D'Agostino takes first UK Formula Renault Top 10 at Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit
Kent, England -- 20-year old American Joe D'Agostino competed with Team JLR in the final round of the UK Formula Renault Championship this past weekend, earning his best qualifying and finishing position to date in the unfamiliar category.
The Floridian had never seen the full Brands Hatch GP circuit and turned quite a few heads in official testing when within several laps set a time good enough for 4th position in very tricky damp conditions. As testing continued D'Agostino never once dropped from the Top 10 as he methodically worked to improve his pace around the very challenging circuit finishing the official test day in 7th position. "This place is amazing, Brands was always a good circuit but was never one of my favourites until now. The GP loop is simply stunning with some of the most demanding corners and undulations I've experienced, a proper racing circuit!" stated D'Agostino.
Saturday was to be a busy day for the Formula Renault paddock with 2 qualifying sessions and the first race of the weekend. First session in the morning the field was released onto a damp but drying circuit for qualifying 1. The American quickly got to business and as the session neared the end D'Agostino shocked the Formula Renault paddock by going quickest with a stellar time. He only briefly dropped to second before once again grabbing pole-position. Unfortunately it wasn't to stay as a series of accidents which blocked the track on D'Agostino's final few laps meant he did not improve his time while others, ignoring the yellow flags and showing complete disregard for the marshal's safety slightly improved their times dropping D'Agostino to 7th position in the end. "The end of that session was shameful, it should've been stopped but the clerk of course decided to let it continue. It eventually resulted in several other cars crashing all at the same spot while they tried to improve their time, which ultimately blocked the circuit. I think the situation could've been handled better but all things aside I am pleased with our result," commented D'Agostino.
For qualifying 2 numerous red flags meant there was only a handful of laps in which to get up to speed. D'Agostino pushed hard for an optimum lap time but in the end could only manage a time good enough for 16th position. "I'm not sure where we went wrong, the balance felt fine and I was certainly pushing as hard as possible. I think it might be down to my inexperience in these cars in changing conditions, we'll study the data and see where we can improve."
As race 1 loomed near so did a massive line of black rain clouds, just in time to drop a deluge of water before the start. With rain tires and clear visors fitted the massive 26-car UK Formula Renault grid lined up to get under way in what was to be D'Agostino's first rain race in an unfamiliar car. His inexperience showed as D'Agostino had lots of wheel-spin at the start dropping him down to 12th position, only to be shoved off a few laps later on the exit of Druids corner. After rejoining in 16th D'Agostino worked to find his feet and set about learning as much as he could, using the remainder of the race as a test session he eventually finished 15th position. D'Agostino gave his views on the race, "Well-- what I learned during that race was going to happen at some point so better now when there is no pressure. I felt really good at the end and it showed by setting the 8th fastest race lap, I did my best and so I am happy with that."
With glorious sunshine and not a cloud in sight the field again lined up for race 2 on Sunday. D'Agostino made a strong start nearly overtaking the row ahead on the entry to Paddock Hill Bend. A few corners later and the Formula Ford ace made a daring manoeuvre going three-wide to pass two cars into the tricky curve known as Dingle Dell. D'Agostino then began to pressure teammate Tom Kimber-Smith as the two worked to move into the top 10, however a slight mistake from Kimber-Smith meant D'Agostino was through and up to 12th. After a brief safety car period D'Agostino put to use his American racing roots to pressure his next victim on the restart forcing the driver to brake too late hitting another competitor. After again killing two birds with one stone, D'Agostino brought his Mockett.com Team JLR Formula Renault home for a well-earned 10th place.
"If only I had a bit more experience I think we could've had a pretty stellar result, but regardless I am happy with the job I did. I learned a tremendous amount this weekend thanks to Team JLR and my two good friends and teammates, Stephen Simpson and Tom Kimber-Smith. I also showed my ability to overtake in a formula where passing is rare and often very difficult. It was a great experience and hopefully will be an advantage for next season, as I look to compete in either the ChampCar Formula Atlantic Championship or in British Formula 3. I'd also like to again thank all of my sponsors and friends who have made this possible."
D'Agostino will be back out for the 19th and 20th Rounds of the UK Formula Ford Championship being held on the 8th-9th of October at the Silverstone International circuit in Northamptonshire.
D'Agostino would like to thank Team JLR and all of his supporters: Arai Helmets, Kuzzins Kustoms, Doug Mockett & Co., Sutton Images, Sparco USA, and all of his personal sponsors.