Seb Morris eased to victory in Round Four of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship at Rockingham, the Fortec Motorsport driver leading from lights to flag en route to his second win of the season.
A dominant display in wet qualifying gave Morris pole position for the dry race and a good getaway saw him lead around the opening bend. Fellow front-row starter Scott Malvern slotted into second, while a superb getaway from the third row saw James Fletcher storm down the inside of his MGR Motorsport team-mate Jake Dalton to take third, Dalton just holding off Martin Cao into Deene hairpin for fourth.
With a bumper grid of 28 cars battling it out, early contact was inevitable as they negotiated the first few laps. A number of drivers suffered front wing damage, including Antel Motorsport's Henry Chart who was forced to pit for a new nosecone. Also losing out early on was Chris Middlehurst, contact with Kieran Vernon leading to a puncture. Middlehurst pitted for a new tyre and returned to the action, but was back in the pits soon after retiring, a disappointing conclusion after starting from a strong fifth.
At the front, Morris immediately set about building a gap from Malvern, with the front four breaking off from the pack. Cao was quickly bumped down a few places from fifth, with Macaulay Walsh and then series returnee Vernon finding their way past on lap two, before David Wagner got through with a late dive into Tarzan. .
As Morris pulled a gap at the front, his championship rival and series leader heading into the weekend Josh Webster was looking to work his way through the field after a disastrous qualifying session. The 2011 series vice-champion started sixteenth and was quickly onto the edge of the top ten, catching onto the rear of the battle for eighth between Cao, Ivan Taranov and Jacob Nortoft.
Morris' advantage at the front was lost on lap six though when the safety car appeared to allow the safe removal of debris from the pit straight. This put Malvern right back on his tail at the restart, however a textbook getaway from Morris saw him get a clear run into the first bend and get a break again.
Fletcher ran a comfortable third, the MGR Motorsport driver having begun to close on Malvern before the safety car, while a four way battled for fourth emerged as Dalton looked to fend off Walsh, Vernon and Wagner.
Vernon was the first to make a move, getting past Walsh at Deene on lap twelve, despite suffering from front wing damage sustained early on from his contact with Middlehurst. The Hillspeed driver made the same move on Dalton a lap later for fourth, with Dalton going on to lose places to Walsh and Wagner at the same corner on the next two laps.
Ahead, Morris was beginning to get caught by Malvern; however the reigning Formula Ford Champion wasn't quite able to make a move on the reigning Ginetta Junior champion, allowing Morris to cross the line for his second win in the first four races of his maiden season.
Malvern took second, setting the race's fastest lap in the process, while finishing third for his maiden Formula Renault BARC podium was Fletcher. Vernon took a strong fourth on his return to the series ahead of Walsh, Wagner and Dalton.
Behind, the battle continued to rage for eighth over the final few laps, with Cao taking the place from Nortoft after Taranov and Webster dropped back late on with front wing damage. Webster took thirteenth behind Diego Menchaca, Trent Hindman and Raoul Owens, with Taranov dropping to eighteenth.
Talking to TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk, race-winner Morris said: “The safety car was frustrating as we'd built a pretty big gap in front and I was really consistent. After that, I got a mega first lap, my fastest of the race, but then the tyres immediately over-heated, because I'd pushed quite hard. After that we were really struggling, but I managed to keep a smaller gap and get the win, so it was a perfect race.”
Malvern commented: “Second's a good result. We're lacking some pace at the start of the race, which is probably down to tyre pressures or something like that. We got second though and set the fastest lap, so Seb's only got a couple of points or so off me, so it's okay for the championship, but just frustrating that we're not able to challenge for the win at the moment.”
Fletcher added: “The start was brilliant, I managed to get the tyres warm in the rear and got the perfect revs. Dalton my team-mate was kind, he didn't squeeze me out too much, so I was appreciative of that. I got into third and stayed there, a podium's great and hopefully the first of many.”
Full results can be found here: http://tsl-timing.com/barc/2012/122021bfr.pdf