Kieran Vernon was produced two of the drives of the weekend to secure two top five finishes on his return to the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship at Rockingham.
University student Vernon announced his return to the series in the week leading up to the event and with limited testing under his belt after nearly a year away from single-seaters, he was in for tough weekend in the hugely competitive series.
This particularly proved the case in qualifying, where rain saw him get his first ever true wet running in a FR 2.0 car, the two sessions producing mixed results. The first saw him go ninth quickest in a session blighted with red flags, however a mistake in the second saw him outbrake himself, ending his session early in the Tarzan gravel trap, leaving him seventeenth on the grid for the second race.
Vernon made immediate progress on the opening lap to gain two positions; however it came at a cost, with contact damaging his front wing. The damage didn't slow Vernon though and on lap three he was up to sixth. He quickly set about chasing down fifth place and was aided by the appearance of the safety car.
After a short interval, the racing began with Vernon right on the tail of Macaulay Walsh, with a slick move at Deene seeing him gain fifth, before a carbon copy move on Jake Dalton a lap later gave him fourth. Vernon looked to challenge for a podium, however with just three laps remaining the gap was too big, Vernon settling for a great fourth place.
From seventeenth on the grid, Vernon had a huge task to replicate that result in the second race, but the 22 year old nearly managed to. A great opening lap saw him gain five places to lie twelfth, before continuing to get through the compacted midfield to move into the top ten on lap six.
Vernon joined onto the back of a long train of cars battling over sixth position and soon began to pick them off one by one, getting past Trent Hindman and then Jack Dex to reach eighth on lap eleven.
On lap thirteen, contact ahead bunched up the group, with Vernon benefitting as he pulled a great move around the outside of Jake Dalton at Tarzan, before sliding past Macaulay Walsh at the next corner to take sixth. On the penultimate lap, Vernon got past Ivan Taranov for fifth and looked to get into fourth on the final lap. Vernon ended up having to settle for fifth, a sensational result from seventeenth on the grid, with the times showing he was the third fastest driver in the race.
Vernon said: “With 29 cars on the grid this year, I wasn't expecting too much and I didn't want to be too optimistic. I knew I'd be there or thereabouts, I've always jumped into things and been good.
“I could have had a better qualifying, but that was my doing really. It was good to put on a show and get back to the front. We had two great races today, which was really exciting for everyone watching.
“We've done really well to get on the pace so soon and it's good for Hillspeed as well, after a season that didn't quite go how they wanted last year. Hopefully, if I don't shoot myself in qualifying again, we can fight for podiums and race wins next time out at Thruxton.”