The latest group of single seater stars are set to take to the grid as the 2011 Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship kicks off at Brands Hatch this weekend. After a classic in 2010, the series is shaping up for another great year with six or more drivers looking capable of putting together a title challenge.
Once again supporting the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, the only change for the series this year sees the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO) take over its organisation.
2010 saw Fortec Motorsport’s Tom Blomqvist take the title after a thrilling season long battle with Atech GP's Tamas Pal Kiss and Manor Competition pairing Lewis Williamson and Will Stevens. With those drivers now having left the series to take the next step up the motorsport ladder, there’s a new group of contenders all hoping to win the prestigious title and join a roll of honour including the likes of Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen and Lewis Hamilton.
Reigning Entrants champions Manor Competition once again host a strong line-up for the series and have two genuine title contenders in their ranks with Ollie Millroy and Alice Powell. 20 year old Millroy competed in the series last season, taking his maiden win at Snetterton on his way to sixth in the championship, while 18 year old Powell raced with Manor in the series in 2009, before dropping down to win its feeder the series, the Formula Renault BARC Championship last year. Both drivers will be hoping their experience in the Formula helps them form a title charge.
Leading the line-up for Fortec Motorsport is Alex Lynn. The 17 year old enjoyed his maiden season in the series last year, winning the Graduate Cup honours, before going on and taking three wins on his way to being crowned the Formula Renault Winter Series champion in November. He will be hoping to carry on the winning feeling and defend the driver's title for his team.
The Winter Series also provided a platform for two drivers to emerge who will be real contenders this season. Jack Hawksworth shocked everyone with his pace at Snetterton and Pembrey, securing four pole positions and converting these into two podium finishes, which he hopes will lead into a good season with Mark Burdett Motorsport, while Fortec's Oliver Rowland took a victory in the series and his strong performances impressed the Racing Steps Foundation, who are supporting him this year.
One to watch will be Cypriot driver Tio Ellinas, who moves into the series with the Atech Reid GP outfit after taking three wins and five more podiums in the 2010 UK Formula Ford series. The 19 year old has impressed with his pace in pre-season, recently setting the second quickest time overall at the official Formula Renault test at Oulton Park. He will be joined in the team by fellow series newcomer Oscar King. .
Completing the line up at Newark-based Manor, the most successful team in Formula Renault history, are two more potential race winners, Josh Hill and Jordan King. Like Ellinas, Hill graduates from Formula Ford where he was a consistent frontrunner, taking five wins on his way to fifth in the championship, while 16 year old King joins with a short but successful single seater career to date, getting a pole position and podium finish in the two Formula Palmer Audi races he has competed in.
One driver who was has just made it onto the grid is 19 year old Dan Wells, who joins with series newcomers Antel Motorsport. Wells looked set for the Racing Steps Foundation backing, but after losing out to Rowland, was left to find another drive. He eventually arranged a deal with Antel, who have regularly competed in the Formula Renault BARC series, and is looking to work his way up the grid over the year.
Another exciting youngster in the series who could impress is 16 year old Australian Mitchell Gilbert. Running with Fortec, he competed in the Winter Series and picked up a podium finish in the final round. Also set to compete for Fortec in selected rounds is American Felix Serralles, alongside his entry in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship.