SINGLETON CROWNED WINTER CHAMPION IN PULSATING FINALE
Richard Singleton (Conwy) added the 2007 Formula Renault UK with Michelin Winter Cup title to his 2006 Formula Renault BARC crown on a dramatic day at North Yorkshire's Croft circuit. The RS Racing ace, assisted by Hillspeed Racing, won the title by three points from Fortec Motorsport's Riki Christodoulou (Sutton Coldfield) after rounds three and four on Saturday, 10th November. Hywel Lloyd (Corwen) made it a Welsh double by winning the BARC Class title, to add to his recent win in the 2007 Formula Renault BARC Championship.
Singleton was awarded the points for first place after AKA Cobra's Valtteri Bottas won the race on the road, the Finn ineligible to score points as a non-MSA licence holder. Fortec's Adriano Buzaid (Oxford) then claimed his first Formula Renault UK win with a dominant display from pole position in round four.
The morning's sole qualifying session, with a driver's two fastest times setting the grid for race one and race two respectively, saw Apotex Scorpio Motorsport's Sho Hanawa clinch a maiden pole position for round three by just 0.027s from Buzaid, the duo exchanging places for round four. Championship leaders Kris Loane (Kesh) of Manor Competition and Riki Christodoulou were sixth and ninth respectively, while Singleton could only manage a brace of 12th places.
The start of round three saw AKA Cobra's Nathan Caratti (London) gamble on slick tyres from eighth on the grid with the circuit damp but set to dry as the rain had stopped. However, the Australian's advantage was negated when Hitech Junior's Jon Lancaster (Leeds) stalled on the grid and was hit by Falcon Motorsport's Sten Pentus (Faringdon) and Manor's Alexander Sims (Peterborough). The red flag was deployed to stop the race as Sims, one of the pre-championship favourites, contemplated his third consecutive non-finish in unfortunate circumstances.
Many drivers switched to slick tyres, the exceptions among front-runners including Hanawa, Buzaid and Riki Christodoulou. In the BARC Class, HS Motorsport's Brett Parris (Southampton) was the only driver to change. The slick tyres paid off immediately for Bottas who stormed into the lead from third on the grid, while his AKA team-mate Adam Christodoulou (Lichfield) passed Hanawa on lap two.
Alpine Motorsport's Dean Stoneman (Southampton) had a flying start from row five, scorching into fourth place on lap two and passing Hanawa, struggling on wet tyres, for third place on lap three. The following lap saw Singleton pass both Loane and Riki Christodoulou, dispatching Hanawa on lap five to take fifth place.
In the BARC Class, for 2006-specification Formula Renault 2.0 cars, Parris was making strong progress on slick tyres after failing to set a time in qualifying and starting from the very back of the 31-car grid. By the midway point of the 12-lap race, reduced from 16 after the red flag, Parris was 21st overall. Within two laps the 18-year-old had passed Hywel Lloyd and Hillspeed's Menasheh Idafar (London) to lead the class, going on to finish a splendid 17th overall ahead of several newer cars.
Riki Christodoulou did well to maintain ninth place but lost two places on lap 10 to finish 11th. Kris Loane, Christodoulou's main rival coming into the race, gained a place by passing Mark Burdett Motorsport's Johannes Seidlitz for sixth but did not gain points as Seidlitz is also a non-MSA licence holder.
At the head of the field, Bottas showed what a great prospect he is by fully dominating the race, opening a 4.5s lead over Adam Christodoulou before encountering back markers and making it three wins from three by 2.256s. Stoneman took a fine third place with Singleton's fourth place enough to give him the championship lead heading into the final round.
In dry conditions, Singleton had the hardest task of making up places from 12th on the grid at the 2.13-mile circuit. The start of the race saw Buzaid hold off pressure from Bottas who got ahead of Hanawa at the first corner Clervaux, while Sten Pentus led the BARC Class in 14th place overall.
