Racing Steps Foundation driver Oliver Rowland joins Renault Sport Academy
Oliver Rowland, the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion is joining the new Renault Sport Academy with immediate effect.
Rowland, the 23 years-old race ace from Barnsley – the first Briton to win the FR3.5 title on the back of a record eight wins – has signed up with the Academy and will undergo a comprehensive immersion programme at Renault Sport Racing’s headquarters at Viry-Châtillon, France and Enstone in England.
The Renault Sport Academy aims to back and develop driving talent towards the ultimate goal of bringing new drivers into F1: providing fitness, education and mentoring programmes.
In parallel with his Renault Sport Academy role, Rowland supported by the Racing Steps Foundation will race in the GP2 championship, on the Formula 1 Grand Prix support-programme, with the Dutch, MP Motorsport squad for his first full year of GP2.
The announcement takes him another step closer to realising his dream of becoming a full-time Formula 1 driver, he said, “I’m just thrilled to be able to share this news. Clearly it’s the kind of career move that every driver dreams of – but few get to realise. In that respect I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Renault Sport and the Racing Steps Foundation for making this possible”.
Graham Sharp, founder of the Racing Steps Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to have played a part in helping him along the way. Now it’s up to him to seize the opportunity with both hands and make the absolute most of it”.
2016 Autosport International racing car show – National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham
There was a strong local interest making headlines at the 2016 Autosport International racing car show at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre.
After 2015’s success sponsorship debut on AmDTuning’s BTCC cars, the Attercliffe-based manufacturer of performance and sports stainless steel exhausts are now upgraded to be entrant title sponsor on the AmDTuning.com/Cobra Sport Audi S3 2016 BTCC car, displayed on the Cobra Sport Exhausts stand at the show.
Ben Barnicoat will race with Hitech GP in the 2016 Formula 3 European Championship
Ben Barnicoat, the Chesterfield 19 years-old multi-championship winner, and one of the UK’s hottest young single-seater prospects, will join 2015 Euro F3 race-winner George Russell in the Mercedes-powered squad.
A protégé of the Racing Steps Foundation, Barnicoat tested with the team at the Spanish Jerez circuit in December as part of a comprehensive evaluation process.
The two-times McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist said, “I can’t wait to start testing in earnest. It’s been a bit of a wait while contractual matters have been sorted but I couldn’t be happier.
“Hitech is a top team which has everything in place to succeed. They’re very professional, and their set-up is just amazing – you get a real ‘we are here to win’ buzz from everybody in the team.
It is especially convenient that HiTech GP are Silverstone-based, as Barnicoat spends a lot of time at the Porsche Human Performance centre at Silverstone too.
He will be partnered with George Russell a driver he knows well from their earliest karting days, “Obviously I’ll be on a steep learning curve and up against a really strong and experienced team-mate in George. We’ve been fighting each other all the way through and I’m sure it’ll be a bit strange at first, but we’ll be pushing each other constantly, which is good because it will help the team as we have similar driving styles that will help with developing the cars,” he remarked.
“My gut feeling is I’m in exactly the right place to serve my F3 apprenticeship”, said a thrilled Barnicoat, “I couldn’t be happier. Hitech is a top team which has everything in place to succeed!”.
JHR Developments’ Steven Hunter with Jerseyman Jack Butel racing in the 2016 MSA Formula Championship
On the MSA stand Steven Hunter announced that young Jerseyman Jack Butel will continue to race for JHR Developments’ 2016 MSA Formula Championship team after a successful 2015 debut season.
Having spent the latter half of 2015 racing in the series with Dronfield-based JHR, 19 year-old Butel is confident that remaining with the team is to his advantage. “I’m so glad that I’m racing with JHR, who are an amazing team and I’m happy to do another year with them. Because we only joined them halfway through last year, but now we can hit the ground running in 2016”.
Hunter added, “it’s great to have Jack back, he developed well last year and we look forward to better results from running in the top-10 this season”.
As has become customary, Jake Designs, the karting graphics company from Rotherham, was responsible for the majority of ‘warpaint’ on the karts on display at the show.
Sennan’s flying start to the season
Sennan Fielding made the perfect start to his and JHR Developments’ 2016 MSA Formula 4 title challenge with a win in the opening three-race meeting of the championship at Brands Hatch. While JHR’s 2016 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship squad just missed out on a podium finish in two frantic races.
Leading Dronfield-based JHR’s three car MSA Formula 4 team, Fielding together with returnee, Jack Butel and series rookie Billy Monger struggled on qualifying pace compared to the pole sitter.
In the round 1, Fielding made a storming start from 9th into 6th place and was up to 5th by lap 3, spending the race tussling with the 4th placed car.
Monger made an impressive single-seater debut from grid 16th, grabbing 3 places on lap 1, he ran in 13th for 6 laps, before taking 12th place on lap 10.
He then pressured JHR Developments’ teammate Butel into a mistake on lap 12, demoting him to 12th place, Monger finishing 11th, five places higher than his starting position when the chequered flag fell.
Round two saw Fielding return to the top step of the podium in a race that will be remembered as one of the most thrilling and dramatic in the history of the championship.
From 5th on the grid Fielding kept his cool as light drizzle turned into a downpour and drivers battled to try to keep temperature in their tyres. He was “immensely impressive on slicks in the downpour” praised JHR team boss Steven Hunter.
With masterful car control, Fielding steered his way into the lead, increasingly treacherous conditions caused the race to be stopped, and the race order rolled back one lap…
At the re-start, the field now shod on wet tyres, Fielding struggled with wheel spin off the line, from 2nd he dropped two places, as the poleman sped away in front.
Running in 4th, Fielding soon caught and took over 3rd-place, closing up on the leader and 2nd drivers as they fought between themselves, the Chesterfield 18 year-old brought himself steadily into play, with three laps left.
Seeing his opportunity as the cars splashed by the pits, Fielding gritted his teeth to overtake Jamie Caroline who tried as usual to shove him into the pitwall at 110mph, luckily there was just enough room to manoeuvre his way alongside.
Entering turn one, the cars were now three abreast, with Fielding on his favoured inside of the corner, deftly he left his braking to the last possible second and dived through into the lead.
It was to be the race winning move as Fielding took the lead and held out for the remaining laps, setting the fastest lap, to take the fourth Ford MSA Formula victory of his career, and a five point lead in the championship.
“It was all about picking up the pieces at the right time. The car felt really good, especially on the slicks”, smiled Fielding. “When I pulled the race winning move, I remember thinking maybe I shouldn’t be attempting this, but it was worth it and I managed to pull it off. I’m now really excited to follow-up with another great result tomorrow”.
JHR team boss, Hunter was delighted, “he blitzed them all, Sennan was the class of the field!”
While still learning the car’s characteristics on new rubber, Monger had a lot of pace finishing in 8th place.
In round 3, Fielding repeated his round 2-winning move of a late lunge up the inside into Paddock Hill to capture 6th place with several laps remaining.
However, his hard work was undone following the race after it was judged Fielding had jumped the start, it earned him a time penalty that demoted him to 14th. “I got cramp and couldn’t feel my foot on the clutch pedal and the car crept forward”. “Rather a harsh 10 second penalty”, commented Hunter.
Also in round 3, Monger was penalised for exceeding track limits, dropping him to 18th.
Showing consistency, Butel had 12th, 13th and 12th placed finishes.
The JHR squad in the 2016 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship suffered a disappointing qualifying and were playing catch-up in a session cut short, “a very poor start to the weekend”, regretted Hunter.
Nevertheless, one of their rookie drivers, Sebastian Priaulx managed to set the 4th fastest time for round 1 of the series for 14 to 17 year-olds.
However he “had a massive learning curve”, and was judged to have crept forward on the grid, getting a drive-though penalty, he re-joined at the back working his way up to 18th.
Starting round 2 in 18th he fought through to 10th place until a fellow JHR rookie tapped him into a spin on the last lap, recovering to finish 14th.
From grid slot 12, Cameron Roberts by mid-race had climbed into the top-6 and was then locked in some close-fought battles to the flag.
Geri Nicosia and Kyle Hornby finished 8th and 9th, where Nicosia started 11th with Hornby making 6 places, as did series returnee Seb Perez finishing 11th.
Learning the ropes of racing in England, 14 year-old American rookie Dhyllan Skiba progressed from grid 22 to 19th, and finished round 2 in 17th.
For round 2, starting in the position where they finished the earlier races Hornby, Roberts and Nicosia were soon in the thick of the top-7 action by lap 3.
From the start Roberts was running in 4th place and repeatedly swapping paint as he squeezed into 3rd place, only to be nudged back again – he took the flag in 4th.
Also battling hard all race long Nicosia finished a place higher than he started, with Hornby ending one place down.
