BFREN: Brands Hatch: Opener preview

Formula Renault ready for closest ever title fight Brands Hatch, Kent, on Easter Monday, 1st April will stage the opening round of what many anticipate will be the most competitive ever Formula Renault UK Championship. Thirty-six drivers are...

Formula Renault ready for closest ever title fight

Brands Hatch, Kent, on Easter Monday, 1st April will stage the opening round of what many anticipate will be the most competitive ever Formula Renault UK Championship.

Thirty-six drivers are registered for the championship and in official pre-season testing the majority of the field has, incredibly, been covered by little more than a second. The championship is also bursting with top-level young driver talent and with 10 nationalities represented has been billed as the world's best at junior level motorsport.

Official testing on Brands' spectacular, full-length 2.5-mile Grand Prix circuit - scene of Easter Monday's 17-lap race - is this Thursday, 28th March. That is followed by official timed qualifying from 10.00-10.30 on Sunday, 31st March to decide which 30 drivers go through to the race which starts at 09.05.

An indicator of form has been official testing so far. Three drivers, each with different teams, have headed the four tests held: Fortec Motorsport's Danny Watts (Northampton), Motaworld Racing's Robert Bell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and Paston Racing's Mark McLoughlin (Milton Keynes). Watts and McLoughlin are both entering their third seasons in the championship, while Bell won the formula's winter title in November.

In addition, Watts won the first ever race for the modern carbon-fibre Formula Renault category on Brands GP circuit in April 2000. However, the Formula Renault lap record still stands to champion that year, Finland's Kimi Raikkonen - now a McLaren Formula One team driver and this weekend among the favourites to win the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Two of the championship's youngest drivers this year, 17-year-olds, Venezuelan Ernesto José Viso (Cambridge) and Briton Lewis Hamilton (Tewin, Welwyn) - a McLaren F1 team protégé - have also raised eyebrows with their pace. However, the same can be said of at least a dozen more drivers in the field.

The championship line-up also includes Britain's two leading female racers, Fortec's 21-year-old Katherine Legge (Haslemere) and Team DFR's Susie Stoddart (Oban), aged 19. Both have at some point during testing come close to a top 10 time.

-www.renaultsport.co.uk-

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About this article
Series Formula Renault
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Lewis Hamilton , Katherine Legge , Danny Watts