Up to 25 cars are set to take to the grid when the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship commences at Snetterton this weekend, with an exciting group of young drivers set to battle it out through the year over six race weekends.
The club-level championship has grown into one of the best single-seater championships in the UK and enjoyed a really strong season in 2011, with a grid that regularly saw over 20 cars produce a superb three way title fight, which was won by Dino Zamparelli live on ITV4 in support of the BTCC.
For 2012, the drivers will battle it out over fourteen races, with the series introducing triple header weekends at the opening two rounds at Snetterton and Rockingham. The season's finale will also once again take place in front of the live TV cameras with the series joining the BTCC package at Silverstone in October.
Topping the entry for 2012 is reigning champions Antel Motorsport, who are expanding to a four car operation. Joining the team are two series returnees, Raoul Owens and Ivan Taranov, from SWB Motorsport and Daytona Motorsport respectively, and two series newcomers, Tom Oliphant and Henry Chart.
Fortec Motorsport, title challengers from 2011, have announced an exciting four car entry of series newcomers. Leading them is Mexican racer Diego Menchaca, who is part of the same Escuderia Telmex driver programme that produced F1 star Sergio Perez. He’s joined by the 2011 Ginetta Junior Champion Seb Morris, the hotly rated Laura Tillett and Chinese teenager Martin Cao.
2008 and 2009 title winning team Scorpio Motorsport are running two cars in 2012, hoping to mount a challenge to regain the championship title. The team is running Brazilian Henrique Baptista, who's last Formula Renault action was in the UK Winter Series in 2008, and series returnee Macaulay Walsh, who ran with SWB Motorsport last year before running out of budget.
Two race winning teams from 2011 are back, MGR Motorsport and Mtech Lite. MGR bring series returnee David Wagner, Finals Series race-winner James Fletcher and talented karting graduate Jake Dalton to the grid. Mtech meanwhile are entering with second year driver Sean Walkinshaw and another member of the Escuderia Telmex driver programme, Mexican Jorge Cavellos.
Another team returning from 2011 are SWB Motorsport. The Daventry-based team are running cars for 2010 Ginetta Junior Championship frontrunner Louise Richardson, who is making her first step into single-seater racing, and series returnee Jack Dex, who is hoping to mount a title challenge if he can raise the budget for a full campaign.
Cliff Dempsey Racing are making a return to Formula Renault competition with three cars. Leading their charge will be the reigning British Formula Ford champion Scott Malvern, who will be joined by the 2011 Formula Ford 1600 National Champion Chris Middlehurst, who's car will be run with support from Middlehurst Motorsport GTR, and American Trent Hindman, who is running a BARC campaign in conjunction with a season in the US F2000 series.
Two stars from the Formula Vee Championship are making the switch to Renault BARC with re-branded team JWA-Avila, 2011 series runner-up Michael Epps and Matt Tiffin. They'll be joined on the grid by privateers Oliver Sirrell, who joins as the reigning 750 Motor Club Formula 4 Champion, and Max Robinson, who is set for his first full season after one guest appearance in 2011.
Also set to join the grid at the second round at Rockingham is Nigerian Ovie Iroro, the teenager running with series regulars RPD Motorsport.
With a host of talented newcomers and a few experienced second year drivers in the entry, it's hard to call who'll be the frontrunners and championship challengers at this early stage. There are at least a dozen drivers who are looking capable of challenging for podium finishes and race wins though, meaning the series is shaping up for an intriguing and exciting year.
TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk will once again be bringing you the best coverage of the Formula Renault BARC Championship available on the web, with qualifying and race reports from every meeting, as well as exclusive interviews, features and blogs from the stars of the championship.
Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Entry List:
#02 – Chris Middlehurst – Cliff Dempsey Racing with Middlehurst Motorsport GTR
#03 – Trent Hindman – Cliff Dempsey Racing
#05 – Ivan Taranov – Antel Motorsport
#06 – Raoul Owens – Antel Motorsport
#07 – Tom Oliphant – Antel Motorsport
#08 – Henry Chart – Antel Motorsport
#13 – Oliver Sirrell – ACS Motorsport
#16 – Henrique Baptista – Scorpio Motorsport
#20 – Macaulay Walsh – Scorpio Motorsport
#21 – Laura Tillett – Fortec Motorsport
#25 – Jake Dalton – MGR Motorsport
#26 – Diego Menchaca – Fortec Motorsport
#27 – Jack Dex – SWB Motorsport
#28 – Louise Richardson – SWB Motorsport
#30 – Michael Epps – JWA-Avila
#31 – Seb Morris – Fortec Motorsport
#33 – Sean Walkinshaw – Mtech Lite
#41 – Max Robinson – Privateer
#43 – David Wagner – MGR Motorsport
#55 – Matt Tiffin – JWA-Avila
#66 – James Fletcher – MGR Motorsport
#88 – Martin Cao – Fortec Motorsport
TBC – Scott Malvern – Cliff Dempsey Racing with Patrick Cullen Racing
TBC – Jorge Cavellos – Mtech Lite
TBC – Ovie Iroro – RPD Motorsport