WILL BRATT -- 2006 SEASON REVIEW Will Bratt can reflect on 2006 as the year he truly came of age as a single-seater racing driver, the 18-year-old ending his second season of Formula Renault UK Championship action eighth overall in the ...
WILL BRATT -- 2006 SEASON REVIEW
Will Bratt can reflect on 2006 as the year he truly came of age as a single-seater racing driver, the 18-year-old ending his second season of Formula Renault UK Championship action eighth overall in the driver standings with one outstanding race win to his credit.
As one of just six drivers to make their way onto the top step of the podium during the 2006 season, Adderbury-based Will marked himself out as one of the true stars of Formula Renault UK and should he return to the series in 2007 he'll undoubtedly be a consistent front-runner and title contender.
Having enjoyed a productive pre-season throughout March during official testing, the first race meeting of the season took place at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in early April and the Apotex Pharmaceuticals-backed star quickly underlined how genuine his testing pace had been by taking top eight and top six finishes in the opening two rounds.
Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire was the next stop on the calendar and proved to be the highlight of the year for Will and the Scorpio Motorsport team, the Oxon teenager qualifying a career-best second on the grid for round four of the championship and going on to take a famous victory -- his first ever in Formula Renault UK.
After making a perfect start to leapfrog pole-sitter Sam Bird on the run to Old Hall Corner for the first time, Will was never headed during the 15-lap race as he soaked up intense pressure from championship contender Patrick Hogan throughout.
"It was fantastic to win at Oulton Park", said Will looking back on his popular and well deserved maiden victory, "We learned a lot in 2005, everything was new to us then so it was always going to be a case of really starting to come into our own this year."
After a visit to the ultra-fast Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire, the championship made its annual journey to Knockhill in Scotland during mid-June which would prove to be the most demanding event of the season for Will who, at the time, was in the midst of his vital A-level examinations at Bloxham School near Banbury.
Running strongly in the top six during round seven, Will was robbed of an impressive finish when forced into a spin on lap four although a valiant fight-back through the order did net him some valuable championship points.
Round eight, however, saw a turn around in fortunes with the Apotex-backed sensation climbing from ninth on the grid to achieve a richly deserved top four result in absolutely appalling conditions. His superb performance also earned Will the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day accolade and, with the racing completed, he embarked on the long journey back to Oxon to prepare for no less than five A-level exams the following day.
Another fourth place finish followed at Croft during the 10th round of the campaign, from sixth on the grid, but the following race meeting at Donington Park National Circuit saw Will make a welcome return to the podium with an excellent third place in round 12.
Starting fifth on the grid, Will moved into the top four on lap one and then a superb piece of textbook overtaking at Goddard's Chicane on the seventh lap saw the 2004 T-Car Champion seize third position from Cheng Cong Fu.
Following two rounds in mid-August at Snetterton in Norfolk, more success came for Will but this time it was away from the track. Having achieved 'A'-grades in History, Maths and Art at A-level, the 18-year-old was successful in progressing to the University of Oxford's Lincoln College where he now reads History.
On the back of such fantastic news, Will returned to the cockpit of his Formula Renault for the championship's second visit to Donington Park in September as support to the World Series by Renault category. In front of over 90,000 spectators on the full Grand Prix layout of the Leicestershire venue, Will achieved a brace of seventh place finishes.
The penultimate event of the season saw Formula Renault UK revisit Brands Hatch Indy Circuit but, unfortunately for Will, the race meeting didn't offer the same level of success as the opening two rounds of the year due to an internal gearbox problem.
Nonetheless, a top eight championship finish was still on the cards and although he was forced to miss the opening qualifying session at Silverstone National Circuit during the season finale due to University commitments, Will shone in the 20th and final round of the year by finishing fifth after an excellent drive and sealing eighth in the standings in the process.
Reflecting on the season as a whole, Will commented: "It was certainly a year of quite a few high points for me and the team, we always had a tinge of excitement heading into each race meeting as we knew we had good potential.
"Generally speaking, with more good fortune I think our two podium results could have become as many as six. We weren't strong enough to challenge for the championship, we were never na0x00efve enough to think that, but we do aim to be contenders next year."
He added: "I've really enjoyed the last two years with Scorpio, we have a terrific sporting and working relationship, and hopefully we can maintain the continuity into 2007 and be regular podium finishers.
"It's been a memorable season for us and hopefully we'll take what we've learned forward into next year where it should pay dividends. We're not underestimating how tough the competition will be in 2007 though and we need to work hard to attract new sponsors to share in what we hope will be continued success with Apotex and Scorpio."