On the last lap, into the final corner, Priaulx was hard on Hornby’s bumper, followed closely by Perez who was dicing for 12th place with another car that started to slide and nudged Perez.
Unable to avoid colliding with his JHR teammate and namesake, Seb Priaulx was tapped out of a certain 11th, ending up 14th as Perez inherited the place.
JHR boss Hunter was pleased with their performances, “they had a good race pace, making places through traffic – it bodes well for the season!”
Fielding leapfrogs into joint-second in the championship
Sennan Fielding leapfrogged up the points table with another win for JHR Developments in the 2016 Ford MSA Formula 4 championship rounds 4, 5 and 6 at Donington Park. While JHR’s Ginetta Junior championship squad were in the thick of the action again.
Chesterfield racer Fielding’s home race weekend began on a wet track starting 4th in bad spray, “On the first lap I had contact and spun down the field to 13th. I managed a recovery drive to 7th”. Now in championship 6th place, handily, the result meant he would start the partial reverse grid round 5 on pole position.
JHR’s rookie Billy Monger set an amazing qualifying 4th place, but was unable to follow-up, finishing two places behind Fielding in 9th.
The Dronfield-based team’s third single-seater driver, Jack Butel came unstuck on lap 3, having to retire due to a technical problem after starting in 14th.
Making the most of his round 5 pole position start, Fielding stormed away at the lights, in a perfect getaway, driving a textbook race from the front he proceeded to pull away from the pack, easily establishing a comfortable lead.
With clear air ahead, Fielding had a 2.4 second lead within 2 laps, but an incident-packed race brought out the Safety Car and neutralised it for 5 laps.
Only seven minutes of the race remaining, Fielding kept a cool head making a textbook restart, just as he had when winning at Brands Hatch, and put sufficient daylight between himself and the pursuing Petru Florescu.
It took only 3 laps for Fielding to have a 2.821 seconds lead, and with no challengers he counted off the remaining 8 laps to claim a popular second 2016 victory in front of adoring fans at his home circuit, as he bounced into championship 3rd-place.
Smiled Fielding, “The race was fantastic for me. I got the perfect traction off the line with no wheel spin which meant I was well ahead into the first corner and then I knew had to get my head down and put in some quick laps. I built a good gap and could control the race from here, but then the safety car came out. I thought, ‘oh no…’”
“This made it a lot more challenging, but the marshals did a great job to recover quickly all the cars that went off during the race and when the safety car went in we had a great re-start. I knew I could just bring it home by being consistent without making any mistakes – I had to push again to rebuild the gap and managed to pull out a few seconds on the first lap. I think it was a fantastic race for Ford MSA Formula”.
“With it being my home circuit it gives the weekend added meaning. All my friends and family are here. I cannot thank enough all my sponsors, Amigos Beer, CBS, Bluebell Wood hospice and obviously the JHR team. Without them I wouldn’t be here. It just shows that you can race in this championship on a tight budget and be the best”.
Teammate Monger made a decent start too, from 9th he was running in 6th place within two laps and challenging for 5th, only to be hampered by the long Safety Car period.
One place behind him, JHR’s Butel put in his best performance so far this season to score the first points of his campaign, by making his way from last on the grid to 7th.
Starting round 6 in grid slot 5th, Fielding briefly took 4th place at the start before holding 5th place to the flag in a five-car train chasing the leader. As the championship-2nd placed driver failed to score, crucially Fielding’s points gave him equal number two spot in the championship table.
Through a round 5 penalty, Monger lost his 3rd on the grid, starting five places back, repeating the round 5 finishing order with him taking the flag in 11th and Butel one place behind.
JHR Developments’ Simpson Race Products 2016 Ginetta Junior Championship squad have still to get a podium finish this season, but they were closer in the three races at Donington.
Seb Perez had a ‘home race from hell’ plagued by engine problems all weekend. Teammate Cameron Roberts made ‘light contact’ in round 3 with the Chesterfield 16 year-old and both retired with broken wheels. Another crash in round 4 caused him to retire again. At least he managed to finish round 5, moving from 21st to 16th place.
Roberts and Geri Nicosia started 1-2 for the team in the partial reverse-grid round 5 but neither managed to stay within the top-3 finishers, ending up 5th and 9th respectively.
17 year-old Roberts declared, “I need to do better than undoing all my qualifying hard work in about three corners – my plan is to stop losing places and keep on the track!”, but round 4 saw him make 13 places climbing from 19th to 6th.
While 16 years old Nicosia confided, “I am still learning race-craft…”, his best result of the weekend was 5th in round 4.
With a best result of 8th in round 3, Kyle Hornby regretted, “The pace is there – it got me up to 3rd (briefly) – if I can avoid others – my rear bumper is ruined!”
The first of JHR’s rookies, 15 year-old Sebastian Priaulx seems to be getting the hang of things, he qualified 5th for round 3, finishing 7th, ending rounds 4 and 5 in 8th place, and he was 3rd highest rookie in each race.
Their other rookie, Dhyllan Skiba, an American 14 years old with an amazing ethnic mix of Italian/Indian Punjab/Polish genetics is commuting across the Atlantic while taking his High school final exams, “I’m on a steep learning curve (of all the UK circuits), but I’m getting better each practice session and race: I am faster in races than in qualifying”. Finishing 17th in rounds 3 and 4, he was taken out in round 5.
Barnicoat’s solid platform for F3
Ben Barnicoat made an impressive start on his FIA Formula 3 European championship debut at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France.
Moving up to the series whose results contribute towards a Formula 1 Super Licence, and again backed by the Racing Steps Foundation, the Chesterfield 18 year-old had, “a bit of a mixed weekend really…”
Really strong pace in the free test session boded well for the weekend, but windy and rainy practices were a challenge for his first time in the wet in a F3 car with its dependence on aerodynamics providing the grip.
In a wet qualifying session 1, he was the first to take the flag giving him the initial pole position, but in the improving conditions, “others last laps were faster demoting me to 5th”.
“To start my first ever Formula 3 race in 5th position is a pretty solid platform to work from,” Barnicoat remarked. “I was going well and improving every lap, so it was disappointing to be caught out by the chequered flag. I felt that I could have gone even better, by up to half a second, if I’d been able to bank that final lap”.
Qualifying session 2 was less windy, but expecting the track to be greasy, rather than dry, he was too aggressive warming his slick tyres, and overheated them, losing grip so would be starting in 6th place for the second race of the weekend.
Taking place in drizzle, race 1 saw him “only manage to convert 5th to 4th”, but Barnicoat had a tough race as he spent 33 minutes holding off Max Guenther (pole position in race 2, and race 3 winner).
“My pace was good compared to my more experienced teammate, George Russell, so I was happy – I would have liked a podium, of course…”
Things were not so great in race 2, Barnicoat made a good start and saw a gap at the first corner left by Lance Stroll. “l went for it, but made the mistake of running wide on to the paint at the edge of the track, lost grip and then was just a passenger”.
He cascaded into the pack causing a multiple collision, and broken suspension for Barnicoat ended his race early. He was later handed a five-place grid penalty by race stewards for the third and final race of the weekend, plus Barnicoat was also punished with two penalty points on his race licence.
Sheepishly, Barnicoat admitted, “I learnt a lot from that”.
From his relegated race 3 11th grid slot, he made a really strong start climbing up to 8th, but cars tangling alongside forced Barnicoat off the track and he dropped to 13th.
Soon making his way back up, he got up to 11th, Barnicoat defending his position from a charging fellow Brit, Callum Ilott to the flag, with rain in the air he showed caution, “I didn’t want to risk any further penalties…”.
“All-in-all, bar race 2, it was a positive weekend”. Barnicoat summed up his Formula 3 debut. “My pace was close to (teammate) Russell, so I was happy with my performance. I had a bit of everything in three races, but have got the first weekend over and done, It is good to learn how a race weekend works. But it is a shame about the accident.
“Now I need to get my head down and get on with it, I have not raced on these Hankook tyres before so I have to change my driving style as the race goes on”, commenting with a grin, “having to wait for grip to come in is not really my style…”
Fielding takes F4 series lead
Steven Hunter could not have been happier with the performance of his JHR Developments team’s squad of young drivers in the F4 and Ginetta Junior championships racing at Thruxton.
For Round 7 of the re-named 2016 British Formula 4 championship, Chesterfield’s Sennan Fielding qualified 4th for the Dronfield-based team grabbing a position at the start. Spending the race fighting over 2nd place, he eventually settled for a 3rd-place finish.
Teammates Billy Monger and Jack Butel had differing fortunes: Monger failed to finish through brake problems. Butel climbed from 12th to 7th, rather handily, this converted to pole position for the partial reverse grid Round 8.
Unfortunately on the opening lap Butel was ‘mugged’ at the Complex and fell back, then Fielding made contact with him, before Devlin Defrancesco finished the job, again at the Complex, hitting him and taking both of them out.
