James Thorp was undoubtedly one of the stars of the season in the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, the Mtech Lite racer taking two wins on his way to third in the championship. The Checkered Flag caught up with Thorp at the end of the final meeting at Silverstone to reflect on his impressive campaign.
Thorp headed into the campaign as an unknown quantity, with no-one tipping him as a frontrunner prior to the season starting. Thorp certainly put his name out there at the opening rounds though, stunning onlookers with a pole, win and a second place, giving him the early championship lead. Thorp continued to show great pace throughout the season, taking one more win and two other podiums, but a few frustrating results left him third in the championship, unable to challenge for the title at the final round.
Thorp said: “At the start of the year, no-one had even heard my name or thought we could be fast, so to rock up at Donny and get wins and poles, then to continue that throughout the year and show good true raw talent and pace, has been great to show. Now people know who I am, people know I'm capable of going fast and putting in good, solid performances, so I'm happy to show that this year.”
After the first couple of meetings, Thorp looked set for a real championship charge, however struggles with consistency left the 19 year old just out of touch of the championship battle for the majority of the year, with each strong podium finish followed by a frustrating result. This wasn't helped by a disastrous weekend at Oulton Park, where Thorp took a sixth place in the opening race before being excluded from race two after contact with a rival.
Thorp reflected: “My consistency has sort of dipped and there's not a single point I can put my finger on that has tipped it. I can say that Oulton Park, that exclusion, didn't help us in any way though, as it put us out of joint with the championship and stopped our rhythm.”
As well as consistency, another issue Thorp has faced in his chase for the title is the lack of a team-mate in the Mtech team. While all the other frontrunners have had the benefit of team-mates data and support on track to help them, Thorp has had to battle at the front on his own, which has been a real achievement for him and his team.
Thorp commented: “It has been a disadvantage for sure. For example this weekend, we ultimately haven't had the pace and we haven't had team-mates data to compare to. That has hindered us a lot this season, but ultimately to do the job that we have, with the resources we've had, as a relatively new team and new driver, it's been a good job all round really.”
Despite missing out on the championship, Warwickshire-based Thorp ends the year in positive mood and is now turning his attentions towards getting a budget together for a drive in 2012, with the teenager evaluating a variety of different options for next year.
Thorp concluded: “It's so sponsor related, but we've been able to put a budget together of sorts with the sponsors we've gained this year, so hopefully we'll be able to put a package together for next year and we're looking at a few different series, it's all in the pipeline for the next few weeks.”