The second half of the Protyre Formula Renault Championship roars into life this weekend when the series heads North East for Rounds 9, 10 and 11 at Croft.
Chris Middlehurst leads the way after dominating an action-packed opening half of the season, the BRDC Rising Star holding a commanding 96 point lead after securing six wins in the first eight races.
The MGR Motorsport racer has been the star of the field throughout the campaign, and this was evident last time out at Thruxton, the 18 year old taking a sensational hat-trick of victories to fill him with confidence ahead of the second half of the season.
Leading the chase to Middlehurst is Jake Cook. The Hillspeed racer has gone on a stunning recent run with five podiums in six races, but it hasn’t been enough to stop Middlehurst pulling away and the 20 year old will be determined to score a maiden victory at Croft and begin to close the gap at the top of the standings.
Only two drivers other than Middlehurst have tasted victory so far this season, and one of those is his team-mate Jorge Cevallos. The Mexican sits third in the standings thanks to his success on the opening weekend at Donington Park and he’ll be looking to add to his tally to bridge the 21 point gap to Cook.
Two drivers hoping to carry momentum into Croft from strong performances last time out are Fortec Motorsport team-mates Weiron Tan and Martin Cao. Tan moved into the championship top four with a pair of podium finishes, while Cao took a career-best second place finish, with both drivers now targeting maiden series wins.
Aiming for an upturn in fortunes as the action resumes meanwhile will be fellow Fortec racer Sam MacLeod. The rookie emerged as a potential title contender with a podium at Donington and a win at Snetterton, however three retirements in the last four races have dropped him out of contention.
MacLeod and Fortec team-mate Wei Fung Thong will be hoping to challenge for the wins at Croft after gaining recent experience of the circuit. Both drivers entered the Formula Ford GB races at the circuit two weeks ago, with MacLeod impressing in particular with a best finish of fourth.
The grid will be boosted by the return of Cliff Dempsey Racing. The Irish outfit, who ran Scott Malvern for part of his title-winning campaign last season, will run a single car for Jesse Antilla, the Finn making his ‘slicks and wings’ debut after previously racing in Formula Ford.
Anttila will be joined on the grid by fellow Finn Atte Lehtonen. The 18 year old made his debut at Snetterton, and will now be returning to action with SWB Motorsport after missing the rounds at Thruxton.
Missing for the action meanwhile will be Diego Menchaca, the Mexican focusing on his BRDC Formula 4 campaign at Oulton Park, and Ivan Taranov, the Russian missing the meeting due to budgetary reasons, following a mixed first half to the season.
Two fifteen minute qualifying sessions take place on Saturday (6 June) at 10:55 and 12:40, followed by race one at 16:25. Races two and three are on Sunday (7 June) at 13:15 and 16:40.