The contact caused Fielding to falter, losing multiple places dropping him to 14th place. His recovery drive had him climb back to 6th place at the flag and setting the race fastest lap.
From grid 18th Monger set to work moving up the field and after two lengthy Safety Car periods he had worked his way up to 3rd place, gaining his maiden podium finish. “A chaotic race, but I am happy with the result”, he commented.
Starting round 9 from 3rd, at the lights Fielding rocketed away off the grid taking 2nd place, with Monger running 6th and Butel in 17th.
On Lap 2, two Carlin team cars passed Fielding dropping him to 4th, but he fought back and overtook one Carlin car into 3rd, then when the other Carlin car ran wide, it gifted 2nd to Fielding.
Soon Fielding had closed on race-leader Defrancesco, when he made a mistake at the chicane Fielding saw his chance and was through to the lead.
But not for long as then thing got a bit intense, with a five-way lead battle places changed every lap, initially with Defrancesco recovering and taking the lead back.
Then Max Fewtrell got the run on Fielding demoting him back to 3rd for two laps, until a mistake by Fewtrell allowed Fielding back into 2nd place.
At three laps to go, Monger, having followed Fielding through was all over the back of him, before the pair were running side-by-side as they hurtled to the chicane.
Dicing for the lead had taken the best out of Fielding’s tyres, so Monger was able to be the bravest of the pair, leaving his braking to the very latest and squeezed past into 2nd place.
On the penultimate lap, two more cars overtook Fielding dropping him to 5th place, as Monger was overjoyed to claim runners-up spot on his second podium of the weekend.
Monger beamed, “It’s been an awesome weekend – we needed it! I have had the pace in previous races, but have been unlucky. So we needed results and now have some points on the board with two strong results”.
All this action made Fielding the joint Championship-leader along with Luis Leeds, but Fielding’s 100% finishing record gave him the lead.
Hunter was all smiles too, “the weekend went very well, as we took the race to a high budget, international racing team like Carlin. The kids drove exceptionally well, especially Sennan Fielding taking the lead in the British Formula 4 championship: to come away leading the championship against the cream of the world’s young drivers he did exceptionally well: I just cannot fault them”.
JHR’s Ginetta Junior championship drivers did not disappoint him either with Chesterfield 17 year-old Seb Perez securing pole position for round 6.
Unfortunately, he lost the lead and then to add insult to injury, as Perez’s car was rolling at the start, Officials imposed a jump start drive through penalty so he actually ended the race in 18th place. “A massive disappointment he couldn’t convert pole position to a win”, Hunter remarked.
JHR teammates Cameron Roberts and rookie Seb Priaulx came home in 4th and 5th having spent the race at the sharp-end of a five-car dice for 3rd place.
Perez and Max Bird tangled in round 7 bringing out the Safety Car until lap 4, but it allowed Priaulx, from grid 5th, to grab his inaugural podium in 3rd place after some defensive driving to hold his position on the final lap. Hunter applauded the 14 year-old, “I’m chuffed at Priaulx’s podium he drove fantastically in only his third race meeting”.
Geri Nicosia, climbing from 9th to finish in 6th-place, earned Hunter’s praises, “He’s doing a genuinely staunch job – finishing top-10 every round so far this season”.
A place behind in 7th was Kyle Hornby advancing 5 places during the race, making up for round 6’s opening lap problems where he was shoved out of 4th place, dropped to stone last and recovering to 12th at the flag.
Barnicoat’s F3 first
Ben Barnicoat walked on water in Hungary, taking his debut victory in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship while claiming the first win for the HitechGP squad in the process at a wet Hungaroring circuit.
Round 2 of the Formula 3 series taking place at the home of the Hungarian GP had the RSF-backed driver held up in traffic in both qualifying sessions on a circuit that has always been renowned for a lack of grip.
Things were made worse by the recent re-surfacing of the circuit and the new tarmac still slippery made ‘exceeding track limits’ penalties a perpetual hazard.
Barnicoat was one of more than forty drivers to stray a wheel beyond the freshly marked out lines, and stewards docked his best time in the opening session so he would start race 1 in 12th rather than 6th.
Little changed in the day’s second session with traffic still hampering Barnicoat’s best efforts: he was only able to muster 8th for race 2, but vitally he clocked the 6th fastest time for race 3.
“Obviously I’m still on a steep learning curve but I’m sure I could have done better today but for the traffic and tactics of some of the other drivers out there,” said the HitechGP driver.
“Still, everything’s there now in terms of the elements I need to produce quick laptimes. I’ve just got to piece them all together now to make sure I leave here on Sunday night with some decent points-paying places under my belt”.
Following a brief race 1 opening lap safety car period, Barnicoat became embroiled in scraps for positions within the top-10: when one car dropped away from the pack, it promoted Barnicoat into the top-10, and into a second tussle for 8th place.
George Russell, Barnicoat’s team-mate, retired and promoted the Chesterfield 18 year-old to 9th place, but he was unable to make further progress: his lap times increasing through tyre wear, having chosen his most tired set of slicks for this race.
A disappointing start to race two from 8th place on the grid, Barnicoat went wide at turn one “taking real avoiding action” losing two places dodging two cars colliding, dropping into a pack of up to six cars vying for 7th place.
Unable to make any progress behind the 9th-placed car, Barnicoat persistently took the chequered flag in 10th place overall, plus attaining a Rookie 3rd-place podium.
“A shame to only score 1 point, while good to take the Rookie 3rd place, I’ll take it on the chin – I know better qualifying is needed”.
Overnight rain continued into the Sunday morning, meaning that race 3 started under the safety car due to the soaking wet conditions.
After two processional laps the cars were released, Barnicoat was “happy and confident” starting from 6th position; he wasted no time in progressing up the order.
New FIA rules on Safety Car re-starts, say that once the Safety Car has pulled into the Pit Lane, competitors can overtake after the Pit Lane entry.
Taking advantage of this, when Nick Cassidy went wide prior to the last corner Barnicoat dived past him on the inside for 5th place.
A deft bit of overtaking gave him 4th place and avoiding a final corner spinner meant Barnicoat was into 3rd place by the end of the opening tour!
While at the front Maximilian Günther and Russell had stormed off, the pair leading by three seconds, Barnicoat felt he had a “good solid position” from which to close the gap.
Steadily he was catching them, but Barnicoat’s HitechGP teammate Russell did the work for him going for Gunter’s lead, they collided resulting in race-ending damage for the pair.
While “unfortunate” that it was his teammate who crashed, Barnicoat had to capitalise when gifted the race lead on lap six: he was grateful, “it fell into my hands”.
Clearing the wreckage brought out the Safety Car for 2 laps, losing Barnicoat his 3 seconds lead, he could not relax, but keeping a cool head he made a successful restart.
With deft car-control on the wet track, his lead was untroubled and with a string of fastest laps Barnicoat managing to pull out a 5 seconds margin at the chequered flag to take his maiden FIA F3 race win.
Beaming an ear-to-ear grin he commented, “I’m over the moon for me and HitechGP especially for all their effort: they have worked so hard setting up the new team in such a short space of time and it has boosted their spirits”.
“It was a bit of a ‘could have, should have’ weekend prior to race 3, but I did everything right”, Barnicoat revealed.
“The track was unbelievably slippery in the wet – like driving on ice and it was almost impossible to see anything due to the spray from drivers in front: it was very hard, and I feel that I would still have had a chance to win even without the crash.
“From the restart, I just focused on keeping the car on the black stuff. I’m traditionally good in the wet so felt fairly comfortable. The win is great for me and the team, George [Russell] is more experienced having already had a year of F3 racing, so I expected him to score the team’s first victory.
“Qualifying didn’t go to plan for me earlier in the weekend. It affected my first and second races but I’m so glad that race three has made up for it and I’ve banked good points. I’m ecstatic”.
Adding to the ecstasy, Barnicoat ended the weekend 6 places higher, 7th in the points table and up to 3rd in the Rookies’ championship.
“I hope to be in touch with leaders from now on – It was an amazing race for me and I’m extremely happy!”.
Street fighting Barnicoat
Ben Barnicoat scored his second FIA Formula 3 European Championship race win at a rain-soaked street circuit in Pau, France.
At the start the Chesterfield super-rookie pounced when the Pole-sitter made a tardy getaway and darted into the lead.
In the early laps, Barnicoat was clearly the fastest driver at the head of the field, steadily building a healthy margin lap after lap, he was over five seconds ahead by lap eight.
Following a safety car intervention, New Zealander Nick Cassidy took over 2nd place and mounted a challenge closing to just 1.1 seconds behind, but even that failed to dent Barnicoat’s advantage too much.
After 24 undisputed laps, the Racing Steps Foundation-supported 18 year-old celebrated victory with a lead margin of more than two seconds at the flag.
