Chipping Norton’s Sean Walkinshaw delivered one of his strongest qualifying performances of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship season at Donington Park over the weekend, 18th/19th August, but three desperately unfortunate races wrecked his hopes of potential top eight results.
Impressing in both 15-minute qualifying sessions on Saturday morning with terrific consistency, the 18-year-old lapped eighth fastest in the opening run with a time of 1m08.299 seconds (104.31mph) for the round 10 grid, before going on to qualify ninth and eighth for Sunday’s two encounters.
In race one on Saturday afternoon, the MTECH Lite driver wasn’t able to make the launch from the grid he wanted – as a result of having to stop his car creeping on the line – and slipped to 12th place before contact on lap three put him off the track and dropped him outside the points-paying top 20.
With a big task ahead to salvage anything like a decent finish, having lost around five seconds to the rest of the pack, Sean mounted an excellent recovery and had battled his way into 13th position two laps from the finish.
Starting Sunday morning’s race, round 11, from the head of the fifth row of the grid, the Oxfordshire teenager was shuffled back a few places initially but as he fought to climb his way back towards the top 10 an unfortunate spin at Coppice resulted in a trip into the gravel. He was able to recover, just missing out on a points finish despite having dropped to last place and losing 20 seconds.
Determined to make amends in the third race of the weekend, round 12, he was pushed back to 11th from eighth on lap one but his pace was impressive – running just 0.6 seconds shy of the best lap posted by eventual race winner David Wagner.
Holding 12th position as the race entered the closing stages, Sean was in the middle of a tight three car battle with Tom Oliphant and James Fletcher. At Redgate on lap 12 though, contact pitched the MTECH driver into the wall at Hollywood – breaking his steering and ripping off the front-left wheel.
“All three of us were coming out of Redgate fine but then there was some contact to my car, which did something to my steering, the wheel came loose and I ended up in the wall”, said Sean, “It’s annoying when you get taken out, especially when you have good pace, but the driver that hit me did receive two points on his racing licence.
“This is our third race weekend in a row where we’ve qualified in the top 10, we’ve got the consistency with qualifying now which is good but we’re just having problems in the races. I did make a mistake in the second race but what happened in the first and third races wasn’t our fault at all – it’s pretty frustrating.”
Sean will be hoping for better fortune at the final event of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC season at his ‘home’ track, Silverstone National Circuit, on 6th/7th October. Before then, he will be back in action in the InterSteps Championship on 1st/2nd September at Rockingham, near Corby.
Provisional 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd12):
18th Sean Walkinshaw, 62pts