The Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship bursts into life this weekend with the opening two rounds of the season at Brands Hatch in Kent (2/3 April).
The tight and challenging Indy Circuit is the venues as the field looks to follow in the footsteps of Formula Renault graduates Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen; all of whom have since gone on to enjoy success in F1.
A mixture of new and returning names feature on the entry list for the new campaign, with the results from eight pre-season tests suggesting a wide open season lies ahead.
Quickest in the final one of those tests at Rockingham was Fortec Motorsport’s Alex Lynn (Aythorpe), who returns to the series having finished tenth overall last year while running in the Graduate Cup.
Lynn is part of a strong line-up for the Daventry based team, which will also field cars for Graduate Cup pair Mitchell Gilbert (Twickenham) and Oliver Rowland (Sheffield), overseas duo Pedro Pablo Calbimonte (Bolivia) and Felix Serralles (Puerto Rica) and Will Stevens (Oxshott), who uses the opening races of the season as a warm-up for his campaign in the Formula Renault Eurocup.
“We’ve had a lot of testing and now I’m looking forward to getting the racing underway,” Lynn, who also won the six-round Formula Renault Winter Cup, said. “I want to get my title campaign off to the best possible start this weekend and my main aim is to get two solid points finishes.
“Podiums are on my mind and to win a race would be a bonus but it’s a long season and consistency is what will decide the title. This is only the first round and it’s not a ‘bin it or win it’ weekend. There are six drivers out there who will win a race this season, no question.”
Manor Competition, the defending teams champions, also go into the season opener with a strong multi-car line-up.
Ollie Millroy (Claygate) returns for a second season of Formula Renault competition having been a race winner in 2010 and is joined by two newcomers in Formula Ford graduate Josh Hill (Farnham), son of 1996 F1 champion Damon, and karting star Jordan King (Harbury).
Manor’s line-up is completed by the only female racer on the grid in the shape of Alice Powell (Chipping Norton), who returns to the Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship grid after a championship winning campaign in Formula Renault BARC in 2010.
“This will be my first season with the latest Formula Renault car but this is my third year with Manor now and I know the team really well,” Alice, who was third quickest in the final pre-season test, said. “The test at Rockingham went really well and hopefully we can carry that pace into Brands Hatch.
“It’s a long season so I need to be consistent but I’m aiming for the top three this weekend. I’d hope to be in the title fight as the season goes on as I have experience of the circuits and of Formula Renault, albeit with the older car, but it’s going to be tough as others like Alex [Lynn] and Ollie [Millroy] have shown strong pace during the winter.”
While Fortec and Manor may have the numbers, the remaining teams shouldn’t be discounted in the fight for honours, most notably the Atech Reid GP outfit that finished second in the teams’ championship last season.
Now located in Mid Glamorgan, the team will field cars for Formula Ford race winner Tio Ellinas (Cyprus) and karting graduate Oscar King (Statford-upon-Avon).
Both have shown pace throughout pre-season testing with Ellinas topping the times on a number of occasions, notably at Brands Hatch in the opening test of the year on the same circuit layout that will host this weekend’s two races.
“This is my first season in Formula Renault but testing has gone well and I have always been near the top of the times,” he said. “Hopefully I can repeat that and be running in the top four or five drivers this weekend. Last year it was very close between the top drivers and I think it will be again this season. I think the wins will be shared around so we need to see how it goes, but I’m aiming to win some races and score consistently during the year.”
The entry for the opening round of the year is completed by two single-car teams, with Dan Wells (Salisbury) representing Antel Motorsport and Mark Burdett Motorsport fielding a car for Jack Hawksworth (Bradford), who goes into the new season on the back of a Winter Cup campaign where he took four poles in six races and finished third in the standings.
The Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship will kick-start the racing action on Sunday (3 April) at Brands Hatch with the opening 24 lap race getting underway at 10:25. The second race is due to start at 16:05.
Formula Renault action will feature in the live ITV broadcast of the opening rounds of the new BTCC season, which will air on ITV4 and ITV4 HD from 11:00-18:00 and will also be available on www.itv.com.