Rising single-seater racer Menasheh Idafar claimed a brace of battling top six finishes at a bitterly cold Rockingham this afternoon, Saturday, 7th November, to secure an excellent third place overall in the final standings of the 2009 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship.
At the wheel of his Manor Competition-run FR 2.0 car, the British-born Bahraini wasn’t quite able to extract the pace he knew he was capable of during the wet-but-drying qualifying session although he proved his front-running credentials in both encounters with the fourth fastest lap in each race.
Concluding the four-round Winter Championship two points clear of team-mate Thomas Hylkema, 18-year-old Menasheh also came very close to holding on to the Vice-Champion’s spot he secured during the previous weekend at Snetterton. In the end, he missed out by a mere five points.
“Even though I didn’t finish on the podium today I’m really happy to end the championship in third place, it’s a great result”, said the Ortolan and Gulf Computer Services-backed driver, “When we started testing with Manor in October we didn’t know where we’d be but the team has done an amazing job for me and they’ve given me a great car. I want to say a huge thank you to all of them.”
During this morning’s 20-minute qualifying session, in which lap times tumbled throughout due to the slowly drying track surface, Menasheh was the highest placed of the Manor Competition drivers in seventh position with a best lap of 1m26.750 seconds (80.50mph). His second best lap was also good enough for a seventh place start for race two.
For the first of the day’s races all drivers opted to run on slick tyres due to the fully dry racing line around the 1.94-mile International Super Sports Car Circuit. However, this meant Menasheh wasn’t able to get the traction he wanted off the grid with his side of the track still damp.
Although losing a couple of places on the run through Turn 1 of the Rockingham oval, he did manage to steer his way through Deene Hairpin unscathed as several rivals made contact. The Safety Car was deployed in time for lap two and at the re-start just one lap later Menasheh produced an intelligent piece of driving to usurp team-mate Robert Foster-Jones and Joseph Reilly to move into seventh.
On lap eight, fifth-placed Hylkema out-braked himself at Deene which enabled Menasheh to nip ahead into the top six where he remained to the chequered flag on lap 15. Hunting down Dino Zamparelli during the final third of the race, he never had the chance to make a concerted bid for a pass and so finished in sixth place just seven 10ths of a second shy of the Italian.
Race two meant another fourth row start for Menasheh and at the beginning he was forced onto the grass which meant he slipped down the order to 10th position but fought back brilliantly to climb back into the top eight on lap two. Pressurising Luke Wright throughout lap three, he made his move to take seventh on the fourth tour into Deene with a terrific, well timed pass.
At this point Menasheh held the second fastest lap of the race, only race leader Tom Blomqvist having posted a quicker time, but before he had chance to make further inroads the race was red flagged after Foster-Jones made heavy contact with the barriers at Gracelands. Thankfully, he emerged without injury.
The re-started race was contested over seven laps, Menasheh grabbing sixth place on the last tour after fellow Manor driver David McDonald had a spin at the exit of Pif-Paf.
Having enjoyed a successful Formula Renault UK return over the course of the four-round Winter Championship, Menasheh now turns his attention to the world of Formula 3 with a two-day test outing planned for next week, Wednesday, 11th November, and Thursday, 12th November, at Snetterton in Norfolk. He will be running with British F3 International Series squad T-Sport.
Final 2009 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship Standings:
Champion: Harry Tincknell, 119; 2nd Nick Yelloly, 93pts; 3rd Menasheh Idafar, 88pts