THE first race weekend of the British Formula Renault BARC Championship was one of mixed fortunes for Hemel driver Michael Epps.
After a nasty crash in qualifying in wet conditions, the 20-year-old was on the back foot all weekend, starting last in all three races.
He came through, however, to post some good results against a very competitive field.
Epps showed strong pace throughout Friday’s testing in dry conditions and was very confident following the last session.
The Race Drivers Inc. member said: “The new tyre run at the end of the day was great, but hampered slightly due to light drizzle wetting the track.
“We were right there with the pace, though.”
Rainy weather greeted the BARC paddock on Saturday morning, with the track getting wetter throughout the day.
Epps had no experience in wet conditions in the car, but was finding pace on every lap.
Unfortunately on his last lap, desperate to find time, he locked up into the first corner, running off the circuit.
As soon as he hit the grass he was destined for a big hit with the barriers, wrecking the front of the car and his qualifying session. “To be honest it shook me up a little bit,” Epps said.
“I braked a bit later, but got a little sideways and locked up the fronts I think.
“The car practically accelerated once I hit the grass and next thing I knew I had a tyre wall stuffed up in my face.”
Team Jwa-Avila fixed Epps’ car up quickly as the weather dried out for the afternoon race, but more troubles were yet to come as the Hemel racer overheated his clutch and stalled the engine.
By the time he pulled away, Anytime Fitness-backed Epps had lost all his positions and given away a huge amount of time on the whole field – nevertheless he charged on and managed to catch a few to finish 19th.
He said: “I was so annoyed with myself. It was the worst day I’ve had racing in ages, maybe ever..”
Sunday morning was the warmest and driest it had been all weekend, and starting last, Epps got a good start and overtook five cars through the opening two corners.
The young driver continued to weave his way through the field, and despite some erratic driving by one of the other competitors, Epps finished 15th.
Heavy rain pelted down in the afternoon for the last race, but having learned from his previous mishap, Epps improved through the race to eventually finish 13th.
He now lies 15th in the Championship after a tough start, but he made 28 overtakes during the three races, showing real potential.
“I’m pleased with the results, considering my starting positions,” he said.
“I need a good qualifying next time, it’s so important.
“I’m really gutted about Saturday, but a fair few others had their own problems today so I’m sure it’ll all even out soon.”