Jake Dennis was the star of the show during the opening rounds of the 2012 Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, the Brit leading the way for Fortec Motorsport with three podiums in three races, including a maiden victory, giving him the early championship lead.
Dennis and team-mates Josh Hill, Dan de Zille and Shahaan Engineer joined the NEC series after the cancellation of the Formula Renault UK Championship and headed into the opening rounds hoping to get their seasons off to a strong start. The quartet was joined in Germany by Fortec's Formula Renault Eurocup drivers Ed Jones and Mikko Pakari.
In a wet qualifying that was blighted with red flags, the opening session saw Hill lead the way with seventh on the grid for the opening race, with Dennis eighth, Engineer thirteenth, Jones fourteenth, Pakari seventeenth and de Zille 30th in the near forty car field.
The second session saw an improvement for the team, with Dennis storming to second on the grid for race two with Engineer third. Hill was left in eighth, de Zille got up to twelfth, with Jones and Pakari 20th and 21st.
A dramatic opening race saw Hill move to up to fifth early on, however his race was over on lap five when contact from a rival forced him out with damage. Benefitting from his team-mate's misfortune was Dennis, who muscled his way through the mayhem to move into third, which he held for a maiden Formula Renault podium.
Engineer made great early progress to quickly move into the top ten, before gaining a couple more places late on to finish eighth. 25 year old De Zille enjoyed a strong race to move from 30th to seventeenth, while Eurocup runners Jones and Pakari both picked up front wing damage on the opening lap, forcing them to pit. Pakari finished towards the back of the field a lap down, while Jones encountered more problems to finish three laps down.
A fantastic start to the second race for Dennis saw him take the early lead and the Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver led throughout, successfully overcoming a safety car period on route to a sensational win.
Dennis was joined on the podium by Hill, who made a great opening to the race to move into third on lap two, before holding onto it throughout to take a maiden series podium. For Engineer meanwhile, a disappointing getaway saw him drop to tenth at the start, before he fought back to take eighth place once again.
De Zille ran well in twelfth through most the race until a late incident caused him damage, dropping him to a 28th place finish, a lap down. Also enduring tricky races were Pakari, who overcame a gear-related issue to finish sixteenth, and Jones, who had to once again pit early on with front-wing damage, ending the race a frustrating 25th.
Dennis continued his excellent weekend in the final race, which proved to be a tough one for Daventry-based Fortec. Dennis ran fourth early on, however the race dynamic changed dramatically mid-race when the heavens opened, forcing the race to be halted so everyone could put wet tyres on.
Dennis enjoyed a measured race from the restart and worked his way through to take second place and cap off a stunning weekend, being the only driver to take podiums in all three races, giving him the early championship lead.
Team-mate Engineer endured another disappointing race, getting knocked into a spin and out of the race early on, while de Zille lasted less, contact on the opening lap ending his race. Hill made incredible progress early on, getting up from 38th to 20th, however bad luck befell him when his car refused to start for the wet re-start. By the time he got it going, he was a lap down and finished towards the back of the field.
Pakari and Jones both coped well with the tough wet conditions, young Finn Pakari storming from 31st to a superb eighth place finish in only his third ever car race, while Jones took thirteenth, his best result of the weekend.
Summing up his incredible weekend, Dennis said: “It was a really good opening weekend for me, particularly given the challenging conditions as the track was really slippery. It’s great to be leading the Championship after the first weekend but it’s a long season so I’m not thinking too much about that yet – I’m just taking each race as it comes.”