Ben Barnicoat was the star of the show in the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault ‘Autumn Cup’, taking two wins en-route to the event title at Rockingham.
After a dominant lights-to-flag success in the day’s opening race, Barnicoat took second behind Hongwei Cao in race two, before returning to the top step of the podium in race three to cap off a stunning car-racing debut.
After the unfortunate late withdrawal of MGR Motorsport’s Matteo Ferrer with a back injury, only a disappointing six cars took to the track in Corby for the one-day event.
The morning’s two qualifying sessions indicated Fortec were likely to continue their record of winning the last seven consecutive Formula Renault BARC races at the banked venue, with Barnicoat taking a clean sweep of the pole positions.
The hotly-rated karting graduate converted the pole into a dominant victory in the day’s opening race, benefitting from a battle for second to pull away and win by 6.5 seconds.
The fight behind saw Pietro Fittipaldi run second early on, successfully fending off the advances of Cao. That all changed when Alex Gill passed Cao though, the MGR racer quickly squeezing ahead of Fittipaldi on lap eight, holding second for the remainder of the race.
Problems for Fittipaldi meanwhile left him powerless to prevent Cao, Martin Kodric and then Yosuke Yamazaki from passing him soon after to complete the top five, the Brazilian eventually forced into retirement.
Things wouldn’t go all Barnicoat’s way in race two though, with his quick-starting Fortec team-mate Cao snatching the lead heading into the Deene hairpin for the first time. The Chinese racer built a 1.6 second lead at the end of the opening tour, with Barnicoat able to comfortably hold second from Gill and Fittipaldi.
Barnicoat matched the leaders pace throughout the race, and started to make inroads into his 1.3 second lead in the latter stages, but it was too little too late as Cao took the win by 0.4 seconds.
Gill lost third to Fittipaldi on lap two, but fought back two laps later to regain the place, going on to hold it for the remainder of the race. Fittipaldi eventually slipped to fifth behind Kodric, with Yamazaki completing the result.
Barnicoat was back to his best in race three though, once again leading from start to finish to wrap up the title.
Behind him, the battle for second went down to the final lap. Fittipaldi held the place for the majority of the race, fending off pressure from Cao early on. Late pace from Kodric though saw him pass Cao on lap twelve, before dispatching Fittipaldi on the final lap.
Fittipaldi held on to third, taking his best result of a tough day, with Cao left to settle for fourth. Gill took fifth meanwhile, fighting back after falling to the back of the field on lap one, with Yamazaki once again sixth.
“I’m really happy,” said champion Barnicoat. “The Racing Steps Foundation have given me everything I needed to make sure I was ready for this weekend. I’ve got great people around me and a very good car from Fortec, I was the end bit and I managed to string it all together.
“I think I did a good job and the team did an amazing job, so a massive thank you to Fortec and to the Racing Steps Foundation.”
Provisional Final 2013 Protyre Formula Renault ‘Autumn Cup’ Standings:
1. Ben Barnicoat – Fortec Motorsport – 96
2. Hongwei Cao – Fortec Motorsport – 79
3. Martin Kodric – Fortec Motorsport – 74
4. Alex Gill – MGR Motorsport – 73
5. Yosuke Yamazaki – Fortec Motorsport – 56
6. Pietro Fittipaldi – Jamun Racing – 45