Just two weeks after the main championship came to a thrilling conclusion at Silverstone, Protyre Formula Renault BARC action returns to the track with its four-round Winter Series.
A nineteen car grid will kick it off in support of the British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch this weekend, combining established series regulars with a group of talented rookies, with more cars also expected for the final rounds at Rockingham.
Heading up the entry, and the early favourite for the title, is Welshman Seb Morris. The 16 year old was a revelation in his debut BARC season, securing seven pole positions and five race wins during the year on his way to third in the championship and the winter series
Morris will be challenged by a pair of drivers running with new team Core Motorsport. Experienced Russian Ivan Taranov and the improving Michael Epps both took a seasons best fourth during the recent Silverstone Finale and will be looking for wins and podiums in the four races.
One driver who has tasted podium success in the series and will be looking for more is Chris Middlehurst. Running with family outfit Middlehurst Motorsport GTR, the former Formula Ford champion took a double podium at Donington Park and is looking for a maiden win in the Winter Series ahead of a 2013 title bid.
An outsider for the title is the returning Matt Mason, the 20 year old having achieved a race victory during his maiden BARC season in 2011, before switching to Intersteps this season. Mason, who finished runner-up, will be joined at MGR Motorsport by Swedish newcomer Gustav Malja, who makes his UK race debut after recently becoming vice-champion in the ADAC Formel Masters Championship.
Mason isn’t the only driver making the move from Intersteps, with Cameron Twynham and Jack Aitken also making the step-up. Twynham is running with series regulars SWB Motorsport, while Aitken joins Morris in a four-car Fortec Motorsport squad, with main season rookies Hong Wei Cao and Laura Tillett also competing.
MTECH Lite are running two cars with main series returnees Joe Ghanem and Sean Walkinshaw, with Hillspeed are retaining Matt Rao, who debuted with the team at Silverstone, to run alongside category rookie George Gamble, who makes a return to track action after a six-month lay off.
The impressive Matthew Brabham returns with Cliff Dempsey Racing, the Team USA Scholarship winner having impressed with a top six finish on his debut at Silverstone, the American joined by Australian newcomer Olly Rae.
Completing the line-up is Anton Spires with new squad Kingdom Motorsport, Ryan Cullen with Cullen Motorsport, and Formula Ford graduate Luke Williams with Jamun Racing, marking the team’s official debut in the series.
“Achieving a grid of 20 cars for the Winter Series is absolutely fantastic and I’d like to take this chance to thank our teams for such hard work over the past couple of weeks,” said championship promoter Simon North. “They haven’t had a huge amount of time to agree deals with drivers since the conclusion of the main championship, so to have 19 on the grid at Brands Hatch this weekend really is testament once again to the strength of the series and the great value it offers. We’re delighted to be supporting the British Touring Car Championship again and looking forward to two fantastic races on the GP track.”