Chris takes an early Championship lead

Chris took an early championship this weekend in the Midlands

Chris takes an early Championship lead

The winter was always going to be long after such a strong finish to the 2012 BARC Formula Renault series for Chris.  The team re-grouped over the break and embarked on a full winter testing program in partnership with MGR Motorsport.  The season opener at Donington proved that preparation in such a close fought championship is paramount.  In what has been described as ‘probably one of the best ever Formula Renault Races to take place on UK soil’, Chris excelled being central in both races claiming 1st in Race 1 and 2nd in Race 2.

Racing to Victory

Outstanding wheel-to-wheel action of the highest order was the hallmark of the opening two rounds of the 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship at Donington Park today, Sunday, 14th April, with Chris Middlehurst (St. Helens) and Mexico’s Jorge Cevallos both becoming first time winners.

Victory in race one and an unbelievably close second place in round two – a mere 0.069 seconds behind MGR Motorsport team-mate Cevallos – confirmed Middlehurst’s status as a true title contender, the Briton departing Leicestershire with a very healthy championship lead of 20 points.

“We had a few podiums last year but I’m delighted to take the first win, it’s a great feeling”, said Middlehurst, “I didn’t get the best of starts but we came through, passed the others and the car was working really well. Race two was fantastic as well – an MGR Motorsport one-two, brilliant.” commented Chris at the end of a successful day at Donington.

 

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While both races at the 1.98-mile National Circuit delivered fantastic action, round two was the highlight and undoubtedly one of the best ever Formula Renault races to take place on UK soil with any one of five drivers in with a chance of the win during the final laps.

Protyre Formula Renault rookie Sam MacLeod (Cambridge) started on pole position after a superb performance during his maiden qualifying session earlier in the day, locking out the top spot on the grid for both races with laps of 1m08.842 seconds (103.49mph) and 1m08.978 seconds (103.28mph).

It was Cevallos though, rocketing through from third on the grid, who took the lead as MacLeod just fended off Fortec Motorsports’ team-mate Weiron Tan. Jake Cook (Rotherham), meanwhile, moved up from seventh into the battle for fourth place with MTECH Lite’s Joe Ghanem and Middlehurst.

MacLeod was elbowed back to the bottom of the top six, which elevated Ghanem into third, and the Lebanese driver then traded the position for a couple of laps with Hillspeed’s Cook. Pressure from Middlehurst and the advancing Scorpio Motorsport car of Ivan Taranov (Oxford) meant Cook had to focus more on his mirrors and, on lap six, Middlehurst and Taranov both managed to move through.

Into lap eight, just 0.083 seconds split Cevallos from new second placed man Ghanem but the latter ran slightly wide at the exit of Redgate to allow Tan back through. At McLeans though, on the very same lap, the Malaysian ended his race in the gravel when he lost the rear of the car.

As Cevallos fended off the ever-present Ghanem, Middlehurst closed in and Taranov and Cook also began to reel in the lead group. As the top five closed up yet further, Cevallos and Ghanem delayed each other on lap 12 at the Fogarty Esses which gave Middlehurst the chance to attack.

Running three abreast into Redgate, the order remained unchanged until Middlehurst grabbed second at the Old Hairpin and Ghanem was shuffled back to fifth. As the lead pair broke away there was nothing to split them but Cevallos just held off his rival by a fraction on the line.

In round one, MacLeod made a faultless start to lead while Cevallos sliced his way through from fifth to second by the time the leaders rounded Redgate. Just behind, though, a multi-car tangle in the mid-pack resulted in Taranov becoming stranded in the middle of the track.

Following the required Safety Car period racing resumed on lap four, just as light rain began to fall, with MacLeod leading the train but with Ghanem tucked right under his rear wing – Cevallos having fallen back following a moment before the re-start.

Ghanem grabbed the lead on the inside at Redgate and two laps later MacLeod slipped further back to third when Middlehurst shot past into Craner Curves after a great run through Hollywood. Soon enough, it was four for the lead with Tan having closed-up on the top three.

Middlehurst punched in the fastest lap of the race on lap 11 and was all over the back of Ghanem who soaked up the pressure superbly. On lap 15 though, Middlehurst produced a sensational pass up the inside into Redgate with just enough room to squeeze past for the lead.

Into the final lap, Middlehurst, Ghanem and MacLeod ran nose-to-tail and the pole-sitter managed to get excellent drive out of McLeans to challenge Ghanem for second. Able to grab the inside line for Coppice, MacLeod went through as the Lebanese driver unfortunately slid wide into the gravel which enabled Tan to steal third spot on the podium as Middlehurst wrapped-up his win.

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Next on the calendar for Protyre Formula Renault will be the first of the season’s ‘triple header’ race meetings, with rounds three, four and five of the campaign taking place at Snetterton 200 Circuit over the weekend 11th/12th May. Before then, the championship competitors will have an officially timed test at the Norfolk track on Wednesday, 24th April.

Provisional 2013 Protyre Formula Renault Championship Standings (after Rd2):

1st Chris Middlehurst, 62pts;

2nd Jorge Cevallos & Joe Ghanem, 42pts

4th Sam MacLeod & Matteo Ferrer, 36pts

6th Hong Wei Cao, 34pts

Written by Gary Finney at 06:30
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