ROUND TWO REPORT: KEEN CLOSE TO VICTORY FOR SWR Team SWR driver Richard Keen was just three-tenths of a second away from victory in the second round of the 2005 Formula BMW UK Championship at Donington Park. Keen relentlessly pressured leader...
ROUND TWO REPORT: KEEN CLOSE TO VICTORY FOR SWR
Team SWR driver Richard Keen was just three-tenths of a second away from victory in the second round of the 2005 Formula BMW UK Championship at Donington Park.
Keen relentlessly pressured leader Nathan Antunes throughout the race, and although there was never quite enough space to pass, Richard's runner-up spot means he leaves the first meeting equal second in the championship.
His team-mate Matt Harris' strong run to seventh helped to place SWR third in the Teams' Trophy standings, confirming the squad's status as genuine contenders for both titles.
Unfortunately SWR's other two drivers Lars Viljoen and Paul Rees were cruelly denied a chance to shine in this race by another driver's over-ambitious startline manoeuvre.
Qualifying for race two saw Keen and Harris both challenging for positions in the tightly packed top five. Richard had a genuine shot at pole until being put on the grass by a backmarker in the final minutes. This dropped him to fifth place, just 0.127s slower than polesitter Nathan Antunes, while Harris would line up eighth.
Rees and Viljoen were both within a second of pole as they filled row eight, but their race was marred immediately as the slower-starting Jonathan Legris attempted to block them off the line. He succeeded only in putting himself into the pit wall and damaging both SWR cars. The clash also indirectly catalysed a dramatic race-stopping accident four laps later, as Joe Osbourne ran into the back of Rees and rolled into the gravel.
"My steering was bent after Legris went into the side of me, but I thought I may as well carry on and at least try to finish the race," said Rees. "When Osbourne went over the top of me I had braked a little early because of the steering damage, and I think that caught him out. I'm glad he's okay."
Up front, Keen had been scything into contention and would line up third for the restart. He then picked off Ross Curnow as the field got away once again, and immediately latched onto the back of leader Antunes. The pair were never split by more than 0.6s throughout the race, as Keen constantly sought a way past.
"It's a shame I couldn't get past him, but to be fair he's quite quick and we were pretty similar on pace so I couldn't quite get close enough," said Keen. "I think I did quite well out there. It looks very positive - we've got better and better this weekend. This is a definite step up from the BRDC Single-Seater Championship where I raced last year, but I'm learning all the time. I'm aiming to win the championship this season." JHarris wound up a strong seventh, having run within a large battle for third place for the entire race. He looked set for sixth until slow traffic exiting the pits cost him momentum and allowed Dean Smith past, but having retired from race one Matt was very happy to get some points on the board in the second round.
"It was considerably better than this morning obviously," he said. "Overall it was a good race and it's good to get points. I'm with a new team, we've got a great car, nice team-mates and all the support I need. The season's shaped out well so far and I'm looking forward to the rest of it."
Viljoen also made the finish despite a number of dramas. He had to come to a standstill to avoid a spinning rival early on, and was then caught out by his buckled steering and had a spin of his own shortly after the restart. Given these setbacks, his eventual 13th place was a superb result.
"To come from the back -- twice -- and finish 13th with bent steering is really good," he said. "This is my first weekend of single-seater racing and I can take a lot from it. Overall I'm really pleased with how everything's gone."
SWR's Team Principal Trevor Powell was particularly impressed with Lars' performance in the circumstances, but concerned by the incidents that left him with so much work to do. J"Lars drove his socks off considering his suspension was deranged," said Powell. "I'm a little bit disappointed with all the incidents, especially those under yellow flags. Several people passed our drivers when the yellows were out before the red flag. We lost a lot of places because of the start incident too, and Paul had a very lucky escape.
"But other than that I'm absolutely delighted with Richard's performance, and also with the way Matt drove. I'm very pleased with the start to our season, very pleased indeed."