STEVENS LEADS THE WAY AFTER THRILLING THRUXTON OPENER Manor Competition's Will Stevens (Oxshott, Surrey) moved to the top of the championship standings after two impressive performances including a race win during the opening rounds of the 2010...
STEVENS LEADS THE WAY AFTER THRILLING THRUXTON OPENER
Manor Competition's Will Stevens (Oxshott, Surrey) moved to the top of the championship standings after two impressive performances including a race win during the opening rounds of the 2010 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship at Thruxton circuit on 3rd/4th April.
The Surrey teenager, 18, now in his second season, took a lights-to-flag victory during Sunday's high-speed round two broadcast live on ITV4 followed by a second place in the weekend's earlier opening round which marked the competitive debut of the New Formula Renault 2.0 car.
Atech GP's Tama's Pa'l Kiss meanwhile was the deserved winner of Saturday's tense round one in which the Hungarian driver battled through the rain, and the field, to claim his maiden victory.
The weekend also saw podiums for Manor Competition's Lewis Williamson (Golspie) who took second in round two while CRS Racing's Harry Tincknell (Exeter) enjoyed a double podium with two third places around the 2.3560-mile Hampshire track.
As well as the competitive debut of the new Formula Renault car, the race meeting also saw the first outing for the championship's new Safety Car -- the award-winning New Megane Renaultsport 250.
Stevens starts title bid...
Round two of the Formula Renault UK Championship got underway in front of a packed crowd with many more watching live on ITV4. After a difficult rain-effected qualifying session, it was Stevens who emerged as the Michelin pole sitter with Fortec Motorsport's Tom Blomqvist (Sweden) alongside him leaving Tincknell and Williamson to line-up on row two.
As the lights went out for the start of the 16-lap race it was Stevens who quickly capitalised on his track position to lead the field into Allard followed by Williamson who had been able to pass a slow starting Blomqvist.
The opening lap also saw Blomqvist, son of rally legend Stig, and Tincknell go side-by-side in the battle for third and fourth with Tom just holding onto the place. Pa'l Kiss was also once again able to move his way through the field to gain a couple of places with Team Firstair's David McDonald (Ewell, Surrey) also gaining ground.
Only two laps into the race the order at the front changed again with Tincknell moving into third while Team Firstair's Jordan Oakes (Hopton-on-Sea) slipped into fifth after a poor start.
The opening laps saw second place Williamson push hard in an attempt to catch Stevens and setting the NGK fastest lap, along with a new lap record in the process, with a time of 1min 09.895s (121.34mph average).
After one-third race distance the top four remained the same while just behind Pa'l Kiss was now up into fifth with team-mate Nick Yelloly (Solihull) also making up places in the midfield to lie ninth. Graduate Cup driver Alex Lynn (Dunmow, Essex), who had looked impressive all weekend, was also running well in his Fortec Motorsport run car in eighth.
As the laps counted down, Williamson continued to push with the gap between him and Stevens slowly diminishing. The same could be said for Tincknell and Blomqvist as the Swede, the youngest driver in the series at just 16, continued to battle to regain his podium place. However, the more experienced Tincknell was able to close the door on more than one occasion as the two ran nose-to-tail round the fastest circuit on the BTCC calendar.
With just a handful of laps remaining Stevens had been able to respond to his charging team-mate and extend his lead over the 20-year-old. Positions were still changing behind though with McDonald now lying just outside the top-five and a resolute Michael Lyons (Felsted, Essex) producing one of his best performances in his CRS Racing run car to lie in ninth and hot on the heels of Lynn's car ahead.
The penultimate lap saw Pa'l Kiss pinch another place to move into fourth but there was no stopping race leader Stevens who duly crossed the line for his maiden win leaving Williamson to take second and Tincknell to finish third. Pa'l Kiss and Blomqvist rounded off the top five with Lyons able to make up another place to finish eighth overall, ahead of Lynn who took the Graduate Cup honours.
Pa'l Kiss dominates in wet...
Saturday's rain-effected opening round saw Williamson line the start grid as Michelin pole-sitter with Blomqvist alongside him on the front row. McDonald, who chose to gamble on slick tyres on the damp but drying track, lined up in an impressive third place followed by Pa'l Kiss and returning driver Oakes.
As the lights went out it was Williamson who made the best start while behind McDonald was slow to get away dropping down the order. A great start by Pa'l Kiss from row two saw him move up into second place by the end of the opening lap with Fortec Motorsport's Ollie Millroy (Claygate, Surrey), Stevens, Tincknell and Yelloly also gaining places with Stevens in particular moving up four places from eighth on the grid. Despite a good start, a spin involving Blomqvist pushed him well outside the top 10.
The race had little time to play out though as the opening stages saw a brief Safety Car period before racing resumed two laps later with a new race distance of 18 laps. Williamson remained at the front after the restart followed by Pa'l Kiss, Millroy, Stevens and Tincknell.
Pa'l Kiss continued to pressurise the back of Williamson's car and by lap eight the Hungarian tried to pass on the inside at Club only for Lewis to close the door. The next lap though Pa'l Kiss was able to make it stick to lead a race for the first time.
In the battle behind, Stevens was now lying in third with Tincknell in fourth after Millroy had dropped two places. Williamson's fortune didn't improve a few laps later though after he lost another place to team-mate Stevens.
With a clear track in front of him, Pa'l Kiss wasted no time in developing a lead between him and second-placed Stevens who had now made up six places. Meanwhile positions were changing throughout the field with CRS Racing's Robert Foster-Jones (Southend-on-Sea) gaining a place to move into eighth by lap 13 while Blomqvist was making amends for his earlier spin to now lie in seventh.
Out in front, Pa'l Kiss looked confident, only straying off the drying line to preserve his wet tyres. Stevens was also on course for second but the final podium spot was still being contested between Williamson and Tincknell with the Exeter racer just squeezing passed through Church.
The chequered flag belonged to Pa'l Kiss though who took his maiden victory with great delight. Stevens finished second followed by Tincknell with Williamson in fourth and Blomqvist overtaking almost ten cars to finish a remarkable fifth. Alex Lynn secured the Graduate Cup honours.
Commenting on his performance Stevens said: "This first win has been a long time coming but I'm really happy. We've been quick in pre-season testing and we've been able to carry that speed into the opening rounds which is largely thanks to Manor Competition who have been brilliant in setting up the car. I'm pleased with how things turned out in round one as I had a disappointing qualifying session and in round two Lewis pushed me hard but I felt I controlled the race well."
Speaking after his maiden victory Pa'l Kiss said: "I'm delighted with the win especially as it was a hard race and the track was very greasy, in fact I very nearly came off at one point. I had a good battle with Williamson but was able to get passed him and then settle down until the end of the race."
Commenting on his weekend Williamson said: "Round one was disappointing for me but I'm really pleased with round two's result. I tried to catch Will but he was just too quick but overall a promising start."
Double podium winner Tincknell commented: "Thruxton has proved a good start for me but I did struggle with qualifying which is something I need to work on. Tom pushed me really hard in round two so I'm pleased I was able to keep hold of the podium spot and hopefully I can look forward to some race wins at the next meeting."
Graduate Cup winner Lynn added: "Being new to the championship I'm really pleased with how the weekend has gone for me. I've come away with a good points haul and two Graduate Cup wins and hope to achieve more as the season develops."
Rounds three and four of the Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship take place at Rockingham Motor Speedway on 24th/25th April.
-source: renault sport uk