CERTINA Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship regular Dan Wells enjoyed his strongest weekend of the 2011 campaign in the latest rounds of the series at Rockingham, the Atech Reid GP driver qualifying a great fourth and converting it into a fourth place finish, his best result of the season so far.
Wells headed into Rockingham in positive mood, though suffered a tough start to the weekend in Friday practice. With the team Wells was with earlier in the season putting Dan ahead of his tyre allocation for the season, compared to his current outfit Atech, Wells doesn't have the tyres remaining to run similar to his rivals during practice for the rest of the season. This left Wells running on a mis-match of tyres during practice at Rockingham, leaving him bottom of the timesheets all day.
Putting that behind him, Wells headed into qualifying and on new rubber was able to show his true pace, qualifying a superb fourth for the opening race, just 0.213s off pole, before looking set for a similar race in qualifying two, before a small mistake on his final lap left him tenth in a very close grid, only 0.191s adrift of a top five start.
Salisbury-based Wells commented: “On Friday we were last in both the sessions, but we turned up Saturday morning and with everyone on new tyres, all the same, qualifying was really positive. The car was mint, the team have done a fantastic job and my best lap was looking good for pole, but I caught [Alex] Walker, which would have capped a remarkable transformation from twelfth to first overnight, but it was still a great session.
“Qualifying two, I was quickest in sector two but didn't put the whole lap together, meaning in a grid as close as this, whereas I should have been fourth or fifth, we ended up in tenth. It's still been a big step forward this weekend.”
Starting fourth for the opening race, Wells knew he could challenge for a maiden Formula RenaultUKpodium during the race. As it turned out, with team-mate and championship contender Tio Ellinas ahead of him, Wells was unable to find a way past, leaving him to settle for fourth place, a season's best finish in itself.
Wells reflected: “Overnight I knew I could get a podium or win the race depending on the first corner. I had the best start out of the front four and got a really good run behind Tio [Ellinas] and [Oliver] Rowland. I couldn't do anything into the braking zone this time but got a good cut back on Tio but it wasn't quite enough, and I didn't really want to thank the team for all their hard work by taking both of us off! It was close, but it was fourth place and the pace was good, we were very quick.”
The second race proved to be more of a challenge for Wells. The 20 year old making a trademark blistering start to gain some places, but lost them again after being shuffled out at Deene. After switching places on the opening lap, Wells had to settle for tenth and with a set up gamble not working, was unable to make any more progress up the field, ending up tenth.
Wells recalled: “I got a really good start again and got a good run behind [Josh] Hill and [Oscar] King. Hill then run up the back of King, so I had to back out the throttle, which allowed a couple straight past me. I got one back into three and another into four, but because I went deep, it compromised me up the hill and they got back past, putting be back in tenth. From then I just had trouble with the car, I made a decision with set up before the race and it didn't pay off unfortunately.”
Despite the second race disappointment, Wells comes away from Rockingham in positive mood and heads into the final four races of the season at Brands Hatch and Silverstone with real belief that a podium finish is possible, a perfect way to cap off a tricky maiden Formula Renault UK season.
Wells concluded: “It's been a positive weekend overall, it was a disappointing second race but I'm not downhearted. Given the performance we've shown this weekend, a podium before the end of the season will happen. Brands Hatch GP is where I made my debut in Formula Ford 1600 and I put it on class pole, so it's a good track for me, as is Silverstone National, so we're going to be rapid for the end of the year and I'm targeting podiums.