For Chris Middlehurst, Sunday 11th August 2013 will be a date etched in his memory forever as the day he became the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Champion. A treble podium on the penultimate meeting of the season secured him the coveted drivers’ title a weekend early, the culmination of an incredible season for the 18 year old.
The Checkered Flag caught up with Middlehurst shortly after he sealed the title to discuss his sensational charge to the championship and his plans for the future.
Middlehurst’s title challenge started back in April, with the opening rounds of the season at Donington Park. After a strong debut season in 2012, and a positive testing programme over the winter months, the MSA Academy member hit the ground running in Leicestershire, taking the first race win of the season, before adding a further victory and a second place to give himself the championship lead he would never relinquish.
Another double at Snetterton was followed by his standout performance of the season at Thruxton, the BRDC Rising Star dominating the meeting to top every session over the weekend. The three race wins really stamped his authority on the championship, the St Helens-based racer leaving Hampshire with a 96 point championship lead.
“Thruxton was without doubt my favourite weekend of the year,” said Middlehurst. “To win all three, with three pole positions and two fastest laps, was great and all credit to the team, the car was set-up perfectly that weekend and the high-speed nature of the circuit really suited me well.”
The last two meetings has seen Weiron Tan and Fortec Motorsport on top, the Malaysian taking five wins a row. Middlehurst was never far behind though, with his incredibly consistent campaign producing thirteen podiums in fourteen races, meaning his extensive points advantage was never truly under threat.
“At the start of the season, the aim was to keep winning, winning, winning, and then start thinking about the points later on,” explained Middlehurst. “Speaking to people, I’ve always been told that you don’t need to win all the races to win the title and I’ve listened to them, which has helped me remain calm on track and just focus on finishing and picking up podiums.”
The main change for Middlehurst heading into the season was his move to MGR Motorsport, the 2011 National Formula Ford 1600 champion having run his own car last season with support from Cliff Dempsey Racing – a move Middlehurst feels was the key to his success.
“It’s made all the difference this season, without MGR I don’t think I’d even be on the podium let alone champion,” Middlehurst enthused. “Mark [Godwin] and everyone in the team has put in huge effort all season, they’ve done a great job and I’d like to thank them for that, and my Dad too, without him I wouldn’t be racing.”
While there are still two races of the season still to go, at Silverstone in September in support of the BTCC, thoughts have naturally turned to next season, with Middlehurst holding aspirations to race Formula Renault in Europe.
“It’s all down to budget really,” explained Middlehurst. “We’d definitely like to step up to the NEC/Eurocup, but at the moment we’ll need some sponsors to come on board to get there. There’s a few things possibly in the pipeline though and we’re looking at different options, so it’s looking good but nothing’s confirmed yet.”