Lap two saw a clash between Boulevard Team Racing's Joshua Brooks (Alford) and Idafar at the hairpin with both cars retiring, bringing out the yellow flags to prevent overtaking and one of the favourite passing spots on the track. On the following lap, Lancaster spun out of fifth place at the Complex, Manor's Kris Loane getting caught up in the incident and ending his title hopes at the side of the track.
After passing Stoneman for fifth on lap four, Riki Christodoulou was on course for the title with Singleton way down in 16th after dropping from ninth on lap three. Meanwhile, Pentus was the leading BARC class car in ninth, with Lloyd second in class ahead of Ahmad Al Harthy.
Buzaid extended his lead to two seconds on lap five as Singleton began his comeback by passing Hitech Junior's Marc Murray (Colchester) for 15th, equal to a net 11th place due to BARC class and non-MSA licence cars ahead of him. As long as Riki Christodoulou stayed fifth, Singleton needed to finish in a net eighth place to take the title.
Manor Competition's Alexander Sims showed his true form by passing Stoneman for sixth, the latter running wide at Tower and rejoining just ahead of Carlin Motorsport's Henry Surtees (Edenbridge) in ninth. Meanwhile, once the yellow flags had been withdrawn, Singleton passed cars at the hairpin on successive laps to lie 13th, a net 10th, at the midway point of the 16-lap race.
As Singleton was making progress, Riki Christodoulou was catching his cousin, Adam, for fourth place at a rate of more than half a second per lap. Once behind him, Riki could not find a way past despite repeated attempts, particularly at Tower Bend, thanks to some forceful defence from Adam.
On lap 11, the cousins were alongside each other on the run down the long straight to Tower but again Adam held onto the place as the pair came close to repeating their tangle in the penultimate round of the 2007 Formula Renault UK Championship that saw both retire from the race.
Lap 11 also saw Singleton catch and pass his compatriot Lloyd at the hairpin, as just ahead Surtees passed Stoneman for ninth. On the next tour, Singleton again pounced at the hairpin with an incredible manoeuvre to pass both Stoneman and Oliver Webb (Knutsford).
In passing Surtees for eighth, Singleton had now done enough to secure the title but unsure of Riki Christodoulou's position he continued to press on and catch Sten Pentus, although passing the BARC class leader would bring no points benefit.
With Riki following his cousin to the chequered flag in fifth on the road, Singleton had the title in his grasp as he approached the final hairpin, just a few hundred yards from the line. In a dramatic final moment, the teenager dived to the inside of Pentus to overtake, clipping the Estonian and losing his front wing. After briefly slowing almost to a stop, Singleton completed the turn and edged out Surtees on the run to the line for eighth on the road and a net seventh place. Pentus also recovered to finish 12th overall and win the BARC class by 0.133s from new champion Lloyd.
Commenting after the race, Singleton said: "I really didn't know what I had to do to win so I just kept on trying and passing every car I came to. It made me feel better to see Kris (Loane) off the track early on but I'd fallen right down as well so I had a long way to go. I was trying to see Riki's car but couldn't work out which one was his. I'm really pleased to win and I've got to thank my dad and my team for all their help during the Winter Cup."
Registration for the 2008 Formula Renault UK with Michelin Championship opens in January.
<pre> UK Class drivers' standings after round four -- provisional
1 Richard Singleton GBR RS Racing 96 pts 2 Riki Christodoulou GBR Fortec Motorsport 93 pts 3 Adam Christodoulou GBR AKA Cobra 82 pts 4 Sho Hanawa JPN Apotex Scorpio Motorsport 79 pts 5 Kris Loane GBR Manor Competition 78 pts 6 Dean Stoneman GBR Alpine Motorsport 74 pts
BARC Class drivers' standings after round four -- provisional
1 Hywel Lloyd GBR CF Racing 54 pts 2 Brett Parris GBR HS Motorsport/Antel 46 pts 3 Ahmad Al Harthy OMA Hillspeed Racing 30 pts