EXCEPTIONAL RACEDAY PERFORMANCE NOT QUITE ENOUGH FOR BRATT IN FPA McLAREN AWARD 'SHOOT-OUT'
Banbury single-seater racer Will Bratt produced three exceptional race performances at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk today to clinch the Vice-Champion's position in the 2007 Visma Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy -- but a superb double podium wasn't quite enough to seal the final spot in this year's McLaren Autosport BRDC Award evaluations.
Having seen his day's work made all the harder with the cards stacked against him following a less than straightforward qualifying run on Saturday, the BRDC Rising Star headed into today's three 18-lap races knowing he had to be at the top of his game and he didn't disappoint with a trio of quality drives.
Lining up second on the grid for the opening encounter, having seen his pole position time taken away due to an unfortunate flag infringement, Will didn't make the best of starts and the 19-year-old slipped behind Ryan Lewis on the run to Riches Corner for the first time.
Intent on making amends immediately, Will moved around the outside of Lewis with a great move at the next turn, Sear, and retook second place as they made their way down the Revett Straight. For the remainder of the race, the Apotex UK-backed star stayed glued to the rear wing of Jack Clarke's car but there just wasn't opportunity to pass.
Never more than a few 10ths of a second adrift of race leader Clarke, Will continued to apply intense pressure which was all the more impressive considering his car persistently jumped out of gear. In the end, he had to settle for second place but was less than three 10ths of a second behind Clarke at the chequered flag.
Race two saw Will begin from fifth on the grid and after easing ahead of Clarke into Riches, he then set about third placed Jonathan Legris whom he passed on lap six along the Revett Straight. In imperious overtaking form, the Oxon sensation then passed former Formula Renault UK sparring partner Richard Keen for second place on lap 12 at the Esses.
With just over a second between Will and race leader Nick Tandy at the start of lap 13, a grandstand finish to the race looked on the cards and then on lap 15 he set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1m 04.564 seconds (108.83mph) -- all with continued gearbox issues.
In the end, he couldn't make any further headway and so took his second runner-up spot in two races. Importantly, his combined points haul from the two races placed Will at the head of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award 'shoot-out' rankings along with Tandy.
With the latter having won a race though, Will knew he needed to do the same in the finale if he was to have any chance of usurping Tandy in the 'shoot-out' battle but a near impossible task awaited the Apotex UK ace from seventh on the grid, Tandy lining up on the front row.
At the start of the crucial final race, Will immediately began to make headway by moving into the top six and then five laps later he passed Tom Bradshaw, who had started on pole, for fifth position.
Reigning Formula Palmer Audi Champion Tim Bridgman was next on Will's radar and after pressuring his experienced rival into a mistake at Russell Chicane at the end of lap eight, Will moved into fourth on Senna Straight even though the recovering Bridgman did robustly attempt to hold-on to what was clearly a lost place.
Closing on third-placed Clarke for the remainder of the race, Will wasn't quite able to make it three podiums from three Snetterton races but he did cross the line less than two 10ths of a second shy of third position. Although disappointed not to earn the final spot in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, Will still produced three incredible and highly impressive drives.
Speaking after the final race, Will said: "Obviously I'm really disappointed not to have gone forward into the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award but we couldn't have done any more than we did today. It was good to be on the podium twice, and to also climb from sixth to second in the Autumn Trophy standings, but the McLaren award was what we wanted.
"Finishing second in the first race, moving up from fifth to second in race two and then climbing from seventh to fourth in the last one really is as much as we could have achieved with the car we had. I had a lot of trouble with it jumping out of gear. Obviously losing my pole time in qualifying wasn't ideal either, nor the red flags in session two."
Will added: "We need to be positive though about what we've achieved in the FPA car, having never even driven one before Brands Hatch last weekend I think we can be satisfied with three podiums from six races considering all of the problems we've encountered. Now we're looking forward to 2008 and a step up the single-seater ladder."
Quite simply, Will produced a stunning performance during all three races today and proved once again, as he did when en-route to third position overall in the ultra-competitive Formula Renault UK Championship with four race victories under his belt, he would certainly have been deserving of a place in this year's McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finals.
In the FPA Autumn Trophy standings, Will's combined 56-point haul from today's three races saw him rise from sixth in the standings to the Vice-Champion's position. In the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award 'shoot-out' he ended up in third position, just nine points shy of making his dream a reality when taking into account each driver's two best scores.
Having concluded his final season in the Formula Renault UK Championship prior to the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy, Will now heads into the winter months preparing for his graduation up the single-seater ladder. Testing plans will be announced in due course.
Final 2007 Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy Championship Standings 2nd Will Bratt, 97pts (Vice-Champion)
Final Formula Palmer Audi 'McLaren Autosport BRDC Award Shoot-Out' Rankings 1st Nick Tandy, 48pts; 2nd Jack Clarke, 42pts; 3rd Will Bratt, 40pts