Formula Renault BARC

Middlehurst Wins Dramatic Season Opener

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Chris Middlehurst kicked off the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship in style with victory in an action-packed Round One at Donington Park.

At the scene of his first series podium last year, the 18 year old overcame long-time race-leader Joe Ghanem to take his maiden victory in the championship.

A mistake on the final lap for Ghanem meanwhile dropped him to fourth, with Fortec Motorsport pairing Sam McLeod and Weiron Tan completing the podium.

“We didn’t have the best of starts but we kept in touch and managed to make some moves stick to take the win,” Middlehurst told “It’s very important to start the season this way, but our main focus is to keep our nose clean and keep consistent, everyone wants to win races but to take the title, we’ll need to keep scoring points and taking podiums.”

McLeod started the race from pole and led into an early safety car period, caused by an opening lap collision on the run to Redgate between Jake Cook, Ivan Taranov and Diego Menchaca.

While Cook was able to continue with some front wing damage, Menchaca and Taranov retired on the spot, compounding the misery for Scorpio Motorsport, with Taranov’s team-mate Henrique Baptista being forced to sit out the meeting.

At the restart McLeod was caught napping, with Ghanem forcing his way past into the lead at Redgate. The Lebanese racer went on to lead the main bulk of the race in tricky conditions as light rain fell, but with three laps to go, Middlehurst made some strong pressure count with a great move into Redgate.

Ghanem stayed in touch and tried a move on the final lap into Coppice, but it only led to him running wide, dropping him to fourth and giving Middlehurst a clear run to the line to secure the BRDC Rising Star victory in his first race with new team MGR Motorsport.

MacLeod completed a stunning car-racing debut in second, with Caterham F1 protégé Tan recovering well from a brief off-track excursion to complete the podium on his UK racing debut.

Behind a frustrated Ghanem, Italian Matteo Ferrer and Argentinian Matias Galetto rounded out the top six on their Formula Renault debuts, while taking seventh after an impressive drive was Hongwei Cao, the Fortec driver having started from seventeenth on the grid after an early off in qualifying.

Matthew Rao took eighth, with Mtech Lite pair Shahan Sarkissian and Edward Brand completing the top ten. A disappointed eleventh was Jorge Cevallos, the Mexican having got up to second on the opening lap, before an incident behind the safety car lost him part of his front wing and dropped him to the back of the pack, with Cook completing the finishers in twelfth after pitting to have his wing fixed.

Joining Menchaca and Taranov on the retirement list after incidents of their own were Tom Oliphant, Pietro Fittipaldi and Wei Fung Thong.

The full race result can be found here:

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Simon provides coverage of the support championships for the BTCC, having been a fixture in the TOCA paddock for over six years.
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