RIKI CHRISTODOULOU TAKES SLENDER WINTER LEAD AS BOTTAS WINS
Fortec Motorsport's Riki Christodoulou (Sutton Coldfield) leads the 2007 Formula Renault UK with Michelin Winter Cup after two podium finishes in rounds one and two at Donington Park National circuit on Saturday, 3rd November. Finnish racer Valtteri Bottas won both races on the road but is ineligible to score points as he is a non-MSA licence holder. RS Racing's Richard Singleton (Conwy) and Manor Competition's Kris Loane (Kesh) are awarded with the race wins.
Round one saw Bottas take the lead halfway through lap one when pole-sitter Riki Christodoulou ran wide at the Old Hairpin. Singleton rose from fifth on the grid to lie second ahead of Loane with Christodoulou rejoining in fourth. Recently crowned Formula Renault BARC champion Hywel Lloyd (Corwen) comfortably led the BARC Class ahead of Formula Renault newcomer Brett Parris (Southampton) and Hillspeed's Ahmad Al Harthy (Hathersage).
The end of lap three saw one of the pre-championship favourites, Manor Competition's Alexander Sims (Peterborough) retire along with Carlin Motorsport's Henry Surtees (Edenbridge) after being caught in a multi-car incident at Goddards chicane. Sims would then retire from round two with a driveshaft problem, leaving him with no points from the opening two rounds.
With the top two breaking clear by several seconds from Loane, the closest battle in the leading places was between Alpine Motorsport's Dean Stoneman (Southampton) and AKA Cobra's Nathan Caratti (London) for fifth place. Stoneman passed the Australian on lap seven, only to be re-passed on lap 16 before holding off Apotex Scorpio Motorsport's Sho Hanawa in the closing laps.
Starting well down the field, AKA Cobra's Adam Christodoulou (Lichfield) gained 14 places to 13th by the end of lap four. Meanwhile, Mark Burdett Motorsport's Scott Jenkins (Bristol), who started 32nd and last after a crash in qualifying, stormed through the field to finish 13th on the road and 11th in the UK Class.
Riki Christodoulou set three successive fastest laps to catch Loane by the midway point of the race. On lap 14, Christodoulou had a better run out of Coppice and passed on the inside at Goddards to take third place. Meanwhile, the gap between Bottas and Singleton was down to just 0.4s with five laps remaining.
In the BARC Class, Lloyd was well ahead lying seventh overall, while Parris had a buffer to Al Harthy as Hitech Junior Team's Jon Lancaster (Leeds) was separating the pair. Lancaster was down in 18th after being given a drive through penalty for an out of position start.
The end of lap 19 saw Adam Christodoulou pass Lloyd for ninth as they crossed the line and passed back-marker Damien Charveriat (London). Having led since the first lap, Bottas completed a comprehensive win despite Singleton closing on the last lap, with Riki Christodoulou holding off Loane for third.
Round two saw a fantastic start from Hywel Lloyd, who had qualified third despite being in a 2006-specification Formula Renault 2.0. He beat both front row pair Loane and Bottas off the line and held the inside heading into Redgate, but both UK Class drivers were able to pass Lloyd round the outside of the first corner.
Lloyd held third ahead of Riki Christodoulou and Nathan Caratti, while Fortec Motorsport's Adriano Buzaid (Oxford) completed the top six. The Safety Car was brought out on lap four to retrieve the car of Falcon Motorsport's Sten Pentus (Faringdon). Paul Rees (Oxford), Sims, Charveriat and Al Harthy had already retired on the opening lap.
When racing resumed, Bottas timed his start perfectly to lead away from Loane. Lloyd held third and was able to keep Riki Christodoulou behind him for five laps before being overtaken at Goddards chicane on lap 11. Meanwhile, Parris climbed to second in BARC Class having been last overall after lap one after taking evasive action at the start.
Scott Jenkins had another superb race from the back of the grid, making up 15 places before losing his front wing in contact as he attempted another overtaking move. With little downforce, he went on to finish 26th, one place ahead of Caratti who suffered a puncture as he was passed by Lancaster in the early stages.
With eight laps left, Bottas' lead reached one second, while a group containing Singleton, Surtees, Hanawa and led by AMR's Andy Meyrick (Delamere) battled for seventh. On the same lap, Lancaster finally passed Lloyd at Goddards having also struggled to find a way past the older car.
On lap 16, Singleton passed Meyrick for seventh and pulled away in the closing laps. As the race reached its conclusion, Lloyd began to slow allowing Buzaid to catch up but the Brazilian was too eager in his overtaking attempt and ran wide at McLeans handing Singleton another place.
In the BARC Class, Parris made an error five laps from the end to drop to third place in Class. Although he caught up with Hillspeed's Menasheh Idafar (London) he was unable to re-take the place before the chequered flag. The penultimate lap saw a change in the top 10 as Stoneman passed Surtees to take 10th place behind Buzaid.
Once again, Bottas completed victory by less than one second, with Loane in second ahead of Riki Christodoulou and Jon Lancaster.
Commenting on his day, Championship leader Riki Christodoulou said: "In the first race the track was slippery on the first lap and that cost me some places so I was pleased to end up third. Hywel proved quite difficult to pass in race two because of the different aerodynamics of the cars and in doing so I wore out my tyres so I couldn't close the gap on Kris. I'm still in good shape heading to Croft so we'll see what happens."
Double race winner Bottas said: "It may have looked easy to lead every lap today but it definitely wasn't easy in the car. In both races I had pressure from second place so I had to keep my concentration. I'm really happy to win both races and hopefully I can have a good day at Croft."
BARC Class leader Hywel Lloyd said: "It was great to be able to mix it up with the newer cars, even if I wasn't racing them for points. No-one has seen the two types of car race together before and I was a bit surprised to be able to keep ahead of them, although I didn't fight too hard once they got alongside me. My tyres went off a bit at the end of race two but two wins is all I could ask for today."
Rounds three and four take place at North Yorkshire's Croft circuit on Saturday, 10th November. One 20-minute qualifying session will be held on Saturday morning.