“I am really happy with my first place. Rain had been forecast for a long time, which suits me very well. At the start, I was able to move up into the lead and I managed to pull clear from the rest of the field during the first few laps”. Barnicoat revealed, “Unfortunately, then the safety car came out, after the restart, things got a little more difficult, because Nick Cassidy was definitely putting pressure on me. I concentrated to avoid any mistakes, keeping it on the circuit and I succeeded”.
With his second win from as many races on wet tracks, Barnicoat moved up to 4th place in the drivers’ standings, into the lead of the rookie standings.
Race 2 of the weekend was not so much fun, as Barnicoat could only manage 11th after pitting under the Safety Car.
Rowland’s maiden GP2 podium
Oliver Rowland scored his maiden GP2 Series podium with a 3rd-place finish in the main feature race of the championship round 2 on the streets of Monaco.
Starting from 5th position, the Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver made a good start to hold position around the tight opening corners and began to place pressure on 4th-placed Mitch Evans.
As Evans struggled to withstand the Barnsley race ace’s pressure, he resorted to run straight across the chicane to retain the position, leading to stewards handing him a five-second time penalty.
Three Virtual Safety Car periods allowed Rowland to be elevated into 3rd place, and inherit 2nd place when that car pitted.
Needing to make up time to race-leader Norman Nato, Rowland made his pit stop, with Nato responding a lap later, but delayed with a botched pit stop.
He exited just in front of Rowland who, on warmer tyres, attacked immediately but without success.
Following a further Virtual Safety Car period, Artem Markelov led the race by 35 seconds enough for his mandatory pit stop and rejoin ahead of Nato and Rowland.
Markelov defended staunchly from the pair behind to take provisional race victory, with Rowland having to settle for 3rd.
“We had really good race pace today,” Rowland said. “I was being held up by Evans in the early stages but when I got clear air, we were rapid and I was happy to settle for second. At the end, a car came out of the pits so I’m not sure what happened”.
Rowland concluded a successful second weekend of the GP2 Series in the Monaco sprint race.
Making a good start from 6th place on soft tyres in the reverse grid encounter, Rowland lost places in an early tussle.
Saturday’s surprise race winner Markelov took advantage to pass Rowland for 7th, who was determined to regain the position though, driving up the inside of Markelov around Casino.
From there, Rowland staunchly defended his place, with Markelov unable to get by on a circuit difficult to overtake, allowing Rowland to cement a 7th place finish, and is now 7th in the championship.
Perez closes in on podium finish
JHR Developments’ two Chesterfield race-aces had vastly differing fortunes in the support races for the BTCC at Oulton Park.
While Sennan Fielding branded his F4 weekend as ‘one to forget’, Seb Perez almost took his debut Ginetta Junior podium for the Dronfield-based team.
Arriving at the circuit leading the British F4 championship albeit by a slender margin, Fielding was not in the best of spirits, “We tried a few things in qualifying but things were no better”.
He did not have much to report after round 10 where he started from 14 and finished in 10th place: “A quiet race with an OK start and I stayed where I ended up”, his glum face adding an extra emphasis. “It is going to be a hard weekend”.
A 10th placed start to round 11 saw him finish the race one place higher. Making four places from his 12th place start, Fielding took the flag in 8th place in round 12.
“There have been a few issues with the car – we have been off the pace all weekend, but JHR does not give up so we are sure to fight back”. Trying to raise a spirit of optimism he concluded, “I just need to stay consistent – everyone has their ups and downs, and it’s so close up at the front of points table, hard work and effort pays off!”
His miserable two days in Cheshire earned Fielding just 7 points, dropping him 42 points down from the lead to 4th in championship.
Subsequently, when the team examined Fielding’s car they discovered that the turbo was on the point of failing and giving a reduced power output, putting the 19 year-old at a disadvantage on the track…
Teammate Billy Monger had slightly better luck, with a 6th place finish in round 11, but only 9th in round 10 and ending up 13th in round 12.
Things were much brighter in JHR’s Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship squad, where for Round 8 the two Sebs, Priaulx and Perez lined up in grid slots 2 and 3 respectively.
Both of them made good starts: Priaulx trying to overtake pole-position Will Tregurtha at the first corner for the lead, but was elbowed out on to the grass causing him to plummet down the order taking the flag in 15th.
Benefitting from the clash, Perez took over the lead, but a mistake later in the lap allowed Tregurtha back through to the lead and get away.
Perez spent the race locked in a battle with Stuart Middleton over the final podium place, taking the position repeatedly but never quite able to hang on to it, and finished in 4th.
Geri Nicosia enjoyed himself fighting his way from grid 10th to end the race in 5th place, “A good race – hard work – but I got five places on a track you cannot overtake on: I loved it! He grinned, “I thought I may have got 3rd – I was waiting for the two in front – Perez and Middleton – to come together, but they were too well behaved…”
Kyle Hornby started in 7th and fell back mid-race to 8th but recovered 7th before the end of the race despite a loose bonnet.
Hornby also played a pivotal role in Round 9, when on lap 4 he spun at the slow Island hairpin and Daniel Harper could not avoid a glancing blow to the rotating Hornby’s left flank.
The impact to Harper’s car damaged an oil line that initially smoked heavily before causing the car to catch fire as he limped to the pits.
His car was ablaze sufficiently to cause the race to be neutralised with a safety car intervention for the final three laps, as the marshals tackled extinguishing it.
A maiden podium finish had looked likely for Perez in Round 9 as he was starting from grid slot 4, especially when he moved up to 3rd place on the opening lap only to be tapped into a spin unfortunately, recovering he re-joined at the back of the field.
Nicosia had the best result in 6th place even though he started from 5th, with Cameron Roberts the next best in 11th.
In the championship table Nicosia, in 6th place, is the highest placed JHR driver, with Roberts next in 7th, while Priaulx in 10th place.
Barnicoat winning return to karting
MBM perform at PFi
Hirst brings home the silverware
The Kartmasters British Kart Grand Prix may not have had any local drivers bringing home a coveted ‘GP’ number plate, but nevertheless out of the 233 entrants, Matthew Hirst did manage to collect an armful of silverware at the PFi circuit.
Usually, circuit racer Ben Barnicoat does a brief karting return at Kartmasters to grab a GP-plate, but this year the Euro F3 driver’s team did not want to jeopardise his season by risking him being injured, so the task fell on another local kart racer.
In the X30 Senior GP Sheffield’s Tom Healy looked to be stepping up to the task, adept at scything through traffic, he did well enough in the four heats to start the pre-final race on the front row.
For the blue riband X30 Senior GP itself, Healy lined up 7th out of 36 karts race, and after the rolling start soon moved up to 5th-place.
This became 3rd-place on lap 2 with Healy running wheel-to-wheel with the 2nd-place car as the pair put pressure on the race leader.
Briefly dropping to 7th, Healy spent the middle portion of the 17 lap race dicing around 5th-place.
Then on lap 11 disaster struck, with three minutes to go, when he was side-swiped off the track damaging his kart, Healy retiring on the spot.
Surprisingly calm and philosophical after the event, Healy revealed that he was taken out by a driver who had a gained a reputation for wreaking havoc over the weekend. Was he going to register a protest of the driver’s tactics? “What’s the point?” With his head dipped in resignation Healy explained, “That’s just the way it is – there’s no point in protesting him, as it is not going to re-instate me high in the results or on to the podium”.
Amazingly the cudgel then fell to Doncaster’s Matthew Hirst who lined up on grid slot 22nd for the final, a start position from finishing in 2nd-place in a packed ‘B’ Final that saw him gain 10 places in a very workman-like drive.
Continuing the improvements, he made 6 places at the start, following which Hirst steadily clawed his way through the field.
Within 6 laps Hirst was running on the edge of the top-10, and hungry for more places.
By lap 13 Hirst’s dazzling driving had gained him a stunning 18 places improvement on his start position, taking 5th almost on the finishing line at the flag: when the 4th-placed driver was excluded this meant Hirst became the 4th-place finisher.
Come the podium ceremony, not only did Hirst receive his 4th-place trophy but he was also awarded the Tony Hanley Spirit of Kartmasters Award Trophy – for showing true grit throughout the event having suffered mechanical problems and a catalogue of mishaps over all weekend.
Things had started welI-enough for Hirst, but in Heat 2 he was out on lap 3, and in Heat 3 a 10 seconds penalty for a front bumper irregularity dropped him 8 places to 26th.
Things went well in qualifying where he was 10th fastest, while in Heat 4 he finished in 8th place.
But in Heat 5 Hirst dropped down 25 places to 32nd, when he out with 3 laps to go through engine failure in the last race on Saturday.
It meant that Ash (manager of the KR Sport team running Hirst’s kart) – to whom Hirst is very grateful – having to drive back to their Milton Keynes base to rebuild and dyno-test the engine on Saturday evening so that Hirst could take part in the Sunday’s races.
