Seb Morris benefitted from a mistake by long-time race leader Matt Mason to take the opening win in the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Winter Series at Brands Hatch.

MGR Motorsport’s Mason started the race from pole position after a dominant performance in qualifying and led away at the start, with Morris moving into second after Mason’s team-mate and fellow front-row starter Gustav Malja stalled.

Joe Ghanem made a great start to leap from fifth into third on the opening lap, however his joy was short-lived as Chris Middlehurst and then Jack Aitken forced their way past on lap two, with the Lebanese racer suffering from a sticking throttle cable. After losing more ground to Michael Epps and Matthew Brabham a couple of laps later, he eventually retired on lap five.

As the front two pulled clear, Middlehurst was coming under pressure from Aitken behind, with the Intersteps graduate squeezing his way into third at Paddock on lap five. The Fortec Motorsport driver briefly pulled a gap to Middlehurst behind, but a mistake on lap nine saw them close back up, with a four way battle developing for the final podium place.

Behind, an even bigger scrap was taking place for seventh, with five cars fighting it out. They eventually came to blows on lap nine, with Hongwei Cao tagging Luke Williams at Druids, forcing the latter to retire.

At the front, Mason was maintaining around a one second lead over Morris until lap nine, when a mistake saw him run wide at the exit of Sheene, dropping him to second behind Morris, before another error at Clark Curve saw him drift through the gravel, the 2012 Intersteps runner-up falling to sixth.

Mason’s error gave Morris a comfortable advantage at the front and the Fortec Motorsport star cruised home to win by 7.6s, his third consecutive BARC victory. Aitken secured second to cap off a superb debut drive in the series, with Middlehurst picking up his third series podium of 2012 in third.

Epps produced a measured drive to take fourth, matching his best-ever result in the category, with Team USA Scholarship winner Brabham an impressive fifth. Mason took sixth ahead of Cao, while another impressive debut drive came from George Gamble, the Hillspeed driver finishing eighth ahead of Ryan Cullen and Cameron Twynham.

Malja meanwhile had fought his way back through into the top ten during the race, but was forced to pull off and retire late on, while another to have late trouble was Ivan Taranov, the Russian having to pit from eighth, leaving him to finish at the back of the field a lap down.