Josh Webster won a chaotic Round Five of the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, leading home a Fortec Motorsport one-two-three around the Oulton Park Island circuit, in a race that saw nine drivers crash out.
Dino Zamparelli started on pole for the race, but a poor start for the Antel Motorsport driver saw him drop to fifth, with fellow front row starter Webster diving into the lead ahead of a quick starting Kourosh Khani and Mtech Lite's James Thorp.
The carnage began at Island hairpin on the opening lap, when an optimistic move by Steven Durrant ended with him causing a collision between Zamparelli and Mtech's James Theodore, which instantly ended both their races. Both Thorp and Archie Hamilton got caught up in the incident and dropped right down the field, while Zaamin Jaffer was also involved and damaged his front wing.
It continued on lap two, a spinning Victor Jiminez collected by the unfortunate Matt Mason, ending both their races, with SWB Motorsport's Macaulay Walsh also retiring after going off into the barriers in avoidance.
Emerging still in the lead was Webster, with Khani second, Kieran Vernon now up to third and Scorpio Motorsport's Hector Hurst fourth, a superb opening lap seeing him move up from tenth on the grid. Their progress was halted however, with the safety car brought out to allow recovery of the stricken cars.
As the drivers latched onto the back of the safety car, the heavens opened, leading to the race to be red flagged. After a pause, the decision was made to have a full race restart with the original grid, the new race to run over seven laps. With the rain proving to be just a short shower, the drivers lined up for the restart on slick tyres.
With Zamparelli missing, Webster was gifted a clear run to Old Hall, followed by Khani, Hamilton and Vernon. Vernon quickly made his way up to second at Island hairpin, before Hamilton made the same move on Khani a lap later to take third.
The rain left half the circuit wet and half dry, with some drivers unable to cope with the tricky conditions. First MGR Motorsport's David Wagner slid out of sixth place into the barriers at Cascades, then moments later SWB's Raoul Owens spun into the barriers at the exit of the same corner.
At the front, Webster settled into a rhythm and pulled clear, while on the edge of the top six, Hurst was beginning to get caught by Hillspeed's Howard Fuller. The duo run nose to tail through Cascades and Fuller looked to make a move into Island, but only succeeded in driving into the back of Hurst, ending both their races and causing a red flag, ending the race prematurely.
This gave Fortec their second podium lock out this season, with Webster taking his second win of the season and Vernon and Hamilton taking their third podiums of the year respectively. Khani continued his strong run of results in fourth, ahead of improving rookie Bowyer with his best result of the season by far with fifth.
Thorp took sixth, ahead of lead Hillspeed driver Zaamin Jaffer and SWB Motorsport's Andrew Jarman, taking a season's best finish. MGR's Russell Danzey and Russian Ivan Taranov complete the top ten, with Durrant dropping to eleventh after a front wing failure towards the end. SWB's Jack Dex, JWA Racing's Tom Walker and Hillspeed's Sean Walkinshaw rounded out the fourteen finishers.
Race winner Webster said: “It was obviously really, really hard and It was just a matter of keeping it on the track really, as it was wet half the lap and then dry the other half. As a driver you just need to be able to adapt each lap, as if you drive the same line, another line will form that's quicker.
“I managed to win by a considerable margin, so I'm happy. Awesome job by Fortec, thanks to Chris, Steve and everyone, the car was absolutely immense. Zamparelli was taken off on the opening lap, which is good for the championship. I think we lead it now, so just got to keep this form up.”
Vernon commented: “We had a few issues in qualifying which hampered our pace, which was disappointing, but to get from seventh to second is a brilliant result, especially with the manic race it was.
“Once I got into second, Josh was quite far up the road, so I thought unless he makes a mistake, I'm not really going to get anywhere, so I just settled for second when I got there. A brilliant result, good for the points and a Fortec one-two-three â€¦YES!”
Hamilton added: “It was a pretty hectic race. On the first race, I got knocked back down to like fourteenth or something, but luckily we had the restart and I could start in fourth, as Dino [Zamparelli] got knocked out, which has helped my championship. To get another one-two-three is brilliant and to get Khani on like the third to last lap was good as well.”
Photo Credit: Simon Paice