Formula Renault BARC

Middlehurst Conquers Snetterton Rain With Opening Win

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Chris Middlehurst extended his lead at the top of the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship standings with his second win in the opening three races after a superb drive in horrendous wet conditions at Snetterton.

Middlehurst fought back after slipping to third early on, taking the lead at the halfway mark of the race and maintaining it superbly for the remainder of the race to take his fifth career podium in the series.

In qualifying earlier in the day, Middlehurst put his MGR Motorsport-prepared FR 2.0 on pole position, however a slow start for the championship leader saw him drop to third. Fellow front-row starter Joe Ghanem took the lead, while Jorge Cevallos passed Middlehurst and the stalled Sam MacLeod to take second, with McLeod dropping to the back of the field.

Mtech Lite’s Ghanem quickly built a second lead out front, with Cevallos finding his mirrors full of Middlehurst. His team-mates pressure ended up causing a mistake from the Mexican, with Cevallos dropping back to sixth on lap three.

Ghanem had extended his lead to over two seconds from Middlehurst, but this was slashed when the safety car came out to play at the start of lap six, after an excursion at Montreal for Scorpio Motorsport’s Henrique Baptista.

When racing restarted, Middlehurst was straight on Ghanem’s tail and after fending him off for a lap, Ghanem slipped behind on lap ten, with Middlehurst sliding down the inside on the brakes at the Montreal hairpin. Ghanem tried to fight back later in the lap, however a slight mistake at Chapman saw him clip the rear-wheel of Middlehurst’s car.

The contact led to front wing damage for Ghanem and it ultimately ended his challenge at the front. Jake Cook grabbed second from Ghanem at the Esses on the next lap, with Matias Galetto taking third at Coram on lap fourteen, having dispatched Hongwei Cao a few laps earlier.

The battling behind allowed Middlehurst to storm clear to take the win by over two seconds, with Cook taking his maiden podium in the series after a superb drive through from eighth on the grid, Galetto also picking up his first podium after an equally brilliant drive from eleventh.

Cao passed Ghanem on the penultimate lap for fourth, however the Chinese ace fell back to eleventh after a final lap excursion. Russian Ivan Taranov benefitted most, passing Cao and Ghanem on the final tour to finish fourth, with Ghanem just managing to take fifth after his wing finally detached itself completely from his car on the last lap, sending him onto the grass at Coram.

Cevallos finished sixth, with Weiron Tan taking seventh after a stunning drive through the field from twentieth on the grid, the Malaysian hoping to replicate that pace from pole position in the weekend’s next two races.

MGR’s Tom Oliphant and Matteo Ferrer were two more driver producing strong drives through the field to finish eighth and ninth, with opening lap troubles having dropped them to seventeenth and sixteenth respectively.

Having a frustrating race was MacLeod, the Fortec Motorsport star batting back up to twelfth after his stall at the start, before dropping back to eighteenth at the finish. Equally disappointed was Pietro Fittipaldi, the Brazilian running in the top eight for the first half of the race, before late troubles dropped him back to seventeenth.

Full race results 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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