Formula Renault BARC front-runner Menasheh Idafar has taken the early lead in the 2008 championship standings after claiming a double podium finish during the season opening race meeting at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit today, Easter Monday, 24th March.
The 17-year-old, driving for leading squad Hillspeed, coped with persistent snowfall and two race stoppages during this morning’s first race of the season to achieve his maiden full-season Formula Renault BARC podium, the third rostrum of his short career in Formula Renault.
With the sleet and snow having passed in time for the start of race two, the British-born Bahraini achieved his second podium of the day with another strong performance and, including the additional championship point he receives for claiming the round two pole position in qualifying on Sunday, Menasheh leads the driver standings on 21 points.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to be leading the championship and to be on the podium for both races was great, especially with everything we had to contend with”, said a delighted Menasheh, “I’m a bit disappointed we couldn’t do more from pole position in the second race but at the start of the weekend we weren’t sure we’d be taking part at all so we have to be very pleased with how things turned out in the end.”
Ahead of the Brands Hatch curtain-raiser, a clerical error with race entries meant Menasheh headed into the weekend on the reserve list due to the list of entered racers exceeding the number of competitors permitted by the circuit licence. However, it became clear on Sunday evening that Menasheh would be able to start both races.
Although qualifying eighth on the grid for the opening round, Menasheh actually lined-up in seventh position due to pole-sitter Nathan Coulter being a reserve driver. Greeted by snow which got progressively worse throughout the duration of the race, he worked wonders in conditions he has never experienced before to finish on the rostrum.
The track was incredibly slippery and caught out a number of experienced runners but Menasheh made a great getaway from row four, carving his way through into a position to fight for third place by the mid-point of the first lap.
However, red flags were shown at the end of lap two due to an on-track incident and so a re-start was required. Lining up on the second row of the grid, Menasheh having ended lap two in fourth place, the Gulf Computer Services, Ortolan and Gulfol backed driver started well and moved into the top three.
On the sixth lap, however, red flags were produced once again after one of the Club Class cars lower down the order had a spin at Graham Hill Bend. Stalled in the middle of the track, there was no option but to stop the race and the result was declared with Menasheh in third position.
Round two was similarly affected by red flag incidents although the weather had improved with bright skies and a clearly visible dry line meaning drivers would all be running on slick tyres.
Lining up on pole position, Menasheh aimed for a clean getaway but a jump-start by Ash Davies from the third row of the grid compromised the Hillspeed star’s getaway. The momentary confusion allowed second placed Ollie Hancock to edge ahead of Menasheh who slotted into third place.
After setting the fastest lap of the race on the third tour, Menasheh looked increasingly strong but then red flags were shown due to a car off the circuit and beached in the gravel on the outside of Paddock Hill Bend.
Scheduled to be contested over 12 laps, the re-started race saw Menasheh start in second position due to Davies being pushed back to 12th on the grid as punishment for his earlier indiscretion.
Although slipping to third place on the run to Paddock Hill Bend, Menasheh was still on course to make the weekend a double podium celebration and on lap seven the race was stopped and declared a result after another incident.
Leaving Brands Hatch with two podiums and his first ever pole position, Menasheh couldn’t have realistically hoped for a better start to his second season in Formula Renault BARC. However, he is remaining firmly grounded and refusing to get carried away with the weekend’s results.
Menasheh added: “Our aim for the season is still to end the year inside the top 10 in the championship, if we can do that we’ll be happy. It’s amazing to be on top now but we’re not going to get carried away as there is a long, long way to go. The team has done a great job and we’re really looking forward to the next two races at Rockingham now.”
Rounds three and four of the 2008 Formula Renault BARC Championship will take place at Rockingham International Super Sports Car Circuit in Northamptonshire four weeks from now on 19th/20th April.