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May 22, 2012
British Renault 2.0: Hillspeed's Vernon Stars On Rockingham Return
 

Kieran Vernon scored two top-five results in his return to Formula Renault BARC action at Rockingham (Photo: Jakob Ebrey Motorsports Photography)
Kieran Vernon scored two top-five results in his return to Formula Renault BARC action at Rockingham
(Photo: Jakob Ebrey Motorsports Photography)

ENGLAND (May 21, 2012) - Championship returnee Kieran Vernon delivered two sensational race drives during rounds four and five of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC season at Rockingham on Sunday, 20th May, to earn fourth and fifth place finishes for Hillspeed on his first appearance in the series for almost a year.

Vernon didn’t have things easy by any means, and neither did teammates Jacob Nortoft and Marcus Allen, with rain-affected qualifying on Saturday (May 19), proving to be a major headache – four red flag stoppages in the first session and two more in the second hampering each drivers’ efforts.

Nonetheless, the trio each delivered excellent performances in race conditions with round five a particular highlight as all three Hillspeed cars finished inside the top nine – Vernon taking fifth place, Nortoft eighth and Allen ninth. The result marked the Hathersage team’s best multi-car finish in the popular single-seater championship since its title-winning 2010 season.

Vernon, who despite his previous experience in Protyre Formula Renault BARC had never had any true wet running in an FR 2.0 prior to this weekend, started round four from ninth position and made immediate progress to gain two positions on the first lap alone.

Taking sixth place at Deene Hairpin on lap three, he closed-down fifth placed Macaulay Walsh, but had to hold fire on any attack when the Safety Car appeared at the start of lap seven. Running close behind Walsh and fourth placed Jake Dalton at the re-start, Vernon made his move on lap 14 to pass both drivers and pull away by 1.6 seconds during the final three laps.

In round five, the 22 year-old had a mountain to climb from 17th on the grid – the result of an unfortunate excursion in qualifying under braking for Tarzan Hairpin. Nonetheless, he made superb progress through the field and by the end of lap one he was already in 12th position.

Breaking into the top 10 on lap six, Vernon picked off drivers one by one until he made it into fifth on the penultimate lap before closing in on fourth placed Hong Wei Cao over the last 1.94 miles, taking the flag just 0.5 seconds adrift. He also set a best lap just 0.3 seconds shy of the fastest of the race.

“Kieran showed his class this weekend, he has massive potential as a driver in single-seaters and sportscars,” said team boss Richard Ollerenshaw. “To come to Rockingham, having only done one day of testing with us prior to the weekend, shows what a capable and truly professional driver he is. His race drives, after a nightmare in qualifying, were exceptional.”

Danish teenager Nortoft enjoyed easily his best weekend yet in Protyre Formula Renault BARC, a pair of top 10 results confirming his undoubted potential and also enabling him to shoot up the driver standings into the top 16.

Qualifying 12th for round four, the Dansk Automobil Sports Union driver progressed into 10th by the start of lap four and served up one of the moves of the race on lap six at Deene by taking ninth place around the outside of Ivan Taranov. Although the Russian hit back after the brief Safety Car period, Nortoft moved back past on lap 11. He also posted a best lap within 0.3 seconds of Vernon’s pace.

In round five, which he started from 16th on the grid, the 18 year-old initially ran in the thick of the midfield action before starting to make his way through the order again from lap four. Into the top 12 on lap 11, Nortoft then managed to avoid getting caught-up in a multi-car incident at Deene to slice his way into the top eight, his best finish of the year so far and he also matched his pace from race one.

British racer Allen delivered outstanding drives through the order in both encounters, having been further back on the grid than anticipated in qualifying like his two teammates. Round five was the stand-out race for the 21 year-old in terms of the end result, climbing through from 20th on the grid into an excellent ninth place.

Putting together a fantastic opening lap, Allen sliced his way into 14th place before quickly gaining another position and remaining there until lap 11 when he claimed two further scalps. Like Nortoft avoiding the problems at Deene on the penultimate lap, he emerged in ninth just behind the Dane and the pair ended the race just 0.377 seconds apart.

The earlier fourth round offered a thankless task for Allen as he had to start from the rear of the 28 car grid due to an excursion in the wet, first qualifying session. Into the top 20 by the end of lap one alone, he steadily progressed through the order into a highly impressive finish of 14th place. In total, his points haul moved him to 15th in the standings while Vernon is equal 12th after just two races.

“Unfortunately, qualifying wasn’t the best due to the number of red flags we had,”, commented Ollerenshaw. “Marcus had to start at the back for race one but did a fantastic job to come all the way through into 14th place, Jacob too made very good progress and they both showed a very high standard of driving.

“The second race was the highlight for us though, our best multi-car finish since 2010 and proof all three drivers have what it takes to be consistently inside the top 10. We’ve had some very good results this weekend, a huge improvement on the first event at Snetterton so we’re delighted.”

Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire will host the sixth and seventh rounds of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC season on Sunday, June 17th. Before then, Hillspeed’s Ginetta Junior Championship squad will be back in action for rounds seven and eight of its season on June 9-10, at Oulton Park in Cheshire.
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