Watts wins to stretch points lead. A second straight win at Oulton Park yesterday has moved Danny Watts (Northampton) into a comfortable lead in the Formula Renault UK Championship. Just as at Brands Hatch three weeks earlier, the Fortec ...
Watts wins to stretch points lead.
A second straight win at Oulton Park yesterday has moved Danny Watts (Northampton) into a comfortable lead in the Formula Renault UK Championship.
Just as at Brands Hatch three weeks earlier, the Fortec Motorsport driver made a break for it in the opening laps to lead all the way to the chequered flag. He also set a new lap record at an average speed of almost 106mph to earn himself two bonus points and a maximum score. Unlike Brands, however, where he had pressure from Paston Racing's Mark McLoughlin (Milton Keynes), this time he was a comfortable winner, finishing almost 10 seconds clear of his nearest pursuer, John Village Automotive's excellent Ryan Sharp (Aberdeen).
The race was full of incident and drama. Watts' Fortec team-mate Katherine Legge (Haslemere) had backed up her rapid mid-week testing form by brilliantly qualifying on the NGK Laser Platinum Pole Position with the fastest ever Formula Renault lap around Oulton's 2.4-mile Island circuit. But a jumped start by the 21-year-old forced the race to be halted before the rest of the capacity 30-car grid had moved away.
At the re-start she slotted into third position behind Watts and Sharp who shot through to second from fourth on the grid. Beginning lap two, however, the Safety Car came out to slow down the field and allow marshals to clear the track after two incidents which forced out six drivers and led to another three requiring repair work to their cars in the pitlane. The incidents also led to a major reshuffle of positions: some drivers were badly delayed, while others made up huge amounts of ground. For example, Cliff Dempsey Racing's Swedish driver Richard Goransson started 28th but completed lap one in 12th!
Once the track was clear, the Safety Car returned to the pitlane and the race was once more under way, Watts rapidly re-establishing his lead. Sharp, however, was in trouble, the rear floor of his car having been damaged after contact with Legge whose front wing had been pushed into the air in the incident. She got just a quarter of the way around the next lap before cruelly being forced into retirement. Sharp, meanwhile, drove well to overcome his car's handicap and maintain second position.
He was aided by the fact that behind, with Legge's demise, there was a tremendous eight-car fight for third position. Fortec's Jamie Green (Broughton Astley) initially held the place until Motaworld Racing's winter champion Robert Bell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and the closely-following McLoughlin both swept by in a single move. After a titanic duel, McLoughlin would finally get the upper hand over Bell whose car was hobbled by a damaged front wing.
Green, plus Paston's James Murphy (Wexford) and Goransson had also been part of the battle until all three retired. This allowed Gary Turkington (Portadown) and Motaworld team-mate, Australian Will Davison (Buckingham) to complete the top six. Davison beat Turkington on the road but a 10-second penalty for missing a chicane dropped him to sixth.
Goransson aside, several more drivers made huge gains on the opening lap, most notably Saxon International's Chaz Small (Silverstone). He started 30th and last but, thanks to diving through several gaps plus the retirements ahead of him later in the race, finished eighth, just behind JVA's seventh-placed Swede Stefan Soderberg (Chesterfield). Status Motorsport's Ivor McCullough (Ballymena) and Team DFR's Susie Stoddart (Oban), 28th and 23rd on the grid, also took their chances to finish ninth and 10th. Stoddart's drive merits extra mention. After the Safety Car period, she overtook two drivers before homing in on McCullough - despite a broken front wing. Her best lap time was also quicker than those of Soderberg, Small and McCullough, a sign, perhaps, of her true potential.
The championship's Michelin Driver of the Day award went the way of Manor Motorsport's Matthew Griffin (Blarney), however. He needed urgent repairs to his car in the pitlane after it took a heavy knock on the opening lap and rejoined the race in 24th. An aggressive drive and a series of fine overtaking manoeuvres saw him climb to 12th by the finish.