MAILLEUX TAKES CONTROL AT BRANDS WITH DOUBLE VICTORY Manor Motorsport's Franck Mailleux holds an 11-point lead in the Formula Renault UK Winter Championship standings after a near-perfect weekend at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent. The ...
MAILLEUX TAKES CONTROL AT BRANDS WITH DOUBLE VICTORY
Manor Motorsport's Franck Mailleux holds an 11-point lead in the Formula Renault UK Winter Championship standings after a near-perfect weekend at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent.
The 22-year-old Frenchman, who currently resides in Hull, started the weekend well with his maiden Formula Renault UK pole position during qualifying on Saturday and went on to cap the race meeting with a double victory earlier today to take firm control of the 2006 winter series at the halfway stage.
Franck's outstanding wins in rounds one and two of the four-race championship mark the Manor ace's first victories on British soil and now see him head to the final two rounds of the winter series at North Yorkshire's Croft Circuit in less than a week's time on the crest of a wave.
"It's been very nearly a perfect weekend with two wins, one pole position and one fastest lap", said the delighted Frenchman, "I'm looking forward to Croft now, I think we can have a good weekend there too. It's fantastic to be leading the championship."
From second on the grid at the start of round one, Franck missing out on pole position by just six 100ths of a second in qualifying, the Sojasun-backed star made a text-book getaway from the left-hand side of the track to scorch into a superb lead on the run to Paddock Hill Bend for the first time.
By lap five, Franck had built a one and a half second advantage over Richard Keen in second place and with his lead as much as two seconds with just a couple of laps remaining, the Manor ace coolly took his first ever race win in Formula Renault UK by 1.4 seconds from Keen.
"I made a perfect start really and I pushed hard over the first two or three laps to try and set the fastest lap", explained Franck after the race, "I thought I had done it, but (Niall) Breen just pipped me by a few 100ths of a second and I hadn't realised. But that didn't matter too much as he finished third behind Keen."
For round two, the Rennes native started from pole position and once again made a truly outstanding getaway from the line to lead second-placed Breen. Another win looked assured but confusion over the possible deployment of the Safety Car on lap six saw Franck lose a full second to his pursuers.
With the Safety Car preparing to venture out onto the circuit following a problem for a couple of backmarkers, Safety Car boards were actually shown leading Franck to slow down. However, the boards were then withdrawn and the Safety Car remained in the pits meaning the Frenchman lost crucial time through no fault of his own.
Although his lead was dramatically cut to just four 10ths of a second, the Manor star pushed hard to re-build his gap and after setting the fastest lap of the race on lap eight with a time of 44.778 seconds (96.39mph), gaining him two bonus points, he went on to win on lap 18 by just over a second from Breen.
Speaking after round two, Franck commented: "Again, my start was almost perfect and when I saw the Safety Car boards after a few laps I backed off and lost a second to Niall but then realised there had been a mistake and the Safety Car wasn't coming out at all so I then had to push very quickly to make the gap again."
Karting ace Sims stars at Brands Hatch Manor also had plenty to celebrate courtesy of Formula Renault UK debutant Alexander Sims, the Peterborough-based karting star recording a superb fifth place finish in only his second ever car race.
The teenage sensation, widely regarded as one of the very best racing talents Britain has produced in recent years, enjoyed a great start to his Formula Renault UK career during Saturday's sole 20-minute qualifying session after securing fifth on the grid for round one, just two 10ths of a second shy of pole position.
Although losing out to Richard Singleton on the opening lap, Alexander ran strongly during the early stages but entering lap six he had an unfortunate spin into the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend, the resulting retirement curtailing a very promising debut all too early.
Round two proved to be a far different story though and at the start he immediately made up ground from 10th on the grid to move into seventh position on the opening lap. Singleton then pitted at the end of lap eight meaning Alexander moved into the top six.
The latter stages of the race, however, really saw the Cambridgeshire star come into his own and after moving to within three 10ths of a second of the lap times being posted by team-mate Mailleux, Alexander passed Carl Skerlong on lap 12 to break into the top five where he would remain to the chequered flag.
Speaking on his single-seater debut, theq8-year-old commented: "I changed my approach to Paddock Hill Bend for the second race which helped a lot obviously, but having already had the experience of the first race I wasn't so nervous. Our race pace was good and I think the weekend as a whole has been very good, I'm looking forward to Croft."
Manor's third driver, American youngster Jeremy Braun, enjoyed a solid UK race debut and after qualifying 20th and 23rd for the weekend's two races he went on to record a 17th place finish in round one and 21st in round two.
Due to the fact he is competing using an international racing licence though, Jeremy is unfortunately ineligible to score points in the winter series. Nonetheless, the Seattle driver is hoping for improvements at Croft next Saturday, 11th November, for the third and fourth rounds of the championship.