Formula BMW Asia Series debutant Sean Walkinshaw delivered an impressive performance on his first ever appearance at Paul Ricard HTTT in France over the weekend, 30th June/1st July, to record a best finish of sixth during the event’s opening race with an excellent drive from 11th on the grid.
The 18-year-old, driving for EuroInternational’s ‘US Formula Project’ badged squad, starred in the opening encounter on Sunday morning with a hugely competitive run in his Mygale FB02. Race two later in the day was less fortunate though – after sustaining a broken front wing on the opening lap, Sean fell victim to more contact shortly after and had to settle for 12th place.
Joining the Asian series for a one-off outing as a pre-cursor to making his mid-season debut in the UK based InterSteps Championship, which utilises the same car, the Chipping Norton driver – who also races in the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship – thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“It’s been a really good weekend, great preparation for InterSteps”, said the Cheltenham College student, “I’ve learnt a huge amount about the car from the guys at EuroInternational, the team was fantastic and having the benefit of their knowledge is great to have.
“Paul Ricard is amazing, really fast and flowing. In these cars there’s some major slipstreaming so the racing is really close – every corner you can try and pass someone. Race one was great, even though I was still getting used to the tyres I raced well and we made up a lot of places. Race two was a bit annoying, being hit twice in one race is never great, but it’s still been a strong weekend.”
After a good start during free practice at the Le Castellet track on Friday, 29th June, Sean went on to qualify 11th fastest for both races during the Saturday session with a quickest time of 2m17.824 seconds (152.6km/h) and an incredibly consistent second best of 2m17.871 seconds (152.5km/h).
Making a great getaway at the beginning of Sunday’s first race, the Oxfordshire teenager gained two places on the outside through the first turn to move into ninth before claiming another position into the last chicane to break into the top eight.
Running in the thick of an intense four car battle fighting over sixth, Sean made his way to the head of the group midway through and held on despite intense pressure to conclude his maiden race in the category as the best of the US Formula Project drivers, one second clear of the chasing pack.
Hoping for more of the same in race two, particularly with the threat of rain having subsided, Sean’s hopes were dashed almost immediately when his front wing was damaged while in the middle of a tight, three-car battle. Badly affecting the aerodynamics, he pressed on to salvage what he could from the race but on lap three he was hit from behind – dropping Sean out of the top 10 to 12th.
“Three of us were side-by-side, I tried to pass the guy to my right but then the guy on the outside braked too late, ran wide, and when he rejoined he hit my front wing”, explained Sean reflecting on the opening lap, “The end plate was still attached but stuck up so it ruined the aero, it would have been better if it had fallen off. It’s a shame as I think we’d have had another strong finish.”
Next on the agenda for the second year racer will be his InterSteps debut with SWB Motorsport at Snetterton in Norfolk on 14th/15th July. From there, he will return to Protyre Formula Renault BARC duties with MTECH Lite at Croft in North Yorkshire over the weekend 21st/22nd July.