Josh Webster emerged from another race-long battle with Scott Malvern to take victory in Round Seven of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship at Thruxton.
Early-race leader Webster had slipped behind Malvern and when he looked to get the lead back on the penultimate lap, contact sent Malvern spinning down to fifth, with Webster emerging unscathed to take his second win of the season, both drivers benefitting from a tough weekend for championship rival Seb Morris.
Webster said: “A double pole and a race win and a second has definitely made amends for Rockingham, which was a really bad meeting. To come back with a new car, a new tub, which handles very differently, and get a win is a fantastic result, so a massive thanks to MGR for putting the hard work in to get the car ready.”
Webster started the race from pole position and a solid getaway saw him lead into Allard for the first time, closely pursued by Malvern. Sean Walkinshaw made a great start to move into third early on, but he quickly fell back, Jake Dalton slotting into third ahead of a fast starting Kieran Vernon.
Vernon got ahead of Dalton at the Complex on lap two, just before the safety car emerged after a multi-car accident between David Wagner, Raoul Owens and Morris, who was looking to work his way up from sixteenth on the grid. The incident at Allard ruled all three out of the race on the spot.
There was more incidents behind the safety car, with both Matt Tiffin and Shahan Sarkissian damaging their cars by running into cars in front. Tiffin re-joined the action a lap down, while Sarkissian retired.
After a lengthy run behind the safety car, the race restarted on lap eight, with an extended race distance of fifteen laps. Webster led away from Malvern and Vernon, while behind an early change saw Macaulay Walsh force his way past Dalton for fourth.
The front two quickly broke away from the pack behind and began battling with each other. Malvern was able to attack on the run up Woodham Hill into the final chicane. After two unsuccessful overtaking attempts, the reigning Formula Ford champion was able to make a move stick at the third attempt on lap twelve to take the lead.
Webster stuck with him though and two laps later the race's defining moment took place at the entry to the complex, with Webster tagging the rear of Malvern in the braking zone. Webster was able to continue and go on to take the win, while a quick recovery for Malvern allowed him to slot into fifth for the finish. Despite the disappointing finish, the Cliff Dempsey Racing driver still leaves Thruxton with a 21 point championship lead.
Commenting on the incident, Webster added: “It's very clear in my eyes; he just stopped on the entry to the chicane, really early. Obviously trying to back me up to get a good run out and I had nowhere to go. He had made a fair move earlier and I'm not a driver to be dirty in anyway, I've got no damage on my car so it's not like I pushed him off.”
Taking his first podium since his return to the championship was Vernon in second, while the impressive Walsh secured his second podium of the season in third. Dalton continued his great rookie season with fourth ahead of Malvern and Jorge Cevallos, the Mexican taking his best result of the season so far.
Martin Cao took seventh ahead of MGR Motorsport's James Fletcher, while Antel Motorsport duo Ivan Taranov and Tom Oliphant completed the top ten ahead of Cliff Dempsey Racing team-mates Chris Middlehurst and Trent Hindman. Finishing a lowly seventeenth after a spin was a disappointed Walkinshaw.
Joining Morris, Wagner, Owens and Sarkissian on the retirement list was Diego Menchaca, while two drivers who were unable to start the race altogether were Laura Tillett and Michael Epps, both missing due to substantial accident damage, sustained in qualifying and race one respectively.
Vernon commented: “I'm a little bit gutted to be honest as we were really perfectly placed to get a win there. We had different set ups on the car, he was really quick out the back in the high speed and we had a bit more downforce, so were good in the chicanes. I caught him up in the first complex on the final lap and was looking to line him up into the final chicane, but over the back the car died on me and I lost time.
“Whether we would have got him or not is a different story, but we would have been able to have a go. Little bit gutted, but still two good results for Hillspeed and myself, second and third from sixth and seventh on the grid.”
Walsh added: “We had a good start and was up with Vernon, but made a mistake at the complex which lost me a lot of time. I think I was catching him a little when I saw, unfortunately, Malvern go off, which gave me third. All I had to do was look forward and try my best every lap to stay ahead and it paid off in the end.
“Unfortunately today, my qualifying was disappointing, just like at Rockingham when we had a disappointing qualifying again. If we get that sorted out then there will definitely be a win by the end of the year for sure.”
Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Standings (After Rd.7):
1. Scott Malvern – 182 points
2. Josh Webster – 161 points
3. Seb Morris – 151 points
4. Macaulay Walsh – 140 points
5. Jake Dalton – 117 points
6. David Wagner – 104 points