The engine was put to good use by Hirst in Sunday’s B Final where he gained 10 places to finish in 2nd-place.
This placed him starting at the back of the Pre-final in 32nd slot, Hirst putting in a monumental effort making up 22 places to finish in 10th but another 10 seconds bumper penalty dropped him to 22th-place, hence Hirst’s lowly start position at the back of the Grand Prix final.
Finishing the GP further back were a pair of Rotherham karters; Jordan Baines was pleased to climb 23 places finishing 13th, unfortunately David Sutton was not so lucky having made his way to 16th from 32nd but retired within 7 laps.
While a pair of locals had not progress beyond the B-Final: Barnsley’s Brendan Patterson in 18th “we’ve been chasing it all weekend, but haven’t found it…”; Steven Burdass from Doncaster was a place behind with a 19th-place finish.
Sheffield’s Joshua Rattican started the IAME Cadet GP from the front row in 2nd slot, but did not get the best of starts falling back to 7th-place.
Fourteen laps of intense close combat karting followed where Rattican got back up to 5th on lap 2, slowly falling back to 8th mid-race before battling back to 6th-place with two laps to go.
The Handsworth-based Strawberry Racing, as usual, were running karters who were in the thick of the action.
Jenson Butterfield dominated the weekend, a lights-to-flag victory in the Pre-final race, hence being on pole position for the Minimax GP, looked to have the whole thing sewn up as he led the initial 12 laps with ease.
Only then to lose concentration on lap 13, he was ‘mugged’ at the second hairpin bend, Butterfield dropped down to 4th-place, suddenly ‘waking-up’ he fought back to finish the GP in runners-up spot.
Dean MacDonald gave Strawberry the honour of setting the fastest-ever lap of the PFi circuit, so is now the circuit’s outright lap record holder.
In the Senior OK Vortex GP, MacDonald from 3rd on the grid took 2nd-place on lap 3, only to lose the place on lap 10 and fall back 3rd, holding the place to the flag.
Following him home, one place behind, teammate Luke Knott resolutely made 4th-place his own from start-to-finish in the GP.
Strawberry’s Mark Kimber started the Junior Max GP from 4th slot, holding that position for all but the final lap when he clinched 3rd-place.
Fielding’s rollercoaster season continues
Sennan Fielding’s British F4 season has become a rollercoaster ride of breath-taking highs and the ultimate lows but still he is managing to advance steadily up the Championship points table.
The reason why the Chesterfield racer had such a lack-lustre time at Oulton Park’s F4 rounds became apparent in testing for the next meeting, Croft, when his turbocharger failed spectacularly: evidently it had been on its last legs over the previous weekend.
Disappointingly, not only was valuable testing track-time lost, but the replacement engine turned out to be ‘off par’ too, being 4 mph slower than the rest of the field.
Adding to the black clouds surrounding Fielding, in Croft’s round 13 race he was forced to retire due to damage to his car: non-scoring dropping him to championship 6th spot.
However, black clouds of rain falling the next day for round 14 levelled the field for him in the worsening conditions.
As the track became increasingly slippery it allowed Fielding to show his true mettle and car control by battling back through from 14th to grab 6th place down the main straight with three laps remaining.
As the rain continued for round 15, Fielding fared even better managing one place higher, finishing 5th, by showcasing his talent in the wet expertly scything his way through the field.
The loss of track time, and low top speed affecting his vital qualifying meant Fielding only added 24 points to his championship tally – come season end every single point will be crucial in the title fight.
For the next meeting at Snetterton it was third-time lucky when it came to engines and Fielding really made the most of it getting JHR Developments’ weekend off to a flying start by topping the times in testing by over two tenths of a second, with the majority of the field covered by less than a second.
The 20 year-old racer looked at ease around the Snetterton 300 circuit giving a shot in the arm to his quest for the F4 series title.
Said Fielding: “The Ford EcoBoost engine feels very good and the car extremely quick, so that gives me a lot of confidence. We are quick on old and new tyres which gives us a lot of confidence for the weekend.”
Proving it to be correct, the fine testing form was translated into an emphatic pole position and lights to flag victory at Snetterton’s round 16.
Clearly in the ascendancy around the three mile Norfolk track, it was a flawless Fielding as he converted pole position into victory with style in a commanding third win of the season for him and the JHR Developments team.
Although having to cope with two safety car restarts, each time Fielding showed his experience by leaving the rest of the field trailing in his wake, when the safety car peeled off into the pits.
Remaining calm and composed out front, Fielding kept his pursuers at bay until the chequered flag for win number three of the season.
Said a delighted Fielding: “It was a great restart. The second one was a little bit more difficult because the guys behind knew what I would likely do so I tried to mix it up a little bit. It was good to get the first win of the weekend and we need to carry this on!”
Bagging a few more points with 5th place in round 17 giving him 5th in the Championship, led up to Fielding’s pole position in the Snetterton weekend’s final British F4 race, round 18.
Showing that he really had the bit between his teeth, Fielding converted pole position into his fourth win of the season by once again reeled off another untouchable lights to flag victory in round 18.
The double race winner now in Championship-4th spot commented: “I had a great first lap and I was hoping to build a good lead, but when the gap got under a second the tow was big down the straights. I worked out where Devlin DeFrancesco was quicker and where I was quicker and used that to my advantage.
“It was a great race and it’s been a great weekend for us. The JHR team have done a fantastic job and a massive thanks to Amigos for making it possible.”
If he was able to keep up this level of performance at the next round, Knockhill, then the flying Fielding should certainly break the Carlin team’s stranglehold on the Championship.
Unfortunately, on the opening lap at the Scottish circuit, Fielding’s round 19 was brought to a premature end at Taylor’s Hairpin being the innocent victim of an incident that pitched his car through the air, causing massive and costly suspension damage.
This hurt his round 20 performance as he had to start from the back of the grid, but Fielding still fought his way up to an 8th-place finish, tailed by JHR teammate Billy Monger in a race chequered-flagged early due to two of the top-3 drivers from the Carlin team having a ‘contretemps’ and resolving the situation with fisticuffs on the edge of the track…
It was a more profitable race to round 21, with a cracking battle over 4th place emerging, with Fielding successfully fending off Max Fewtrell, Rafael Martins and James Pull.
Commented Fielding: “We made quite a drastic change to the car before the race which didn’t seem to work so I did well to get fourth. Also, we could have capitalised more on what happened to other title rivals: I think this is one of those weekends you just have to brush under the carpet.”
While still 4th in the Championship, just 22 points off the top spot, Fielding is definitely a serious contender for the title, although others have closed-up behind him to add to the pressure.
Fielding moves into F4 second place at Rockingham Motor Speedway
Sennan Fielding moved into second place in the British F4 Championship with two podium finishes at the Rockingham Motor Speedway after fate robbed the JHR Developments team of Fielding and his teammate, Billy Monger scoring a 1-2 finish.
Round 22 was a “challenging” race according to Fielding, beginning just as rain started to fall heavily. Praising the Dronfield-based JHR Team’s small band of mechanics, “They all did an amazing job to change three car’s tyres in time – but I did not have the correct set up for maximum grip”.
From 4th place, Fielding was at a grip disadvantage, “I got up to 3rd, but then fell back”. Splashing around in 4th-place for the middle portion of the race, Fielding fell back another place, for the last 4 laps, “I just brought it home in one piece in 5th”.
Fortunes were a lot better in round 23 for Fielding, who from a grid 4th start, with a blistering getaway and deft overtaking managed to take the race lead before the end of the opening lap.
For the whole 14 laps, Fielding held his own, resisting the opposition snapping at his heels, nevertheless he took the chequered flag just 0.5 seconds ahead for his win number five of the season.
By putting in a perfect qualifying lap, Billy Monger, JHR Developments teammate of Fielding, grabbed pole position for round 24 and took the lead, performing faultlessly steadily pulling away lap after lap.
Driving perfectly, no matter how hard he was pressured, Monger resisted like an old pro and was on course for his debut single-seater win.
All was going perfectly for Monger until suddenly, on the last lap, his car faltered briefly, Championship-leader Max Fewtrell pounced to take the lead.
Monger’s teammate Fielding, having started 6th and running in 3rd-place since lap 6, had no choice but to demote the ailing Monger down to 3rd.
“An oil pressure light came on with three laps to go and I had no power out of the hairpin so I knew I would struggle”, Monger revealed. “There was nothing I could do, even though I tried to do defensive moves to keep those two behind. Looking on the positive side, we proved to a lot of people that we have the pace to win races!”
