise package Durrant added: “I came into Formula Renault BARC as an absolute privateer, running out of the back of a transit van and now here we are, having established our own professional team, up on the podium! We always thought we were capable of this.”
Mtech Lite's Thorp leads the championship after the opening weekend, holding a thirteen point lead of Durrant, who holds second after his most successful weekend's racing since graduating to car racing in 2007. Four points behind is Hamilton, with Vernon, Zamparelli and Webster close behind.
Provisional 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Points (after Rd2):
1st – James Thorp / MTech Lite 60pts
2nd – Steven Durrant / RPD Motorsport 47pts
3rd – Archie Hamilton / Fortec Motorsport 43pts
4th – Kieran Vernon / Fortec Motorsport 39pts
5th – Dino Zamparelli / Antel Motorsport 38pts
6th – Josh Webster / Fortec Motorsport 34pts