A captivating 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship saw Scott Malvern overcome Josh Webster in an enthralling title battle.
2012 was the year the BARC series confirmed itself as the premier junior single-seater championship in the UK, with massive grids throughout the year, peaking at 32 on finale weekend. As well as quantity, the series was blessed with quality too, with the experienced Webster being joined by second year drivers David Wagner, Macaulay Walsh and Kieran Vernon, as well as highly-rated series debutants Malvern and Seb Morris.
It was Fortec Motorsport’s Morris who hit the ground running, belying his lack of experience to take the first five pole positions in a row at Snetterton and Rockingham. While he could only convert them into one win during the triple-header in Norfolk, he was able to utterly dominate the weekend at Rockingham, securing a double victory.
Also impressing during his first two meetings was Malvern, the 23 year old reigning Formula Ford champion leading the opening race at Snetterton until a mechanical problem dropped him back, before making amends with victory in race three. He followed this up with a strong weekend at Rockingham, taking a pair of second places.
Webster had a strong opening weekend, with a win and two seconds giving him the championship lead, however he went on to have a nightmare at Rockingham. A high-speed incident on the banking with series rookie Ovie Iroro in qualifying put him on the backfoot, with further problems and contact causing uncharacteristic thirteenth and twentieth place finishes.
The MGR Motorsport racer bounced back during the mid-season meetings though, taking a second and a first at Thruxton, before securing a dominant double win at Croft. The Thruxton win came in controversial fashion though, with Malvern looking set to make it a double on the south coast before Webster made contact with him, dropping Malvern to fifth. Malvern went on to secure fourth and second place finishes on his first ever trip to Croft, keeping him in front in the points battle.
Webster made it four wins in a row in the opening race at Donington, however he was only able to follow it up with fourth and sixth place finishes. Malvern on the other hand a third win of the season and a pair of second place, giving him a fourteen point lead heading into the final rounds.
While Malvern and Webster battled it out, retirements at Thruxton, Croft and Donington for Morris dropped the 16 year old out of title contention and briefly out of the championship top three. The Ginetta Ambassador was back on form in the Silverstone finale though, converting a double pole position into his fourth and fifth wins of the campaign, in the process cementing third in the final standings.
While Morris cruised away to the race wins, the focus was on the championship protagonists behind. Webster kept his title hopes alive in the first race, finishing second to Malvern’s third, however he saw his dreams ended mid-way through the final race when contact sent him to the back of the field.
This meant second place was enough to secure Malvern the championship, giving him a title in his first season in ‘slicks and wings’ racing and his second success in two seasons, following on from his domination of Formula Ford GB in 2011. For Webster, it marked a second season of disappointment, having also taken Dino Zamparelli to the final rounds last year before finishing runner-up.
Pushing Morris hard for third in the championship was Scotsman Wagner. Running with MGR Motorsport, Wagner was the only driver other than the top three to take a race win, his first ever win in the series coming at Donington Park, with a further three podiums and consistent top six finishes giving him fourth in the points.
Fighting his way through to take fifth overall was Vernon. After missing the opening rounds at Snetterton, the 2011 race-winner returned to the series from Rockingham onwards and was quick throughout, finishing every race in the top seven with a total of four podium finishes.
Rounding out the top six after a superb second season in the series was Walsh. After a part-campaign in 2011, the 17 year old returned for a full season with Scorpio Motorsport and kicked it off with a podium in the opening race, going on to take one more during a consistent season.
Alongside Webster and Wagner, the MGR Motorsport ranks were also home to two more front-runners, James Fletcher and Jake Dalton. Fletcher headed into the season off the back of a strong 2011 winter series debut and continued his fine form through the campaign, with three third place finishes helping him to seventh in the standings ahead of fellow rookie Dalton, the latter taking his only podium of the season on the opening weekend.
Another rookie who impressed was Chris Middlehurst, the reigning Formula Ford 1600 champion taking a double podium at Donington Park on his way to ninth in the championship. Completing the top ten was second year driver Ivan Taranov. The Russian ran for the majority of the season with Antel Motorsport, taking a number of top ten finishes, before switching to Scorpio for the final rounds and securing a seasons best fourth place in the process.
TCF’s Top Five Drivers Of 2012:
- Scott Malvern – Malvern headed into the season with a big reputation and certainly lived up to his billing. He overcame his lack of experience with the car and some of the tracks, as well as a mid-season change of teams, to deliver the championship title and further cement his status as one of the brightest racing talents in the UK.
- Seb Morris – Like Malvern, Morris has been incredibly impressive in his first BARC campaign. He stunned his rivals with five straight pole positions at the start of the season and ended the year with the most pole positions of anyone, and tied with the most race wins, proving his potential as a single-seater star of the future.
- Josh Webster – Webster ended the campaign as the most disappointed driver on the grid, having come agonisingly close to glory for a second season running. With his prior experience in the championship, nothing but the title would have pleased him and were it not for the Rockingham disaster, the title may well have been his.
- Kieran Vernon – Vernon returned to the series after nearly a year away and showed no signs of rustiness as he quickly got into the front-running pack. While he’ll be frustrated he did not add to his race win from 2011, four podiums showed his potential and if he’d have completed a full pre-season and the opening rounds, he’d have been a title contender.
- David Wagner – A front-runner from the opening weekend, Wagner ended the year with four podium finishes to his name. The Scotsman will be frustrated not to have picked up a couple more podium finishes and his maiden win earlier in the season, but he will go down in the history books as the only driver outside the top three to take a race victory.
Final 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Standings:
- Scott Malvern – 368 points
- Josh Webster – 335 points
- Seb Morris – 274 points
- David Wagner – 243 points
- Kieran Vernon – 236 points
- Macaulay Walsh – 214 points
- James Fletcher – 210 points
- Jake Dalton – 192 points
- Chris Middlehurst – 147 points
- Ivan Taranov – 142 points
- Diego Menchaca – 130 points
- Jorge Cevallos – 123 points
- Michael Epps – 112 points
- Hong Wei Cao – 100 points
- Jacob Nortoft – 87 points
- Tom Oliphant – 73 points
- Jack Dex – 71 points
- Sean Walkinshaw – 71 points
- Raoul Owens – 70 points
- Henrique Baptista – 51 points
- James Theodore – 42 points
- Matt Tiffin – 38 points
- Joe Ghanem – 36 points
- Oliver Sirrell – 35 points
- Marcus Allen – 31 points
- Laura Tillett – 24 points
- Henry Chart – 21 points
- Struan Moore – 21 points
- Shahan Sarkissian – 17 points
- Tommy Ostgaard – 7 points
- Jake Hughes – 7 points
- Matt Rao – 6 points
- Anton Spires – 6 points
- Ryan Cullen – 5 points
- Max Robinson – 3 points
- Falco Wauer – 0 points
- Ovie Iroro – 0 points
All photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography