TITLE RACE TOO CLOSE TO CALL AFTER CALADO'S SILVERSTONE DOUBLE Fortec Motorsport's James Calado (Worcester) produced a faultless performance during rounds 15 and 16 of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship at Silverstone National...
TITLE RACE TOO CLOSE TO CALL AFTER CALADO'S SILVERSTONE DOUBLE
Fortec Motorsport's James Calado (Worcester) produced a faultless performance during rounds 15 and 16 of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship at Silverstone National circuit on August 29th/30th to secure a double win and maximum championship points. The 20-year-old backed by the Racing Steps Foundation claimed two lights-to-flag victories together with two Michelin pole-positions and two NGK fastest laps to take a clean sweep of the points at the 1.64-mile Northamptonshire circuit.
Team-mate Oli Webb (Knutsford) endured a mixed weekend by his standards claiming just one podium in round 15 (second) to go level on points in the drivers' standings with Manor Competition's Dean Smith (Wolverhampton) with only four rounds remaining. 2007 Vice Champion Smith secured second place in round 16 -- shown live on ITV4 -- while a consistent Dean Stoneman (Southampton) claimed two third places over the action-packed weekend in his Alpine Motorsport backed car.
In the Graduate Cup, CRS Racing's Harry Tincknell (Exeter) took the honours in both races moving the 17-year-old rookie 28-points clear of his nearest Graduate rival.
Just eight points now separate the top four drivers vying for the title crown with dropped scores, in which competitors discard their two worst scores from the 20 rounds run, meaning the championship looks set to go right to the wire.
Calado clean sweep....
Watched by a packed Silverstone crowd, and live on ITV4, round 16 saw Fortec Motorsport dominate the front row with Calado as pole-sitter with team-mate Webb alongside him. Graduate Cup driver Tincknell lined up on row two as did title hopeful Smith who could only manage a best of fourth during Saturday's qualifying session which saw all but one of the field lapping under the circuit record (54.980s). Newcomer Euan Hankey (Somerset), replacing the injured Matias Lane, also impressed on his first outing in his CRS Racing car with sixth on the grid.
Despite earlier rain, all the drivers had elected to start the race on full slicks hoping that the track would continue to dry out.
As the lights went out for the start of the 22-lap race, Calado took full advantage of his pole position leading the field into Copse closley followed by Tincknell and Smith. A poor start by Webb saw him drop to fifth by the end of lap one just ahead of CRS Racing's Josh Scott (Milton Keynes) and 22-year-old Hankey.
The early stages of the race saw Calado quickly establish his authority out in front while behind him Smith had been able to pass Tincknell at Luffield to move into second. Webb's race meanwhile appeared to be going from bad to worse after contact with Stoneman at Brooklands dropped him further down the order.
In the battle for the top five team-mates Scott and Hankey were racing hard while Hitech Junior's Tama's Pa'l Kiss (Silverstone) was enjoying a good run in seventh. The first few laps also saw Stoneman slip by Tincknell to move into a podium finish producing a three-car train of CRS drivers.
Out in front Calado -- racing on his local circuit -- was looking in control setting fastest lap after fastest lap as the track continued to dry out and edging away from Smith. As Calado reached half distance, team-mate Webb was beginning to claw his way back through the field lying in eighth position.
As the top three drivers began to spread out, the closest battle lay behind with the three-car train of Tincknell, Scott and Hankey running nose-to-tail. Hankey, who'd looked impressive all weekend, eventually found a way passed Scott around the outside of Brooklands to move into fifth and turn his attention to the Exeter-born Tincknell.
With two laps to go there was no change at the front with Calado continuing to push and setting the fastest lap of the race a lap later. By the time he exited Woodcote for the last time the Worcester racer had a margin of more than six seconds, crossing the line much to the delight of himself and his team-mates who had gathered by the pit wall. Smith finished second with Stoneman in third. Tincknell crossed the line fourth and the leading Graduate Cup driver although the Graduate fastest lap honours went to RS Racing's Ryan Singleton (Llanfairfechan). Hankey -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day -- rounded off the top five and an impressive weekend especially given it's been more than a year since he was last behind the wheel of a single-seater.
The start grid for Sunday's earlier race (round 15) was also led by Fortec Motorsport with the top three spots shared between team-mates Calado, Blomstedt, his best qualifying performance so far this season, and Webb.
As the lights went out, it was Calado who made the best start followed by Webb to go one-two into Copse with Stoneman moving into third. Despite starting on the front-row, Blomstedt wasn't able to capitalise on his grid position dropping down the order by the end of the first lap.
After the opening few laps it was Calado from Webb followed by Stoneman and then a great battle for fourth and fifth places between Tincknell and Smith with the two going side-by-side on more than one occasion.
In the midfield, Graduate Cup racer Alpine Motorsport's Isa Yousif (Southampton) had been able to make up an impressive five places to move into sixth -- his best position of 2009 -- with Hankey also holding his ground in ninth.
Up front, Calado was looking strong while Webb tried hard to get close enough to mount a challenge, leaving his braking later and later. Behind, Tincknell was still working hard to keep Smith in his mirrors and allowing Yousif to catch and form a three-car train with Williamson just behind in seventh.
As the race progressed, Calado responded to the increasing pressure from Webb by setting the NGK fastest lap with a time of 54.386s -- under Alexander Sim's previous lap record (2008) for the National circuit.
With just a handful of laps remaining, Webb made one final push on Calado -- who was later awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day -- but was unable to get close enough to his car leaving Calado to start his 22nd and final lap with a just under a second lead. Calado subsequently crossed the line to claim his sixth win and maximum championship points with Webb in second to secure a one-two for Fortec Motorsport. Stoneman rounded off the podium places while Tincknell hung on to pick up fourth and the Graduate Cup honours with Smith in fifth and Yousif securing a season best of sixth.
Commenting on his performance over the weekend, Calado said: "I couldn't have asked for any more this weekend. The car felt perfect and to get maximum points is a great result for me and for the team. Oli pushed me all the way through round 15 and it was pretty even between the two of us but we both made mistakes and I managed to hold on to the lead. In round 16 I got a good start and just never looked back after that. I just hope I can repeat the same at Rockingham."
Commenting on his weekend, Webb said: "In round 15 I knew the only way passed was to try and force James to make a mistake but it never came. It was a good race and I did try to make one last push for fastest lap but my tyres started to fade towards the end. I'm still confident for my title hopes though as there's still plenty of points available."
Second place in round 16 Smith commented: "We had a good set-up on the car and although the track was slippery I was on the pace throughout. The championship is now getting really close and we have to make every round count."
Double podium finisher Stoneman added: "I'm happy with the two podiums and overall it's been a good weekend for us. The car wasn't quite working as I wanted it to though which means we were slightly off the pace but we've still racked up more championship points."
Rounds 17 and 18 of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship take place at Rockingham Motor Speedway on 19th/20th September, the same venue for the Renault Sport UK charity duathlon being held to raise money for Headway in memory of former Formula Renault UK driver Henry Surtees.
-credit: frenault uk