Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship rookie Menasheh Idafar produced a simply tremendous effort during round five qualifying at Donington Park this morning, Saturday, 16th May, to post the sixth fastest time and the quickest lap of any of the category’s ‘Graduate Cup’ runners.
During a session in which the track got progressively quicker, the 1.95-mile National Circuit continuing to dry throughout the first part of the morning following overnight rain, the 18-year-old Hillspeed driver moved into the top 10 with six minutes of the session remaining and then produced a stunning lap of 1m06.326 seconds (106.23mph) to improve further into the top six.
Importantly, Menasheh’s performance also saw him qualify for the first of the weekend’s races as the highest placed first-year driver eligible to challenge for the Graduate Cup, a championship within a championship for category newcomers. He also claimed several notable scalps, including that of current series points leader Dean Stoneman who was seventh fastest overall.
This afternoon’s round six qualifying period was also affected by rainfall, a shower ahead of the start of the session meaning tyre choice, timing and luck would prove to be essential in equal measure if drivers were to maximise their performance.
Treaded tyres were the choice of all but three drivers with Menasheh posting the 13th fastest time of 1m12.300 seconds (97.45mph) on his wet-weather rubber, the fifth quickest of the 13 Graduate Cup competitors involved.
Unfortunately, the Gulf Computer Services and Ortolan backed racer was the first driver to take the chequered flag at the conclusion of the session, meaning he lost the chance to improve his placing when the track was at its best.
Reflecting on the day, Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw said: “I’m very pleased with Menasheh’s performance, taking sixth place in the first session was a great effort and very well deserved. It’s his third top six start of the season which shows he certainly has the pace.
“In the second session it was all about putting in a time as late as possible as the track continued to dry and Menasheh was just unlucky to take the flag first. We’re really looking forward to tomorrow, the weather looks like being changeable again but hopefully we’ll have two good races.”
Round five of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship will begin at approximately 10.30 tomorrow, Sunday, 17th May, with round six following at around 16.20. The second of the day’s races will be broadcast live across the UK on ITV4 which is available on the Sky Digital platform at channel 120, via cable channel 117 and through the Freeview service on channel 28.