Dino Zamparelli came out on top in a hard fought battle to win the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship in the final race of the season at Silverstone. The Checkered Flag caught up with Dino just hours after his championship success to reflect on his superb season.
19 year old Zamparelli headed into 2011 off the back of a tough campaign in 2010, which saw him briefly race in Italian Formula Three, before being forced to sit on the sidelines due to budget constraints. Returning to the Formula Renault BARC series, in which he finished third overall in 2009, Zamparelli was instantly installed as championship favourite pre-season.
Zamparelli didn’t feel any pressure from this, but admits to being just a bit race rusty at the start of the season. It took four races for Dino to take his first podium of the year, a win at Brands Hatch, but once in the groove Zamparelli went on to take seven consecutive podium finishes at the end of the season, including three more wins, to take the championship glory by nine points from Josh Webster.
Zamparelli commented: “I didn’t really feel any pressure at the start of the season. Our main problem was that we had a year out last year and that was really bad for my development, because I was eighteen and starting to climb my way up. I got back in the car at the start of the year and it didn’t really feel natural, whereas in 2009 it felt comfortable.
“At the start of the year I had the speed, but didn’t combine all the mixture together, I didn’t combine the starts, the racing, the racecraft or anything like that. As the year wore on, I started to combine those and in the middle of the year we had three wins on the trot and a couple of podiums as well. That’s when I felt on top of my game and I feel everything this year has improved.
“Last year hampered me a lot and I almost had to start afresh, whereas the other guys like Josh Webster had two years on the run, so he was all fresh and ready to go at the start of the year. I think not racing makes a massive difference, more than we ever thought it would, as I was out of a car for eight months or something.”
BRDC Rising Star Zamparelli asserted his authority on the championship in the penultimate meeting of the year at Thruxton, the Antel Motorsport driver producing a perfect weekend at the high-speed Hampshire circuit. Qualifying saw him over half a second faster than his closest rival, with his dominance continuing in the races with two lights to flag wins, giving him a clear championship advantage for the first time in the season.
Zamparelli reflected: “It was a great weekend, two poles, two wins and two fastest laps. I’m the only driver who’s done that this year and it’s a great thing to do. It was good at that time too, as there was one round to go afterwards and I needed to put one hand on the title and send a signal to everyone that I was here to win.”
The Thruxton weekend gave Dino a nineteen point lead in the championship heading into the final rounds at Silverstone. A close penultimate encounter saw the championship battle go down to a tense final race, with Dino starting fifth and title rival Josh Webster, who went into the race just ten points behind, up in second. Slipping to sixth early on, Zamparelli produced a great late recovery drive to work his way up into third, ensuring the championship was his.
Zamparelli said: “It was hard to keep my head cool, but it all came naturally to me. Maximum attack with minimum risk was my philosophy for that race and there were a couple of moments when I went to the outside of [David] Wagner and I could have hung it out there, but I kept sensible and kept my nose clean. I wasn’t really worried about Webster, I could see him but I just wasn’t worried that much, as I knew if I finished third I’d win it and I came third after a tough race, a great way to win.
“This weekend it didn’t quite go to plan. I wanted two wins, but in a couple of areas we fell short. We didn’t win the battle, but we won the war and that’s the main thing in the end, we’ve come away with the championship.”
The Formula Renault success gives Zamparelli his second championship win in four years, adding to his 2008 Ginetta Junior Championship win, confirming his status as one of the brightest young talents in UK motorsport. The win is also big news for the Antel Motorsport team, the Birmingham-based outfit tasting their first championship success.
Zamparelli commented: “It’s great for the team Antel; they’re relatively new, only done around three years now. They put me together a car which was amazing, the whole package was great and I know it’s a clichÃ© but it’s true, I would not be here now without them. They did an amazing job all year and hopefully I’ve repaid them with some good driving this year.
“For the family and myself it’s great, and for the sponsors too. The sponsors came this weekend and were watching from the clubhouse, so saw some of my moves and hopefully I’ve proved to them that I can do this and all I need is a bit of backing to get there. I feel like today is a milestone in my career and its great.”
It’s not just the championship success that Zamparelli has to celebrate, with the Bristol-based racer also being recently chosen as a finalist for the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. Dino will go up against five other young racers for a prize fund that includes a McLaren F1 test and £100,000, with the nomination alone being a significant accolade for the teenager.
Zamparelli said: “I needed to prove to the BRDC and everyone just why they chose me and I hope this weekend I did that. Especially in the last race, I think I showed them that I can overtake, I can defend and that I can win, so I’ve got everything in my locker. It’s great to be nominated, it was always in the back of my mind that the award was there, but I wanted that to be a bonus. I didn’t want to finish second in the championship and then be nominated, as for me that would be a defeat in itself. It’s great to be involved and I want to go in and win the award.”
As well as focusing on the BRDC award and the great prize he could win with that, Zamparelli also has his eye on next year and is looking for another crack at Formula Three. Zamparelli concluded: “We’re looking for Formula Three. We’ve got nearly all the budget secured and it’s all looking good. We’re still open to options but that’s where we want to go. I think if you can win in Formula Three, you prove you can win in anything and they’ve got a lot of races, which is ultimately what you need. It’s a very good championship from what I’ve seen and that’s hopefully the way we’ll be heading.”