CROFT MISFORTUNE SEES LOANE MISS OUT ON WINTER TITLE
Kris Loane saw his bid for the 2007 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship come unstuck through no fault of his own at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire on Saturday, 10th November, the 19-year-old Manor Competition star forced out of the final race of the four-round series with the title crown within his grasp.
For team-mate Alexander Sims, his day's action started with disappointment following a major start-line shunt at the beginning of round three but an impressive drive from 13th on the grid to sixth at the chequered flag in round four at least enabled the Formula Renault UK race winner to take some points out of a luckless winter campaign.
Qualifying didn't go according to plan for either of the New Ollerton team's drivers, Loane ending up the better placed of the two for both races with sixth on the grid for round three and 10th on the grid for round four.
Arriving at Croft in the lead of the championship on countback, tied on points with Riki Christodoulou, Loane would start three spots ahead of his chief rival for the first outing but two behind him on the grid for the second one. Sims, meanwhile, lined up 13th on the grid for both races and would have his work cut out to challenge for top six results.
Unfortunately for Sims, round three went the same way as the opening two rounds of the winter series did for him, the 19-year-old faced with total disappointment following a major start-line shunt not of his making. Fifth-placed Jon Lancaster stalled on the grid and, unsighted by another competitor, Sims could do nothing to avoid the stricken car.
Hitting the rear of Lancaster's Formula Renault with quite an impact, Sims was forced to retire on the spot with question marks over whether the car would be repairable in time for the fourth and final round of the championship. Thankfully, both drivers were unhurt.
Loane, meanwhile, had better fortune and made a terrific getaway to move into fourth by the time the cars reached Clervaux for the first time but the race was red flagged straight away due to the start-line accident.
With most drivers having chosen treaded wet-weather tyres for the original start due to the track being slippery in places from earlier rain, at the re-start Manor and Loane opted to run on slicks and although slipping back to seventh place on the opening lap, he moved back into sixth position on the next tour.
On lap four, the Northern Irishman ran side-by-side with title rival Christodoulou towards Clervaux with the latter -- on treaded tyres -- just holding on but at Tower Bend they both ended up on the grass while dicing for position again, Loane slipping to eighth place and Christodoulou to ninth.
By lap seven, Loane started to get the most from his slick tyres and opened a substantial gap over his rival while moving into seventh place ahead of Sho Hanawa. Back into the top six on lap 10, that's where Loane would finish the race two tours later although he took fifth-place points due to race winner Valtteri Bottas being ineligible to score.
Heading into the final race two points behind in the championship chase, Loane slipped to 11th place at the start and then, on lap three between Sunny Out and the complex, he crashed out of the race following contact with Lancaster who was recovering from a spin.
As Lancaster attempted to speed-up to minimise his position losses, Loane was already committed to make the pass with the resulting contact seeing the Manor ace forced onto the grass and into the tyre barriers. Ending his title hopes on the spot, the disappointed racer from Co. Fermanagh would conclude the winter campaign fifth in the standings.
Improved fortune for Sims during final round For Sims there was better fortune for a change, the Manor mechanics having done a superb job to repair his car in time for the race. Starting in 13th position, the 19-year-old immediately climbed into 12th place and after moving into the top 10 on lap two he found himself able to snatch seventh on lap three after the incident involving his team-mate.
Continuing to push strongly, and posting the third fastest race lap of 1m 18.450 seconds on the fourth tour, Sims passed Dean Stoneman on lap six. Although reeling in the huge gap to battling cousins Riki and Adam Christodoulou during the second half of the race he just ran out of time, ending the contest on lap 16 just a second shy of the pair but taking fifth-place points due to Bottas' aforementioned ineligibility.
Commenting on the Croft event, Manor Competition boss Tony Shaw said: "We're very disappointed for Kris with regard to the championship as it was there for the taking in the second race. These things happen though and he's proven he can be a consistent front runner in Formula Renault UK. He should be pleased with what he's achieved.
"Alexander's run of bad luck has been unbelievable. There was absolutely nothing he could do about Lancaster's stalled car in the first race but the team did a superb job to get him back out for the final round. He drove very well and his pace was good, it's just such a shame he didn't have better luck as he too would have been a title contender."
Manor Competition now heads into an intensive winter testing programme ahead of the 2008 season. With a full UK itinerary planned, the team will also travel to Spain for its annual warm-weather winter test on the Continent.