He lamented, “It was just a shame my first win was robbed from me by a mechanical fault, seeing as I have made a massive step forward – we’ve had the pace all year, but just not been able to put a race together. I think I have shown that we can do it – just a shame that the team and I had lost it all on the last lap…”
Trying not to be too happy at another win, Fielding commiserated with Monger, “I feel gutted for Billy, who drove a phenomenal race, especially as I thought it was his turn this weekend, from lights-to-flag, but unfortunately it was out of his control”.
But his grin returned as he stated, “For me it was great race, I had few challenges in qualifying but to come away with a win and second is a good result for me and the team!”
A consequence of Monger’s woes, Fielding was a big winner from the weekend by jumping up from 3rd to 2nd in the points table over Rockingham’s two days and now 24 points adrift of the leader and closing!
Perez’s Rockingham podium double
Seb Perez grabbed JHR Developments a pair of podium finishes at Rockingham Motor Speedway in the 2016 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship.
In round 18 qualifying Seb Priaulx and Kyle Hornby were penalised for exceeding track limits losing their best lap times.
The Dronfield-based team were debuting a new driver, 14 year-old, Jenson Dineen who unlike others had no race experience – neither driven in karts or any cars before – and was jumping straight into Ginetta Juniors. However, he had benefitted from multiple test sessions to give him vital track time.
From qualifying 5th in the race, in the closing stages, 14 year-old Priaulx was in a 4-car dice for the lead, but finished in 4th-place, with Chesterfielder 17 year-old Perez not far behind in 5th.
Kyle Hornby and ‘new boy’ Dineen both had strong opening laps, each picking up three positions on their first tour: Hornby continued his power drive to finish in an eventual 8th-place.
While Dineen came home last explaining, “Some of the more established racers do not like me to race with them, I was tapped and spun down the field to last and stayed there.”
Having struggled around in 13th-place Geri Nicosia’s engine was found to be down on power, but hopefully was rectified for the rest of the weekend.
Round 19 had Perez move from 5th to 3rd-place battling over 2nd-place before settling for the final podium place.
Priaulx did not have the best start from 5th, before spinning down to 16th-place at the flag.
Dineen enjoyed an amazing start, picking up seven positions off the line, but did not complete lap 2, while Nicosia had a better race with an 8th-place finish.
The partial reverse-grid round 20 saw Perez getting up to 2nd within a couple of laps but a race of intense dicing had dropped him down one place to take the chequered flag for his second 3rd-place of the weekend.
A grinning Perez reported, “I’m over the moon as I had a fantastic battle with the top-two cars – it is tricky to get positions and then hold on to it – so I’m really happy as the front of the championship is massively close– so I am really happy to get two 3rd-places!”
Priaulx made six places on the opening lap, then set fastest laps driving through the field to catch up with Nicosia, the pair battled on the last lap, but the more senior Nicosia held off the young challenger for a 6th-place finish, commenting, “The racing is challenging but good, being out of the top-10 yesterday, I am happy to do so much better today”.
Nicosia is 6th in the Championship and just 2 points off 5th in the table, a place ahead of Priaulx, while Perez is 9th in the table.
Fielding takes F4 lead at Silverstone
With just six races remaining, Sennan Fielding’s F4 title chase had a brilliant outcome at Silverstone circuit in the 2016 F4 British Championship.
Arriving at Silverstone, Fielding with his five wins so far, was snapping at the heels of series leader, Max Fewtrell, and heading four other drivers chasing the F4 title.
On pole-position for round 25, “I struggled in practice, it was a bit of a gamble but a big thanks to JHR and (his engineer) Paul, I got pole”.
Fielding and Luis Leeds squabbled over the lead, but that allowed Zane Goddard to speed around the outside of them both into the lead.
JHR teammate of Fielding, Billy Monger failed to finish the opening lap, forced to retire when clouted by Championship leader, Fewtrell.
Defending his 2nd-place in the closing stages until the flag, Fielding held position, initially with Leeds all over his rear until he had a puncture and his place was taken by Devlin DeFrancesco instead.
Now just 6-points off the table lead, Fielding commented: “I just couldn’t get the traction off the line. We played a bit of a lottery with the car in terms of finding the right setup after a difficult day yesterday. We didn’t quite know how it was going to be so to come away with second is a great result! But anything can happen…”
From grid 8th, Fielding made impressive progress up the order throughout round 26 to 4th position and into an entertaining battle with points leader, Fewtrell.
However, Fielding was not prepared to relinquish 4th to his title rival, holding off the Canadian to bring home enough points to become joint-leader of the championship!
Suffering a spin early-on, Monger, having been one of the fastest cars on track, but struck back to get up to 11th-place at the fall of the chequered flag, tantalisingly close to the points.
On grid slot 2 for round 27, Fielding had Goddard putting on immense pressure from the start, and could only resist the onslaught until he got dropped to 3rd on lap 4.
Commented Fielding: “I really had to look after my rear tyres because I was struggling for grip. During the race I struggled a little bit with rear end grip as they tyres grained, plus I nearly stalled off the line…”
Luckily, he managed to hold onto 3rd-place gradually falling back from the lead pair, but still managing to pull out a ‘comfort gap’ from the rest of the field, to take the flag in 3rd for a Silverstone podium double, and claim valuable points to take over the head of the championship table!
“It’s a great result for us”. Grinned a delighted Fielding, “To come away leading the championship. I cannot ask for anything more especially after how slow we were in Friday testing.”
This is a testament to the fantastic, hard work done by the Chesterfield star and his JHR Developments team on a very slender budget, compared to the big bucks opposition.
So Fielding takes his 5-points advantage heading into the championship finale at Brands Hatch, where six drivers from four different teams will be in contention for the title.
Silverstone Super Sebs
Seb Priaulx gave JHR Developments another win as he celebrated his first Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Drivers Championship race victory at Silverstone in a frantic contest.
Qualifying began on a track drying slowly after a light shower, so the fastest times came in the final laps as the session ended.
It fell to Seb Priaulx to take his second pole of the season with Dave Wooder lining up alongside, Wooder’s experience saw him snatch the round 21 lead off the line, an advantage he retained to the flag.
Wooder’s success owed in some part to the incredible fight for 2nd unfolding behind: Priaulx held the position for a time, but was hassled by championship leader, Will Tregurtha and Lewis Brown who moved into 2nd and 3rd respectively at the halfway point.
Fans were soon treated to an eight-way battle over 2nd-place, where Priaulx eventually managed to get back into the position, where he remained to the flag.
With Priaulx claiming the Rookie class win, he was joined by JHR teammate and championship newcomer Harry Dyson in Rookie 3rd, who set a new a record for the youngest-ever podium finisher… This was made even more impressive by the fact that turned 14 years-old – and thus old enough to compete – just a few days earlier!
It was Wooder versus Priaulx again off the line in round 22, the pair running side-by-side into Maggots for the first time, with Priaulx taking the lead momentarily.
But he was then shuffled down the pack to 4th, for the next 8 laps the podium places chopped and changed with no less than seven cars battling for the lead in a frenetic few laps.
When it looked like as if he would miss out on a podium finish, Priaulx suddenly found on the final lap, a mêlée at Woodcote saw Wooder and Lewis Brown both spin off.
Struggling to believe his luck, Priaulx found an open door allowing him to dart through and grab the lead onto the Pits straight to take his maiden win.
Grinning from ear-to-ear, Priaulx revealed, “it was tough race, quite a scrap, I never thought I would win it, then the cars in front ran wide at Woodcote…”
There were nearly two Sebs on the podium with Perez getting up to 2nd at one point, “I was setting fastest laps, then the car lost power. I was in the thick of it, but it was a clean race (for once)”.
Round 23 was less exciting for JHR Developments, where Priaulx started 5th, Kyle Hornby 6th, Perez 7th, and Geri Nicosia 9th. Each car finishing the race at least one place lower by flag drop with Priaulx 6th, Hornby 8th, Perez 9th, and Nicosia 11th.
This re-inforced Nicosia in championship 6th-place, with Priaulx one rung below and Perez behind in 9th-place.
Locals dominate PFi’s Super1 X30 final
For PFi’s final round of the Senior X30 International Qualifier Turner – racing with Mexborough’s Mark Baines Motorsport –who recently turned 15 years-old, the Rotherham lad now able to move up to the Senior categories, with this only his third race in Senior X30.
Not that this held him back, as against the more experienced opposition he topped the timed qualifying and went on to win both the heats, and started the final from pole-position with Hirst alongside making it an all-South Yorkshire front row.
Turner was able to hold onto the lead for only two laps before falling back to 2nd-place. Occupying this place for the rest of the race, as he pursued the leader, Turner just could not quite catch up to him, but did set race fastest lap in the chase and took the flag in 2nd place. This being his only S1 outing, Turner finished in Championship 17th, and was the highest scoring driver in the category!Losing out as seems customary for the grid-2nd starter at PFi, Hirst fell back to 5th at the off, but by lap 2 had set a fastest lap time as he worked his way back up into 4th-place. Retaining 4th spot until lap 5, he then deftly grabbed the last podium place in 3rd. Hirst thought he “could give chase to Turner, but the race stagnated and the gap stayed the same for the remaining laps”, so the 19 year-old from Doncaster held 3rd to the flag and was happy with the result, for only his second time on the S1 podium. Previously, Hirst had raced karts in the Senior Rotax category but moved up to the Senior X30 category in 2016.
