EPTON EXCELS AT THRUXTON WITH SEASON BEST RESULT David Epton enjoyed a richly rewarding return to his former home circuit, Thruxton in Hampshire, over the weekend after taking a season's best result of fourth position during round six of the...
EPTON EXCELS AT THRUXTON WITH SEASON BEST RESULT
David Epton enjoyed a richly rewarding return to his former home circuit, Thruxton in Hampshire, over the weekend after taking a season's best result of fourth position during round six of the 2006 Formula Renault UK Championship.
The 25-year-old Scorpio Motorsport ace, who currently resides in Preston, headed into Saturday's pair of qualifying sessions for rounds five and six in confident mood having set the fourth fastest time in Friday's pre-event official test session.
During what would prove to be a difficult opening qualifying period for the Scorpio team as a whole, the Bombardier and Universal Aviation-backed star wasn't able to find the clear track he needed to set an ultra-quick lap time and ended the session with the 13th fastest time, still only eight 10ths of a second adrift of the pole position time.
Round six qualifying, however, was a different story altogether for David as he scorched around the 2.35-mile circuit with a fastest lap of 1m 11.404 seconds (118.78mph) to take fourth position on the grid for Sunday's second race -- a terrific achievement.
The reigning Formula Palmer Audi Vice-Champion went into Sunday's two races confident of a brace of very good results but at the start of round five it did seem as though David's promising return to Thruxton may be undone after he was pitched into a spin at the complex on the opening lap.
What followed was one of the best recovery drives of the season, David showing superb pace to climb through the order from the back of the field to take a richly deserved 12th place at the chequered flag, setting the sixth fastest race lap in the process.
By lap three, the Scorpio ace had made his way back inside the top 20 and just a couple of laps later his rapid recovery saw him embroiled in an entertaining four-way dice with team-mate Will Bratt, Duncan Tappy and Pippa Mann.
After switching positions back and forth for several tours of the circuit, the order was determined on lap 15 after David had relegated fellow Scorpio ace Bratt and Mann to take 12th position and nine very hard earned championship points.
With warm conditions remaining for round six, David made the most of his starting position on the second row of the grid to get away cleanly behind the top three. Rival Cheng Cong Fu had made a great start from fifth position, however, and challenged strongly as the cars went into the complex for the first time.
David wouldn't be denied his hold on fourth place and while a Safety Car period on lap two threatened to give Cheng another opportunity to attack at the re-start, David was more than prepared and rather than fall into the clutches of the Chinese driver he began to close on Sam Bird and Sebastian Hohenthal.
As the Fortec Motorsport team-mates battled over second position, David continued to lap with consistently quick times and was soon within striking distance of a possible podium finish. Unfortunately, David's pressure couldn't quite create an overtaking opportunity and he crossed the line on lap 17 just a second adrift of third-placed Bird.
Speaking after his best result since his return to Formula Renault UK at Oulton Park just three weeks ago, David said: "I was hoping Bird and Hohenthal may take each other out, it was looking ominous a few times but the fact they're team-mates meant there wasn't much chance of that happening.
"In some ways fourth place is the worst place to finish as you're so close to being on the podium but we've shown we have the pace and I am delighted with the result. We were quick in testing, qualifying and both races -- we've genuinely had the pace all weekend.
"Once you get this far up the order, just a 10th of a second here and there counts for everything so I'm very happy to have finished fourth and looking forward to Knockhill now. I've never been there before so it will be a completely new challenge."
David added: "We've proven at different circuits our cars are good now, either high speed stuff or low speed, so I think we can be quite confident for Knockhill. We've got a good package now, I'm back into the feel of things despite my lack of mileage this year compared to the others and so I'm hoping for a couple of top six finishes in Scotland."
A further highpoint of the weekend for David was the opportunity to meet 1996 Formula One World Champion, and recently elected President of the British Racing Driver's Club, Damon Hill, who was Renault Sport UK's guest of honour at Thruxton (image attached).
Both of the Thruxton races, which were broadcast live on Motors TV, will be replayed in full on Tuesday, 6th June, at 08.30. The station is available via channel 413 of the Sky Digital platform and through cable provider NTL on channel 173.
Rounds seven and eight of the season will take place at Knockhill Circuit, near Dunfermline in Fife, on 17th/18th June with David 14th overall in the championship standings after just four competitive outings in the 2006 series.