What a great weekend! When you have good times in motor racing you have to savour and enjoy the moment as much as you can. Winning is why we all do it. It becomes habit forming. The more you win, the more you want to win! It’s an appetite that can never be satisfied.
When I entered the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship at the very last minute back in April I didn’t even know if I’d be doing the full series. It wasn’t really the championship that most people expected to see me sign up for. But it was very important for me to stay active, race sharp and in the shop window. This game can be very cruel and it can be a case of “out of sight, out of mind”.
At the end of last year I expected to be entering the FIA F2 championship. I had a good offer on the table and with experience of the car was confident of doing a good job. But as we know, nothing can ever be taken for granted and when the deal collapsed it looked like I would be left high & dry. That was until Patrick Cullen and his brand new Cullen Motorsport outfit came to me with an offer at the 11th hour.
These are tough times for motosport in the UK, particularly single-seater racing. But if you have the right product and the right niche then you can buck the trend and that is most definitely what the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship has done this year. To be fair it’s been strong for a few seasons now but it’s really hit a peak this year and the great thing is there has been quality as well as great quantity. An amazing full grid of 32 cars were entered at the BTCC support round finale on the Silverstone National circuit last weekend and because of the great popularity of the BTCC we had an amazingly large spectator crowd in attendance to show off in front of and live TV coverage which pulled a viewing figure in the hundreds of thousands. Truly amazing!
Reports of the two races are well documented elsewhere so I won’t quote them chapter and verse again here but I will say how much I enjoyed the weekend. On reflection I did not get the best out of the car in qualifying, partly due to set up and partly due to me not getting myself track position on a very busy circuit and also the rapid evolution of the track which, especially in qualifying session one, was changing every lap as it was drying so quickly. But everyone’s times were incredibly close and though I would have liked to have been higher up the grid than my brace of 4th places I was still confident, but not complacent, that I could get the job done from there.
The races themselves went by quite rapidly and in both I made good starts, settled into a rhythm quite quickly and ran at a very good pace. I probably could have pushed Seb Morris harder in race two on Sunday – we definitely had the pace, demonstrated by the fact that I set a new lap record in the latter stages of the Sunday televised contest. But in truth the second safety car period late on scuppered any chance I had of grabbing the win and lets be honest, there was no need to take unnecessary risks. Two podiums (a 3rd & a 2nd) plus a new lap record was a great way to sign off the season and seal my second national single-seater championship title in as many years and my third in four years – and even in 2010 I was a runner up and the highest championship points scorer before dropped scores. All in all not a bad record!
It was also a great weekend for Seb Morris; congratulations on taking a double win and commiserations to the only driver that was fighting me for the championship, Josh Webster, who at least has the very nice consolation prize of being a finalist in the McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award. Enjoy it! I certainly did and best of luck to all the finalists, though if I’m honest I am rooting for Josh Hill because like me he cut his single-seater racing teeth in Formula Ford and drove for the team that I have been associated with both as a driver and a mechanic Jamun Racing Services.
Of course I couldn’t have achieved any of what I have this year without a considerable amount of help along the way and now I’d like to say a very, very big thank you to Cullen Motorsport, Jamun Racing, Cliff Dempsey Racing, SDS, Stratos Marcomms, Pritchard & Cowburn, Baines Leasing, Jenner Group, MIR, Contract Lift Solutions and all my great friends and family many of whom have dug deep into their own pockets to help me out with expenses such as hotel bills, food and travel. You’ve all been truly amazing and I cannot thank you all enough!
My championship may be over but my season most definitely isn’t. Ryan Cullen, who made his Formula Renault Debut at the weekend, will be entering the BARC winter series so I will continue to help him with what has been an encouraging campaign so far and I also very much hope that I get the opportunity to test something before the end of the year. I’d love it to be a GP3 or F3 or perhaps even a trip over to the USA to have a look at the Road To Indy programme but we will just have to wait and see.
There are still some great end of season events to look forward to as well such as the Formula Ford Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy and if anyone wants to make me an offer of a seat in either of these I’d be very happy to hear what you have to say!
Bye for now,
Photos by Emma Muir & Paul Clarke