KEEN LEADS THE WAY FOR SWR Richard Keen's superb move from fifth to the race lead at the start of round four was the highlight of a difficult Thruxton Formula BMW UK Championship meeting for Team SWR. The weather in Hampshire was significantly...
KEEN LEADS THE WAY FOR SWR
Richard Keen's superb move from fifth to the race lead at the start of round four was the highlight of a difficult Thruxton Formula BMW UK Championship meeting for Team SWR.
The weather in Hampshire was significantly hotter for the race weekend than it had been for the pre-race test two months ago, causing major set-up headaches for many of the teams. SWR was caught out in the first qualifying session, with Keen and team-mates Lars Viljoen, Matt Harris and Paul Rees eighth, 17th, 18th and 20th respectively after increasing their downforce to alleviate concerns over excessive tyre wear on this famously abrasive track. Unfortunately this move didn't pay off, as their lack of straightline speed held the SWR quartet back. This was swiftly rectified for the second session, and all four duly improved.
Keen would line up fifth, with Harris 13th, Rees 16th and Viljoen 18th.JThe races would be a real test of endurance for Lars, who was struggling with illness, while Rees was forced to learn the challenging track (the fastest in the UK) in qualifying after missing out on the chance to test before the season.
Race one provided little but frustration for the team. Keen was soon on the move and trying to reclaim his rightful spot in the top five. He made it to seventh in the opening laps, but then had to go off the road to avoid the spinning Matt Howson. A few laps later Richard's race came to a premature end thanks to a gearbox problem. Harris also went on an early charge. He made up five places on lap one, then carved through to eighth by lap six. A well-deserved points finish looked to be on the cards, but then an electrical glitch began to hamper Matt's performance. Unable to exit corners at full speed, he lost several places and ended up a rather frustrating 12th. A few seconds further back, Viljoen and Rees enjoyed some tremendous side-by-side racing with each other and their rivals on the way to 14th and 16th respectively in their first Thruxton appearances.
Hard work by the team between races ensured that all four cars were healthy and back on the grid for round four a few hours later. Keen, eager to make up for his earlier misfortune, immediately lifted the team's spirits by swooping around the outside of not just the cars directly in front of him, but all four leaders! He tried his best to hang onto his spectacularly-earned lead, but didn't quite have the pace to take victory on this occasion. After several laps of side-by-side racing, Richard was ultimately edged back to fourth place -- not what he had hoped for when leading, but still good points for his title bid.JJHarris should also have scooped some points for Team SWR, only to lose momentum avoiding an aggressively defensive rival on the first lap and fall all the way to the back of the field. He recovered superbly to finish 12th, just in front of his team-mates Viljoen and Rees, the SWR trio covered by just 0.3s.
Unfortunately Viljoen was involved in a frightening accident near the end of the race, when the following Joe Osbourne clipped Lars' rear wheel and was launched into the spectator fence at the chicane. He escaped largely unharmed, and thankfully no-one in the crowd was injured either.
"It's been a very difficult weekend for the whole team," said Powell. "The accident at the chicane could have been extremely serious, so we're all glad that the consequences were no worse.
"On the positive side, Richard's move at the start of race two was absolutely incredible and he drove an excellent race to fourth, so at least our weekend finished on a better note."