Finishing the year in Championship 4th-place, his Senior X30 debut year had been difficult, especially having to miss a round while taking his university exams and suffering drop scores at Larkhall, due to a broken throttle cable.But, even though he missed out – by just one Championship place – on a free entry to International Final in Portugal, he was, “Happy overall with my season”, wanting to thank the contribution of his mum and dad, and efforts of his hard-working mechanic, Henry Charlton. The MSA British Cadet Kart Championship (IAME) had Sheffield’s Joshua Rattican starting from 2nd spot and take the lead on lap 3, only then for the 12 year-old to fall back through the field to finish the final in 5th, cementing his 5th-place in the British Cadet Kart Championship. Sheffield team, S8 Racing running Euan Wilson saw him from grid 9th slot take 7th by the end of the first lap. Three laps later, setting a fastest lap, this became 5th on lap 5. Setting two more fastest laps Wilson made 4th his on lap 10 that he held to the flag, and secured championship 6th-place.
In the Junior X30 International Qualifier, S8 had Oliver Greetham climb from 9th-place to finish 5th, giving him Junior X30 championship 7th spot, and Jake Douglas finishing in 10th for Championship 8th.
Handsworth-based Strawberry racing as always had young karters in the thick of the action, especially 16 year-old Jack McCarthy.
Competing in the ABkC Senior Max National Championship, McCarthy topped the timed qualifying, with the chance to make history as one of the few drivers to, not just win back-to-back titles in different classes but, also be one of the youngest too.
Starting the final from grid 2nd, he fell back to 4th but recovered to be battling with Josh White over 2nd-place.
Setting two race fastest laps in the process, McCarthy managed to grab the runners-up place by the flag, with the result leaving him and White tying on points.But a brace of previous runner-up finishes were enough to give the Strawberry driver a better total score over the seven rounds, meaning the Senior Max title went to McCarthy.
Dean Macdonald looked on course to give Strawberry the inaugural MSA British Kart Championship (OK) title in the new category’s very first British Senior OK championship.
Fate decided otherwise when his motor mysteriously refused to fire-up and he was a non-starter for timed qualifying and for the rest of the meeting he was racing from the back of the grid.
Even though he did manage to work his way through to the front of the field in the various heats, MacDonald started the final from 11th due to an illegal dropped nose cone penalty. Ever the fighter, he was into 4th by the end of lap 2, then taking 3rd one lap later.
In pursuit of the leaders, the flying Scotsman set fastest laps mid-race, attempting to close on Jacob Stilp. On the last lap he tried to pass Stilp on every corner of the circuit, he was so close, but Stilp held him off resolutely.
So MacDonald finished 3rd-place at the flag, and had to settle for being Championship runner-up, as a slight consolation his efforts were rewarded with the race fastest lap.
MacDonald’s team-mates also experienced varied fortunes: Luke Knott had been second-quickest in qualifying, but despite his obvious pace, chalked up a 7th-place finish in the final.
Newly-crowned Euro Max champion, Nicholas Schoell started in 14th after an earlier non-finish, but was 10th by end of lap 5. Running in 8th from lap 8, Schoell held it until the last lap when he put in a last gasp effort to finish in 5th-place and give him Championship 14th-place.
Jenson Butterfield had already given Strawberry Racing the ABkC MiniMax National Championship so was relaxed about the weekend, but still put in a dominant performance to put the title beyond the reach of his rivals.Initially, from pole-position Butterfield broke away at the front until a short rain shower on lap 5, saw him drop a wheel on the grass and fall back to 2nd for three laps, only to re-take the lead with ease and hold it to the flag. Strawberry teammate, Lorcan Hanafin took 2nd-place by the end of lap 1, and briefly inherited Butterfield’s lead before falling back to run in 2nd behind Butterfield to the flag, making it a Strawberry Racing 1-2 on the podium and in the MiniMax Championship.
Mark Kimber kept Strawberry busy at PFi, by competing in both the ABkC Junior Max National and MSA Junior British Kart Championship (Junior OK).
Finishing the Junior OK final in 2nd-place, Kimber gave Strawberry 3rd-place in the brand-new MSA Junior British Kart Championship (Junior OK).
Kimber managed to get up to 3rd in the Junior Max final by lap 3, setting fastest lap at that point, then dropped to 4th at the flag, to give him Championship-6th spot.
Fielding loses out on F4 title in final raceSennan Fielding drove his heart out trying to win the F4 British Championship certified by FIA title in the final race at Brands Hatch, but fate decided otherwise for the JHR Developments driver.
Arriving at the Kent circuit with a 5-point lead for the Dronfield-based team in the Formula 4 series – and one of six possible drivers for the title – a wet qualifying did not suit Fielding who lost out to the larger teams with more drivers able to find a perfect damp track set-up.
Starting round 28 from 8th, on a drying track, Fielding was in his element and making up places. Up to 5th place by lap 2, this became 4th on lap 4, until lap 7 when the Chesterfield 21 year-old was chasing down Championship-rival Max Fewtrell for 2nd-place.
In a spectacular move at Paddock Hill Bend on the final lap of the race, Fielding made a dramatic last lap lunge to dive passed Fewtrell.
Finishing in 2nd-place extended Fielding’s Championship lead advantage to 8 points, and now there were only three drivers left in title contention.
“I put everything into that race after a tough qualifying, I got my head down and found where the grip was. It was a mega race”, smiled Fielding. “Given all the work that both JHR Developments and I have put in all year I know I have got to do everything I can this weekend”.
The partial reverse grid round 29 had Fielding line-up in grid slot 6th, he moved into 5th place at the start, and spent the whole race in a four car battle over 2nd-place.
Fielding was unable to get any closer to the front, being blocked for the whole race, he remained in 5th to the flag, less than a second separating him from the 2nd-placed car.
Unfortunately, his Championship rival, Fewtrell finished higher up, so this cut Fielding’s Championship lead down to just 3 points heading into the final race of the season.
To make things worse title-rival Fewtrell had pole position for round 30 with Fielding starting from 6th-place.
Nevertheless, once the Start lights went out, Fielding had only one objective – to catch race-leader, Fewtrell.
Trying so hard on the opening lap, Fielding ran wide skirting the grass at Graham Hill Bend so had a lot of work to do, but managed to pass Zane Goddard for 5th-place.
This was the start of a masterclass of ‘whites of the eyes’ overtake manoeuvres by Fielding into the banked Paddock Hill Bend, in ‘do or die’ efforts to chase after Fewtrell.
Another lap later and Fielding dived up the inside of Luis Leeds at Paddock Hill Bend to take 4th position.
Fielding made a brilliant move to pass James Pull on lap 4 grabbing 3rd-place and the scent of the race leaders in his nostrils.
However, his storming drive then came up against Ayrton Simmons, and despite vastly more experience than the rookie, Fielding could not find a way through.
Fighting his way through the field had taken the life out of Fielding’s tyres and his car was starting to slide visibly on the corners, making it harder and harder to attempt a challenge on Simmons.In the end Fielding had to admit he was going to climb no further so ended up finishing 3rd.
Unchallenged, Fewtrell had gone on to win, scoring 25 points, thereby giving him 7 vital points advantage to take the title: Fielding, in his fourth season in single-seaters, was not going to be British F4 Champion, but runner-up.
However, Fielding had not lost the Championship at Brands Hatch, rather he had not won it there – he had lost his chance at the title (or more correctly it had been lost for him by the actions of engine supplier, Ford) back in June when he had six very low scoring races at Oulton park and Croft thanks to two lack lustre Ford engines that dropped him down the points table.
In the post-race TV interview Fielding really let his feelings be known.
“I can’t get my words out…”, he explained and then proved himself wrong.
“It’s been a tough year, I’m hugely disappointed. On the cool-down lap a few tears came out, I was just hoping for that lucky break”, Fielding admitted.
“I gave it my all from start to finish. I don’t think there was anything else I could have done. Every gap I could have gone for, I did! I tried my hardest but could not get on terms with Simmons – he raced fairly and cleanly”.
“The car wasn’t quite perfect but I gave it my all and there were a few moves that were a bit last minute, so I was running off the circuit because I was giving it my all: I just wanted to prove to people what I could do”.“It’s disappointing for the team and myself, this was not how we wanted it to go. A massive thank you to everyone at JHR and Amigos for putting me on the grid. We have put in so much hard work, but we’ve done so well to develop the car throughout the season”.
