RIKI CAPITALISES TO WIN ROUND ONE Riki Christodoulou (Sutton Coldfield) started the 2008 season as he ended 2007 with victory in an action-packed round one of the Formula Renault UK with Michelin Championship on Sunday, 30th March....
RIKI CAPITALISES TO WIN ROUND ONE
Riki Christodoulou (Sutton Coldfield) started the 2008 season as he ended 2007 with victory in an action-packed round one of the Formula Renault UK with Michelin Championship on Sunday, 30th March. Christodoulou, who won the final race last season, made the most of a poor start by pole-sitter Alexander Sims (Peterborough) to finish ahead of Apotex Scorpio Motorsport's debutant Josh Scott (Loughborough) and cousin Adam Christodoulou (Lichfield) of CR Scuderia Formula Renault at Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
Manor Competition driver Sims had earned pole position with a great lap in Saturday's qualifying but a problem selecting neutral meant he had to hold the clutch in while the rest of the field took up their grid slots. While attempting to hold the car stationary and avoid a false start, Sims stalled the engine and could only rejoin in 14th place.
Riki Christodoulou got away cleanly to lead into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, while CR Scuderia's Scott Jenkins (Bristol) lost out to Josh Scott and Adam Christodoulou on lap one. The top three exchanged fastest laps and were evenly spaced as the race at the front settled into a rhythm on a damp but slowly drying track.
Further down the order, Sims moved passed Mark Burdett Motorsport's Tom Armour (Billericay) and Apotex Scorpio's Kieren Clark (Royston) on successive laps as he began his recovery drive. Fortec Motorsport's James Calado (Cropthorne), backed by the Racing Steps Foundation, spun on the exit of Druids Hairpin to drop to last place of the 19 remaining runners, CR Scuderia's Sten Pentus (Bardon) having already retired with a broken gear lever.
The battle for 10th place saw Alpine Motorsport's Dean Stoneman (Southampton) come under pressure from Eurotek Motorsport's Jordan Oakes (Hopton) at Paddock Hill, Oakes himself then being challenged by Sims as the Formula Renault cars produced exciting racing on a circuit notorious for difficulties with overtaking. Lap eight saw Sims complete the pass through Surtees and by the halfway stage of the 24-lap race he had reached 10th by passing Stoneman with a brave move at Paddock Hill Bend.
Also on the move was CR Scuderia's Ryuji Yamamoto (Milton Keynes) and he provided a thrilling moment together with Sims and Fortec's Adriano Buzaid (Oxford). The trio exited Clearways in line but fanned out to run three-wide into the fearsome Paddock Hill Bend with Yamamoto emerging ahead of Sims and Buzaid, but all three drivers showing great courage and respect for each other in front of the packed grandstand.
Just behind, Manor's Henry Surtees (Lingfield), son of former World Champion John Surtees, was struggling for grip as the wet tyres became worn on the drying circuit. He dropped three places from ninth on lap 15 before finishing in 15th place, one place ahead of Stoneman who had also been running strongly early in.
Lap 16 saw Yamamoto gain another place by passing fellow Japanese Sho Hanawa (Watford) and Yamamoto then set the fastest lap to that point when he had clear track ahead of him. All the while, Riki Christodoulou continued to build his lead over Scott to more than five seconds by lap 20.
Eighth-placed Sims was now coming under pressure from Buzaid, while Oakes passed Worswick Engineering's Rossi (Blackburn) for 11th place. Rossi returned the favour on lap 22 after Oakes ran wide at Graham Hill Bend to re-take the place for an 11th place finish in his first Formula Renault UK race.
In the closing laps, the charging Yamamoto was catching Manor's Kris Loane (Kesh) at more than one second per lap. As Buzaid passed Sims at Druids Hairpin on lap 22 for eighth place, Yamamoto was lining up an attempt to pass Loane on the final lap. The Northern Irishman defended the inside line at Paddock Hill and Druids and the pair exited Clearways side by side. In the end Loane hung on by inches, timed at 0.009s by the official timekeepers, for a hard-earned fifth place.
After an error-free drive the race belonged to Riki Christodoulou, with Scott the leading Graduate Cup driver in a fantastic second place in his first Formula Renault UK race and first race outside of his native Australia. Adam Christodoulou completed the podium line-up some eight seconds behind his cousin.
Commenting on the victory, Riki Christodoulou said: "I was confident I could make a good start but the fact that Alexander stalled obviously made it easier for me. Times haven't been brilliant in testing but I was always confident that in the races my experience gained last year would help me and that's how it proved today."
Second-placed Josh Scott said: "I actually stalled as we began the Green Flag Lap but luckily made a better job of it at the race start. I was able to break free from Adam early on but Riki had got away from me slightly. My tyres started to overheat as the track dried so I was trying to drive through water where I could but the main thing was to keep my lap times consistent, which I was able to do."
Third-placed Adam Christodoulou said: "I was a bit disappointed after qualifying yesterday but much happier now thanks to this result. I made sure I was concentrated for the start and got away well. It was a bit lonely during the race but I picked up a good handful of points and it's all about the overall championship for me this season."