Stowmarket motor racing star Josh Webster proved his position as one of the title-challenging favourites in the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship with a superbly dominant race-winning performance during the opening round of the season at Donington Park on Sunday.
The 17-year-old, who only managed to secure his place on the grid a couple of weeks ago after signing a late deal with top team Fortec Motorsport, made an absolutely electric start to the first of the day’s races at Donington – taking the lead three corners into the race.
Scorching away from fourth on the grid, his second row start not completely representative of his genuine pace after issues with his car in qualifying, Josh immediately moved into second place at Redgate and then grabbed the lead with a tremendous pass on James Thorp at Craner Curves.
From there, the 2010 Formula Renault BARC Winter Series Champion was never headed and he fully controlled the race from the front. Building a lead of over two seconds by lap nine he then posted a then lap record of 1m08.169 seconds (104.51mph) on the 11th tour to seal two bonus points.
Taking the chequered flag on lap 14, and with it his first main championship victory, the teenage star was thrilled with his faultless race performance: “Absolutely fantastic! Before the race I knew what I had to do and it all worked out. We made some changes to the car overnight after qualifying, as we had some problems which slowed me down, but today everything was really good.
“I got a fantastic start, made sure I got the tyres really warm on the green flag lap and then had great traction to get up into second past Dino (Zamparelli) and Archie (Hamilton). Then, down the Craner Curves, I had some extra grip, got past James (Thorp) and pulled away – fantastic!”
Running this weekend with support from Nine Telecom Group, Admiral Group, Integra ICT, Melbek Technology, Sunwise, Everyone Active and Flying Saucer, Josh started round two an uncharacteristic seventh on the grid – due to the aforementioned car issues in qualifying on Saturday.
Even so, much was expected of him after his scintillating race one performance and during the early stages of the race Josh looked on course to potentially mount a podium challenge. Moving into fifth on the opening lap, Josh climbed into the top four prior to a short Safety Car period on lap four with a fantastic pass on the vastly more experienced Dino Zamparelli at the chicane.
Underlining his determination to make amends for the car issues in qualifying he raced with great commitment, dueling hard with Zamparelli, but heartbreak struck on lap 13 when his FR 2.0 ground to a halt entering Hollywood.
Thoroughly disappointed, and unable to prevent his earlier lap record being bettered, Josh still ended the weekend sixth in the driver standings and a certain bet to close down the championship leaders as the season progresses. His sights are set on nothing other than title success and he’ll undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with during the remainder of the season.
After months of major uncertainty about whether or not he’d be racing at all in 2011, Josh will head to Brands Hatch in Kent three weeks from now, 14th/15th May, for the third and fourth rounds of the championship knowing he has the pace and potential to fight for race wins and championship glory.