MORGAN ENJOYS CAREER-BEST WEEKEND AT DONINGTON GP Alex Morgan produced by far the most competitive, assured and complete performances of his short single-seater race career at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 8th/9th...
MORGAN ENJOYS CAREER-BEST WEEKEND AT DONINGTON GP
Alex Morgan produced by far the most competitive, assured and complete performances of his short single-seater race career at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 8th/9th September, the Manor Competition driver truly coming of age with fifth and sixth place finishes during rounds 17 and 18 of the Formula Renault UK season.
The 20-year-old Welshman, who studies at the University of Birmingham, has shown ever-improving flashes of promise since joining New Ollerton-based Manor at the start of the current campaign but during Sunday's two World Series by Renault-supporting races, Morgan made some big strides forward.
Manor looked fully competitive as a team all weekend with Alexander Sims, Kris Loane and new signing Joe D'Agostino all running well too and in qualifying on Saturday afternoon, Sims emerged as the fastest of the four by taking fourth place on the grid for round 17 and going one better with a third-place start for round 18.
Morgan, meanwhile, qualified an excellent eighth and seventh for the two races while former UK Formula Ford Scholarship Class Champion D'Agostino would line up a superb fifth on the grid for both encounters.
Northern Irishman Loane encountered a variety of problems in qualifying but still achieved a brace of starts inside the top 12. Losing four 10ths of a second on his best lap due to slow traffic, the Kesh-based racer otherwise had the pace of his team-mates.
At the start of the first of Sunday's races, Sims made a great getaway to maintain fourth place before taking third spot from then series leader Dean Smith shortly after. Morgan climbed into seventh position but for D'Agostino the opening lap didn't offer him any favours, the 22-year-old slipping down the order.
With Sims under mounting pressure from Smith, Morgan continued his progress by passing Will Bratt while D'Agostino remained in the top 10 with Loane just a little way further adrift.
Lap eight would be the turning point for Sims and Manor though. With Smith snatching third place away at Redgate, the Peterborough racer wasn't about to concede easily and fought back brilliantly on the run through Craner Curves, bravely regaining third position at the Old Hairpin.
Half a lap later though, Smith had the advantage into the Melbourne Hairpin and that's the way the order would remain to the flag. Morgan ended the race just behind Sims and was also named 'Driver of the Day' for such a superb effort.
D'Agostino came home in 10th on his first outing in a Formula Renault for almost two years and Loane was 12th, the latter seeing his race compromised after being forced to avoid a collision involving Adriano Buzaid at McLeans Corner early on.
The start of round 18 was very unfortunate for Manor, while D'Agostino and Will Bratt tangled at Redgate resulting in damaged suspension and an early retirement for the American, Sims received a puncture after his rear wheel was hit by Dean Smith's front wing as the pair ran through the first corner with Sims ahead in third place.
With two cars going off into the gravel on the opening lap at the Old Hairpin, the Safety Car was deployed but slick team-work from Manor enabled Sims, who had toured back to the pits, to rejoin the race on the same lap as the leaders with a fresh tyre on the car.
At the re-start on lap five, Morgan was again driving well in sixth place with Loane bottled-up behind several cars in a fight over 10th place. Sims, meanwhile, was already beginning to make rapid progress and having been 15th and last on lap six, by the end of lap 13, the Peterborough racer was inside the top nine after passing Chris Holmes.
Morgan was terrific again, sixth place just reward for an excellent weekend with Sims crossing the line in eighth position after a stirring comeback and Loanerounding out the top 12. Again, Loane's race was affected by a couple of incidents which proved incredibly unfortunate as he certainly had good pace.
Reflecting on the weekend, team boss Tony Shaw said: "All in all it's been pretty good for us, we know we had the pace in qualifying to be on the front row and it was just so unfortunate Alexander had the puncture in the second race. Hats off to everyone in the team though, they did a great job to get him back out on track very quickly.
"We've been absolutely delighted with Alex this weekend, he's driven superbly and it shows everything is finally coming together for him. He was very quick, consistent and raced very well. We couldn't have asked for anything else."
Shaw added: "It hasn't been the best weekend for Kris and not for reasons of his making either, but he'll bounce back at Thruxton. He's had a great year to date. It was good working with Joe this weekend, he underlined exactly what we knew about his ability. It was just a shame the races turned out how they did as his qualifying pace was great."
Sims remains in eighth position in the full Formula Renault UK standings with Morgan moving into the top 10 and Loane in 12th place. In the Graduate Cup rankings, Sims is fourth and Loane is sixth. Manor also closed the gap to third place in the entrant's standings to 11 points, having been 24 points adrift at the start of the weekend.
Rounds 19 and 20 of the 2007 Formula Renault UK Championship will take place at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire on 13th/14th October.