“The team have done a phenomenal job to compete against mega-teams the likes of Carlin, Fortec and Arden, which just shows that JHR are a top team”.
“I felt confident coming into the weekend, but in qualifying we did not quite get the car we wanted, we knew it was going to be tough”.
“My engineer Paul I really want to thank for working long hours to get me 2nd in the Championship”.
“We have had rounds where the car had not been as good as we wanted it to be through no fault of our own. Early on in the year there were rounds where we did not score many points and it wasn’t my fault or the team’s fault. We just did not have a very quick power unit”.
“So it has been a great year for me and the team. Sometimes I don’t think the car had been quite dialled in, but I have only done two test days all year and we have literally been testing the car on the race weekends”.
“We came back in the second half of the season, everything felt so much better. We kicked off amazingly with a double win from a double pole at Snetterton”, concluded Fielding proudly.
JHR were very much in a David and Goliath battle with Fewtrell’s team, Carlin Motorsport.One of the largest teams outside Formula 1 racing, Carlin compete in six single-seater categories around the world, whereas JHR are only on their second season in British single-seaters.
Carlin no doubt went testing at least once a week, and while the involvement of local entrepreneur, Steve Perez with his Amigos beer sponsorship helped, Fielding and JHR could only afford two tests during the whole season, as the team were on just 25% of Carlin’s budget.
In JHR boss Steven Hunter’s words, “With testing we could have wrapped-up the Championship a lot earlier…”
Nevertheless, JHR finished 3rd in the teams Championship ahead of two of the bigger league teams.Unlike in previous years JHR were not fighting for the Ginetta Junior title in Brand Hatch’s final rounds, although Seb Perez had a great start to round 24 of the 2016 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship when he took the lead for the opening two laps, before falling back to 3rd–place, the Chesterfield 17 year-old holding the position to the flag.
JHR teammate, Seb Priaulx, from 3rd on the grid spun to the back of the field, then slowly working his way back up to 9th-place.
In front of him, forming a JHR 3-car train were 14 year-old wonder kid Olli Cauldwell in 8th and Geri Nicosia finishing 7th.The last Ginetta Junior race of season, Round 25, saw Perez from 3rd position run wide on the opening lap and dropping to 6th place, then this became 9th on lap 5, but he gained a place to finish 8th and Championship 10th.
In his last Ginetta Junior race now he is 17 years-old, Geri Nicosia from 7th gained two places to 5th at the start, on lap 5 he dropped back to 7th, but in his recovery drive he set the race fastest lap, finishing in 6th-place, and confirmed his 6th in the Championship.
Cauldwell started a place behind, but on lap 2 spun down to 11th-place, where he finished.
Even though he dropped back two place on the opening lap, Priaulx got his head down and steadily climbed through the field for 4th-place at the flag, making him 7th in the Championship, and 2nd in the Rookie Cup.
Mason’s costly sportscar racing debut season
Aaron Mason brought an end to his debut season of a new challenge in his motor racing career, at Donington Park, although he did not think that GT racing glory would come so soon.
The final round of the British GT Championship at Donington Park did not go quite to plan for Doncaster-racer, Mason, though.
Together with teammate and co-driver, Robert Barrable, qualifying their Ginetta G55 GT4 came to an early end, when Mason had an accident.
“I spun and the car hit the wall – it wasn’t a car failure, something failed inside the car – me! It just caught me out really. The frustrating thing is, had I completed that lap alone, then we would have been 4th in class on the grid. So now we will start at the back”.
With a wide-eyed comment, Mason relayed, “Also, when they recovered the car with the tractor they caused more damage to the car than the crash itself…”
This meant the pair had to miss out on the second qualifying session while the mechanics at Team Hard beavered away repairing the car. The outfit was awarded the PMW Expo Team of the Weekend Award for their overnight repair work.
However, the was an element of promise in the raceday morning Warm–up session their car number 75 was 7th in the GT4 class, but they were lining up 18th in class and 29th at the back of the grid.
By the one hour mark, Mason had managed to work his way up to 21st and to 13th in class.
“I got a few at the start from last to 10th in my stint”, before Mason handed over to Barrable. “On Rob’s stint he was chasing a gap that the car couldn’t match… Temperatures were cool in qualifying, and we had set the car up for that temperature”, Mason recounted, “but as it was much warmer on race day the set up was not right and so it didn’t really work for us in the race. The car was 2.5 seconds off our qualifying pace as we did not have the grip we could have had – we were not able to get the power down. Especially as the correct set-up is still very much a moving target”.
“It is what it is…”With 7 minutes to the end of race, with Barrable at the wheel, their Ginetta G55 GT4 was now up to 8th in class.
In the final minutes to the end of race they were demoted to 9th in class, in which place they took the flag.
But, post-race, two GT4 cars were excluded for yellow flag infringements – overtaking or not slowing down under yellow flags – consequently, the amended results gave the Mason/Barrable car’s final position as 7th in class and 15th overall.Mason lamented, “We finished 7th and last – but we were too far away to make any more places. It has been a frustrating weekend”.
Although RCIB Insurance Racing’s maiden British GT Championship campaign and Team Hard’s repair work burning the midnight oil was rewarded when Mason and Barrable scored the necessary points required to beat PMW Expo Racing/Optimum Motorsport by just five points to clinch the GT4 teams’ championship title in their first season of GT racing.
“Although I’ve enjoyed sportscars – it has been a breath of fresh air – however it costs £10 000 plus damage per weekend!!!”
Ironically, the season for Mason had begun a lot better.
“The VW Cup had run its course for me. If anything we made the series what is was, but it’s in the past for me”. Having won his second VW Cup championship title in 2015, and being the driver with the most VW Cup wins in the series history, Mason was looking for a new motor racing arena.
A surprise call, by Team Hard boss Tony Gillam, saying, ‘Do you fancy doing GT4 sportscars?’ gave Mason the impetus he needed to try something new.
The RCIB Insurance Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 car was still very new to the team – they had taken delivery only a matter of weeks prior – when Mason joined the team at Oulton Park’s early round of the British GT championship.
GT4 sportscars are standard, road-going, sportscars modified for race track use, as opposed to the hairier, full-race spec GT3 category – with which it shares the track in the championship – that are actually manufactured as racing cars for track use, from their inception.
Having taught himself the art of getting a race-winning set up from his VW racing car, Mason was constantly ‘fettling’ the car’s suspension every time it hit the track.
Never ending in his search for the optimum suspension arrangement, Mason and his teammate Robert Barrable were still adjusting the chassis in the raceday-morning warm-up sessions.
But their persistence paid off at the Oulton Park’s round 3 and 4, where Mason/Barrable qualified for round 3 in 9th spot, managing to finish in 8th-place.
The Ginetta pair started round 4 only 11th but dodged the issues and retirements that affected others en-route to both driver’s first British GT podiums: a feat especially impressive for double VW Racing Cup champion Mason on his series debut.
For the three-hour Silverstone 500 event that included a load of European Series GT4E competitors the pair lined up 16th in British GT GT4 [11th excluding GT4E] out of 34 GT4 cars.
Heavy rain ensured treacherous conditions, Safety Cars and unpredictability for the three-hour contest that started under Safety Car conditions, with racing beginning in earnest after three laps.
When an accident brought out the Safety Car, the number 75 Ginetta stopped a lap later than most of their rivals helping Barrable, take over from Mason, make up half a lap on the rest of the field after starting 16th, which was enough to give him the lead once racing resumed.
When Mason climbed back aboard for the his second stint, the team again delayed its final stop in an effort to see out a short, sharp rain shower before switching to slick tyres paid dividends.
Swapping over to Barrable for the final stint, a pit-stop success penalty for finishing 3rd at Oulton meant was held stationary for an additional 10 seconds, but that proved insufficient to prevent him from catching and passing the then GT4 lead car.
Barrable eventually took the chequered flag 18 seconds clear of the next best GT4 and over a minute ahead of he and Mason’s nearest British GT rivals, for RCIB Insurance Racing’s first British GT4 Championship win.Mason was stunned at how they actually managed to win, “I look back and can’t think where we found the time! After I pitted and Rob jumped in the car we gained some time on the leaders, which we managed to maintain throughout the race, dropping back and then jumping forwards again as the other pit-stop strategies played out. The team did a great job!”
But they had a couple of bad meetings too: Snetterton as well as the final at Donington Park.
For the Snetterton round, the car’s battery and starter motor failed at the driver changeover and the team could not get the car restarted again, which ruined a promising race.
“But compared to that it has been a fresh start”, smiles Mason.
Having conquered the GT4 category, Mason would like to try his hand moving up to the GT3 category that is much faster, a lot more complex, but is very expensive to run as it costs £250k per GT3 season, as opposed to the far from cheap, GT4 series at £100k per season…