Chipping Norton racer Sean Walkinshaw secured a season-best second place during the final round of the 2012 InterSteps Championship at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire on Sunday, 30th September, to chalk up his second podium in the series in as many events.
Enjoying a strong finish to his part-campaign in the junior single-seater series, the 18-year-old raced impressively in drying conditions during the third of the weekend’s three outings and also added fourth and sixth position results in the opening two encounters.
Delivering by far his most competitive performance yet in qualifying on Saturday, 29th September, the SWB Motorsport driver secured third on the grid for race one in a tight session, missing out on pole position by a mere 0.050 seconds and only missing the front row by a tiny 0.015 seconds.
Unfortunately, a clutch issue at the beginning of Saturday afternoon’s race led to a slow getaway and Sean slipped to sixth position but that became fourth on lap two prior to the deployment of the Safety Car. When racing resumed, the Oxfordshire driver continued to circulate in fourth and took the flag on lap 13 just five seconds shy of the podium.
Sunday’s first race took place in damp, drizzling conditions and although dropping back from fourth to seventh on lap one, Sean attempted to mount a strong recovery but became embroiled in a tight battle with Italy’s Matteo Ferrer which cost significant chunks of time. Towards the end though the SWB racer was able to pick up his pace and finished sixth, just 1.5 seconds outside the top five.
Lining-up third on the grid for the final race of the championship, which took place on a damp but drying track, Sean opted to run with treaded rubber like the rest of the field and after slipping back to fifth he started to make progress following an early Safety Car period.
Running in fourth into lap three, after another Safety Car period Sean started to challenge Ferrer from lap five and took third from the Fortec driver within a couple of laps before setting his sights on 2012 champion Matt Parry.
Reeling the title winner in, going into the final lap there was roughly a second separating the pair but heading through the complex for the final time they were nose-to-tail. Into the hairpin, Sean made his move and sliced past Parry brilliantly for second place to cap an impressive weekend.
“Race three was more dry than wet really, I would have gone for slicks if I could but everyone else choose wet tyres so we thought it was best to go the same way”, explained Sean, “The race came to me really, I didn’t get a good start and had to slow to avoid a crash ahead. Towards the end I was really quick and caught [Matt] Parry, the last corner pass was really good.
“We were definitely quicker than the top guys in the last race and a lot of credit for that has to go to Mark Godwin of MGR [Motorsport] who helped engineer my car, SWB and MGR worked closely and it really helped. It’s definitely been a good way to end the series and a good confidence boost.”
Sean added: “I’ve really enjoyed working with the guys at SWB this year in InterSteps, I’ve learnt a lot and want to say a big thank you to them for all their hard work. We made some big steps forward each weekend, finishing on the podium at the last two events shows that.”
Following hot on the heels of the outstanding double victory on his Formula 3 racing debut in the MSV F3 Cup three weeks ago, this weekend’s season-best InterSteps result will set Sean up nicely for the final two rounds of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship – the next stop on his busy schedule – which take place at his home track, Silverstone, next weekend, 6th/7th October.
The series will run as support to the high-profile Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and the second of the Formula Renault BARC encounters, round 14 on Sunday, will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD from approximately 15.10. For online streaming, visit www.itv.com/btcc