DAVID EPTON -- 2006 SEASON REVIEW Returning to the Formula Renault UK Championship at the start of 2006 on the back of a highly successful season in Formula Palmer Audi, single-seater racing star David Epton certainly couldn't have predicted the...
DAVID EPTON -- 2006 SEASON REVIEW
Returning to the Formula Renault UK Championship at the start of 2006 on the back of a highly successful season in Formula Palmer Audi, single-seater racing star David Epton certainly couldn't have predicted the rollercoaster year he was about to embark on.
Although qualifying rarely delivered the kind of results the 25-year-old truly deserved, the races were a different prospect altogether. David was regularly one of the top-six fastest drivers and almost certainly the 'Overtaker of the Year' should such an award exist. He provided some fantastic overtaking and thrilling racing throughout the course of the year, exciting the huge crowds watching each of the season's race meetings.
Having tied on points at the top of the FPA Championship in 2005, David headed into this season's Formula Renault UK Championship confident of a good year but the Hampshire driver was unfortunately unable to take part in the opening two rounds.
His deal with Apotex Pharmaceuticals-backed Scorpio Motorsport did not fall into place until May, meaning he missed the first two races and his season only started in time for the second meeting of the year at Oulton Park.
Without any official pre-season testing under his belt, the Bombardier Learjet, Universal Weather & Aviation Inc and Jet-Air International Lebanon & Germany-supported star obviously arrived at the Cheshire venue on the back-foot compared to his rivals.
However, a weekend's best of 12th position during Round Four saw David immediately underline his racecraft and ability at the wheel of a Formula Renault, climbing a full six places from his starting position.
Although now living in Preston, Lancashire, David resided for many years in Hampshire and so a visit to Thruxton -- his former 'home' track -- promised great things. The Scorpio ace duly delivered too, qualifying a superb fourth on the grid for Round Six.
With Renault UK's special guest, President of the British Racing Drivers' Club and 1996 Formula One World Champion Damon Hill, looking on, David not only finished the race in fourth position, he also mounted a terrific fight-back into the top 12 during the fifth round when forced to recover from the back after being pitched into a spin on lap one.
The championship's annual visit to Scotland followed in mid-June for the seventh and eighth rounds of the season at Knockhill, the second of the weekend's races proving to be the most successful for David with a top-six finish in dreadful conditions. The result was all the more impressive considering he had never previously run at the circuit.
"Finishing in fourth place at Thruxton was an obvious high", reflected David on his 2006 campaign, "We were actually second fastest overall in that particular race, proving what we were capable of when everything came together for us.
"Although Knockhill was a terrible weekend in terms of the weather, finishing sixth in the second race was a good result and especially so considering it was the first time I had experienced the circuit."
Away from the track, David continued his work in accounting with Bae Systems and also appeared with his Scorpio Motorsport-run Formula Renault UK car at the 2006 Farnborough International Airshow on behalf of key sponsor Bombardier Learjet. But a return to race action followed with a visit to North Yorkshire's Croft Circuit in mid-July.
With 11th and 12th place finishes in the two Croft encounters, the first of two visits to Donington Park brought a top eight finish in Round 11 and an even better sixth-placed result in Round 12, a pair of truly excellent drives.
The Snetterton race meeting in August proved to be the nadir of his season though when a spin put him out of both races. So, David looked forward to the return to Donington in September where he was in contention for the prestigious Donington Park Racing Association Club (DPRAC) Cup.
Yet again his form at the Leicestershire venue was superb and having performed well on the National Circuit layout in June, David returned to the top six during the 15th round of the season on the full Grand Prix configuration in front of more than 90,000 spectators.
The penultimate race meeting of the championship saw the second visit of the year to Brands Hatch Indy Circuit but for David, of course, it would be his first competitive run of 2006 at the Kent venue having missed the first two rounds of the season in April.
Although eliminated from the first race through no fault of his own, David produced a sterling effort in Round 18 to finish inside the top 13, even though battling an ill-handling car which had only just been patched-up in time for the race by the hard-working Scorpio Motorsport mechanics due to damage sustained in the first encounter.
Silverstone National Circuit hosted the final two races of the season and having posted the third fastest time in official testing at the Northamptonshire venue in August, David went on to finish Round 19 in ninth place, climbing from 15th on the grid, and eighth position during Round 20 to seal 12th place in the final championship standings.
"It was always going to be a difficult year for me, coming into the championship having missed the first two rounds and missing all of the pre-season testing did blunt my campaign", said David, "We knew it would be a tall order to finish in the top six in the driver standings.
"Overall I'm pleased with the year though, our performances in the races were very strong and I was regularly among the top six fastest drivers in each race. Formula Renault UK is such a competitive series, one of the best in the world, and I'm delighted that, with the support of my sponsors, we were able to help bring Scorpio on as a top-four team this year."
With the Formula Renault UK chapter of his career concluded, David now plans to test a 425bhp World Series by Renault car with the aim of racing in the high-profile category in 2007 if the necessary sponsorship can be raised.
He added: "Bombardier, Universal and Jet-Air have been fantastic this season and we're hopeful we can find the necessary budget to progress to something like World Series by Renault next year. The time is right for us to move on to something different; competing on the European stage at such a high level is obviously very appealing."