Hector Hurst enjoyed a competitive debut in Formula Renault UK during the six-race Formula Renault 'Finals Series' which took place over two weekends this November, the Lymington-based racer getting in the thick of the action with front-running team Manor Competition.
After a promising maiden car racing campaign in the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship with Scorpio Motorsport, Hurst decided to step up to the Renault UK class during the Finals Series in preparation for a planned attack on the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2012.
The series began at Snetterton and despite no previous testing in the car prior to the weekend, the least experience in the car of all the drivers on track and no previous racing experience on the Norfolk circuit, Hurst was instantly on the pace and ran comfortably in the top ten throughout the weekend, taking a best finish of eighth. There was just one low point though, an incident in front of him on lap one of race three forcing him to dive off track in avoidance. Pitting to repair damage, Hurst ended up finishing 22nd, a lap down.
Hurst reflected: “The Snetterton weekend was my first time in the car; I'd done zero testing before it. It was a lot different to what I'd expected, I thought the new Formula Renault would be relevant to the previous one which I raced in the BARC series, but it's actually a completely different style. It was difficult to get used to and hard to understand how you could push and get the most out the car.
“We progressed a lot though in a really strong grid, which helped as you can only improve by pushing yourself against the very best, so that was good. Qualifying eighth for my first race and then running in the top ten throughout the weekend was a really good way to get the campaign going. We had one unfortunate incident, in the third race, where I had to take to the grass to avoid making contact with other cars on the first lap, but still got through the whole week with no damage so that was good.”
One week later the Finals Series headed to Rockingham for its final two races, the Corby-based track being another new circuit for Hurst. Picking up where he left off, Hurst continued to be competitive, taking twelfth and fourteenth in a tricky qualifying session, before two entertaining races saw him end up tenth and ninth. Hurst just missed out on a top ten finish in the standings, ending up eleventh, ahead of many far more experienced UK and Eurocup runners.
Hurst commented: “Qualifying on Saturday wasn't quite what we expected to be honest, I did get caught out by the red flag and it was all a bit unfortunate timing, ending up mid grid for both races, which wasn't a disaster but it wasn't the top five we'd expected. I got my head down in the first race, got a really good start, had some good close battles and came in the top ten again.
“The second race was probably the most eventful race of my career so far. I managed to stall it on the startline and had to restart the engine ending up last. I climbed through the field and ended up in the top ten again, finishing ninth, which was a pretty good end to the weekend considering how the race had begun. I'm pretty happy with how my first stab at Formula Renault UK, against some of the Eurocup competition I hope to compete against next year, has gone.”
Hurst's debut in the new specification Formula Renault car has wetted his appetite ahead of his planned campaign in the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2012. Looking ahead to next year, Hurst concluded: “Considering how much testing and racing other people had done in the car before this, we were right in there and up to pace with them and beating them, so I'm confident. We haven't got anything sorted yet, but I'm aiming to get a testing programme arranged from now until the testing ban for the Eurocup comes into place on January 1st. I think we've got a huge amount to build on and a strong starting position already, we're not starting at the back trying to get to the front, we're starting well inside the top ten, so there's no reason we shouldn't be right on it at the first race.”