Scott Malvern emerged from a thrilling season finale at Silverstone as the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Champion, overcoming experienced rival Josh Webster in a tense two-way title showdown.
The Checkered Flag caught up with Scott a couple of hours after he sealed the title to discuss the highs and lows of his championship-winning campaign and his hopes for the future.
Malvern secured the title in a tense final meeting with a pair of podium finishes, his tenth and eleventh of the season. The success makes it back-to-back titles for the 23 year old, coming off the back of his dominant season in Formula Ford in 2011, where he won the British championship, the Eurocup title and the prestigious Formula Ford Festival.
Not only has Malvern managed to taste success in his first season of ‘slicks and wings’ racing, he’s done it in the most competitive year for the series in recent times, with grid sizes of at least 24 all season, peaking at 32 for the final rounds.
“It’s feeling good, really, really good,” said Malvern. “To win two championships in two years is a great feeling. I’m not sure too many people go straight from Formula Ford into slicks and wings and win right away, so it feels amazing.
“Maybe this wasn’t the level I’d hoped to be at this year, but it’s still wings nonetheless and to jump in with teams that are inexperienced in the category, to race on tracks I don’t know and to win, I couldn’t ask for more really.
“Racing against over thirty other cars and coming out on top, what can be better. When you beat that many people and come out on top at the end of the championship, you know you’ve done a good job and it feels fantastic.”
The season started with a triple-header at Snetterton back in April and while many of his rivals had clocked up the testing miles before hand, Malvern arrived in Norfolk with barely any pre-season testing under his belt in his Cliff Dempsey Racing-run FR 2.0 machine.
Despite this, Malvern was on course for victory in the opening race before a gearbox problem dropped him to thirteenth, though he was able to bounce back straight away to take a third place and a first victory.
Malvern continued his strong start with a pair of seconds at Rockingham, though he was still left trailing the quick-starting Seb Morris, who benefited from the experience of his Fortec Motorsport team to take the early advantage.
“From my past experience I knew that striking early and taking big points at the start of the season is key to taking a championship. I knew the importance, so I was devastated when we lost that first win down to a mechanical failure, that really set us back a bit, but confidence was still reasonably high heading into Rockingham.
“We hadn’t had any time at all to prep the car before Snetterton, so we pushed the team to ensure the car was ready for Rockingham. Confidence was knocked a little bit there, although we had two seconds, it wasn’t going as maybe I’d planned. Obviously I know some of these teams have been around a long time, so you don’t expect to rock up and just blow them away, but I knew what I could do behind the wheel, I knew how a car should feel and I wasn’t really happy with it at all at the start of the season. There were times when I thought winning the title wasn’t going to be possible and that we’d be plagued by mechanical problems all year.”
Heading into the mid-season meetings at Thruxton and Croft, Malvern made the difficult decision to change teams, making the move to Cullen Motorsport, who were supported by Jamun Racing, the team that ran Malvern to the Formula Ford title.
Malvern kept in touch in the championship battle with a win on the south coast and a second place in Yorkshire, as well as two other top five finishes. He found himself getting caught by Webster though, who went on a roll with three wins in the four races, including a dubious win at Thruxton after contact knocked Malvern out the lead.
“The middle of the season was tough, as changing teams in the middle of a season is never ideal. We went with an even more inexperienced team in this category in Jamun, but they have got masses of experience in Formula Ford and are a winning team, they’re relentless and won’t stop until a car is perfect.
“We took a win at Thruxton, a circuit I don’t know, but it should have been two and that win set Josh on a bit of a roll. I’d never been to Croft before in my life, so that was always going to be tough, with knowledge of the circuit being key there and we were lucky really to drag a couple of results out from there.”
The penultimate meeting at Donington Park proved to be a crucial one in the championship, with Malvern knowing he’d need to take some big results to cement his advantage heading into the final rounds. Although Webster made it four in a row in the opener, a fantastic win and double second ensured Malvern maintained control with just two races to go.
“By the end of the season, I was more than happy with the car, it was fantastic and that gets your confidence up, when you know you have a car under you that can go out there and win races, you feel like you can do anything.
“We knew Donington was going to be the important one, being a triple-header it had big points on offer and for us, the weekend was a real turning point. It was the first time the team had had the chance to strip down the car and prepare it properly for a meeting. It was the first time I’d felt really comfortable with the car all year and I think it showed, so better late than never.”
The Ilford-based racer headed into Silverstone with a fourteen point advantage on dropped scores. A measured drive to third in the opener behind Webster kept him ahead, before a superb start to race two saw him seize the initiative by slotting into a second, with a controlled drive from there securing him the coveted title.
The victory was made sweeter with the final rounds taking place in support of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, meaning his championship win came in front of over 30,000 fans trackside and live to millions on ITV4.
“It was fantastic to go to the race meeting and see a big crowd, with a lot of atmosphere and buzz around. Finishing the year with a proper race meeting, with all the crowds and all your sponsors here, it’s a fantastic time to go and win a championship, It was definitely the most enjoyable meeting of the year, even before winning the title.”
While Malvern ended the year with three wins to his name, Morris and Webster finished up with five wins apiece. This fact left Malvern frustrated, particularly when the former Formula Ford 1600 champion felt there were two wins that should have been his, were it not for factors outside of his control.
“Wins don’t always mean the championship, consistency is what counts, but we’d definitely loved to have won more races, it would have been the icing on the cake. Obviously Josh and Seb won more, but if I hadn’t have had that mechanical problem at Snetterton and the contact with Josh at Thruxton, in my view two wins that I should have had that Josh inherited, than the tables would have been turned in that respect.
“I wouldn’t say I regret not winning more races, I’d say I regret not being in a position at the start of the season to take a few opportunities to win that we missed, we didn’t go out at take them at the start of the season, we thought they’d come to us in time.”
Now the focus turns to 2013 and the pursuit of sponsorship to help him move up the motorsport ladder. Unfortunately for Malvern, a chance in age criteria meant he was unable to be nominated as a finalist for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award for a third time, while he was unsuccessful in his attempts to receive support from the KX Akademy.
Winning either of those would have been a welcome boost as he chases the budget for next season. While his heart is set on progressing up the single-seaters ranks, into GP3 or F3, the huge cost of those means a move into tin-tops is being considered as an option.
“It would have been fantastic to be nominated for the McLaren award for a third time, but they changed the age criteria, while as a single-seater driver, it was a long shot with the KX Akademy anyway, so it’s frustrating.
“I can only try and put as much effort in as possible to try and rally something together for next year. It could be in single-seaters or tin-tops, as single-seaters just gets more and more expensive from here.
“I want to step up to GP3, which has a new engine update package which will level the playing field out a bit, or Formula 3, which is still as prestigious as it always has been, I want to get as far up the ladder as possible but whether I succeed in that or not is purely down to budget and what sponsors we can find.
“Even this season wouldn’t have happened if someone like Patrick [Cullen] hadn’t have come along and supported me. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been here at all, so to win a championship in a year you thought you wouldn’t be racing in, that’s always a bonus.”
All photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography