RAIN-SOAKED CROFT PROVIDES MIXED WEEKEND FOR HILLSPEED Rounds one and two of the 2008 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship proved to be a mixed bag for leading entrant Hillspeed -- while UK Class drivers Menasheh Idafar and Michael Lyons had a...
RAIN-SOAKED CROFT PROVIDES MIXED WEEKEND FOR HILLSPEED
Rounds one and two of the 2008 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship proved to be a mixed bag for leading entrant Hillspeed -- while UK Class drivers Menasheh Idafar and Michael Lyons had a difficult weekend, BARC runner James Theodore left the North Yorkshire venue with a 12 point lead in the class standings.
The Hathersage based squad, which took Richard Singleton to the winter series title last year, ran strongly during pre-event testing on Thursday and Friday but heavy rain prior to the start of qualifying on Saturday, 1st November, meant the session would be a very tricky one with two stoppages interfering with Idafar's and Lyons' quick laps.
Idafar was the best placed Hillspeed driver but was disappointed after taking the 15th fastest time of 1m 30.376 seconds (84.64mph). Lyons, meanwhile, was 21st quickest with Theodore unfortunately rounding out the 25 car field after being forced to retire midway through the session following a spin at Sunny Out.
At the start of round one, all three Hillspeed racers made good progress and by lap three 17-year-old Idafar was into 16th position with team-mate Lyons in 18th and Theodore inside the top 20.
As the race approached mid-distance, Lyons was having problems with the floor of his car dragging, the result of a minor excursion, but he fought through to an eventual finish of 15th in class. He also showed his true potential by posting the sixth fastest lap of 1m 25.084 seconds on the final tour.
With the track getting progressively drier, Idafar started to improve lap after lap up until the last quarter of the race when he started to experience grip-related difficulties with his tyres past their best.
Nonetheless, he made his way into the top 10 to finish a highly creditable ninth after a determined drive -- the highlight of the race for him being at the hairpin on lap 11 when he passed two cars in one move.
With category newcomer Immanuel Bryson-Haynes unable to race this weekend due to an accident in testing last week, Hillspeed's BARC challenge fell solely on the shoulders of Shropshire racer Theodore who took the class victory in round one and finished 15th overall after a storming drive from the back of the grid.
Speaking after round one, Hillspeed's Richard Ollerenshaw said: "Menasheh's drive through to ninth was a very good effort, his pace just started to fade towards the end because of the tyres. Mick did very well to set the sixth fastest lap, especially with the damage to his car after the small off, and it underlined the potential he's got.
"For James, to come in and take the BARC Class win in only his third competitive run in the car was fantastic and very well deserved. He also took the fastest lap in BARC so, all in all, it was a superb run after a difficult time in qualifying."
Rookie Theodore takes substantial BARC Class lead For round two on Saturday afternoon, Idafar lined up 17th on the grid, Lyons was 20th and Theodore brought up the rear once again. This time, British-born Bahraini Idafar saw his planned drive through the order shelved at the first corner when contact from another car forced him into retirement on the opening lap.
Heading into Clervaux on the outside, the Hillspeed racer was then collected by a car on his inside which ran wide and pushed him into the gravel trap.
Lyons came through to take his second top 15 finish of the weekend, having run as high as 13th position early on. With rain having fallen prior to the second race of the day, conditions were very tricky yet again and provided a major challenge.
Combining his two results from Croft, Lyons is actually the best placed of Hillspeed's UK Class runners in 15th position -- one spot and one point ahead of Idafar.
Theodore wasn't able to match his sparkling round one performance in the second encounter but 17th overall and second in the BARC Class means he heads into the final two rounds of the four-race Winter Championship next Saturday at Rockingham in the lead of the BARC title chase, some 12 points to the good.
"We're obviously delighted James is leading the BARC standings, he did a great job in very difficult circumstances this weekend", added Ollerenshaw, "To bounce back strongly after his problem in qualifying was very encouraging.
"Menasheh and Mick both experienced some bad luck but we're hopeful Rockingham will bring much improved results for both of them. There's also a chance we'll see Immanuel back out with us next weekend, nothing is guaranteed yet but he's aiming to be there if possible."
Rounds three and four of the 2008 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship will take place this coming Saturday, 8th November, at Rockingham in Northamptonshire with pre-event testing on Friday, 7th November.
Provisional 2008 Formula Renault UK Winter Series Standings (after Rd2) 15th Michael Lyons, 13pts; 16th Menasheh Idafar, 12pts