The Formula Renault Series started in France in 1971 as the 'middle formula', placing it between Formula Ford (an 'entry formula' equivalent to Japanese Formula 1600) and Formula 3. Currently, the series is held as several series in France, the UK, and Asia and as a European Championship.
The series takes place as a support race to the BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) at numerous major racetracks, and is also held as a support race to the World Series by Renault, drawing the attention of many fans and those looking for new talent. Along with a total of seven rounds and 14 races scheduled this season, many tests are held before and during the season and drivers are given ample opportunity to drive their cars.
The Series has an entry of approximately 20 young drivers from around the world; this year, there are 18 drivers ranging in age from 16 to 22. Most of them are of UK origin, but others derive from various countries across Europe and Asia. This year, two Japanese drivers including Ryuji Yamamoto, who was ranked 2nd in the 2006 FCJ series are participating.
Fortec Motorsports (Richard Dutton, team principal) is located in Daventry, about 2 hours north of London and has a work shop which houses 10 cars. Besides Formula Renault UK, the team competes in British F3, World Series by Renault and Formula BMW. They were the Champion team of Formula Renault in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Heikki Kovalainen is one of their recent graduates.
David Moore, team manager and chief mechanic in charge of Formula Renault UK, has been in this job for 6 years now. He is an expert on not just the hardware, but the driverís education and team logistics.
After finishing 2nd in the FCJ Series in 2006, he won himself a ticket to take part in Formula Renault UK this year. Although the cars used in this series are similar to that of FCJ, he still faces new challenges like different tires and set-up. In addition, all the circuits are unfamiliar to him, and he really has to start by getting used to his life in England. However, he has made a good start by marking the fastest time during the second joint test at the rainy Rockingham Circuit on March 1st and 2nd.
Currently, he lives with his host family in North Hampton, about 2 hours north of London. When he is not on the racetrack, he attends language school to better his English skills.
"At present, I find difficulty in trying to find the limit of the Michelin tires (unlike the tires from FCJ). For instance, when I brake, vertical grip is good; but lateral grip is less so. Therefore, I need to brake well to reduce speed and accelerate quickly. Also, compared to FCJ, the feel of the brake pedal is soft and weak. You need to step harder than I would in Japan in order to reduce speed. I used to run off track a lot because of that difference, but now I am more used to it. In Rockingham, I tested a different set-up and marked the fastest time. I think my mechanics trust me more." Yamamoto was quoted before the start of the season.
The Birmingham native was British Formula BMW Series Champion in 2005 at the age of 16. Last season, he struggled, fighting in the Formula Renault UK Series with a rookie team. He seeks better opportunities with the more experienced Fortec. ìI want to finish steadily in the top six of every race and win points as much as possible because the championship doesnít happen in just one race. I want to finish the season being in the top 3 of the championship.î He sounds much composed for a boy his age.
Riki is English-born, with 1/4 Greek and 1/4 German blood. He started racing karts from the age of 8. He has been to Japan for the World Championships, held at Suzuka and Fuji. Although this is his first season racing in 'real' cars, he says "I'm sure I can do well. I want to be in the top 3 in the Championship and get to Formula One!" #4 Adam Christodoulou is his cousin.
He started racing in Formula Ford (FF) at the age of 15 without any experience racing karts. His career so far is highlighted by winning the FF Festival in 2005. He contested theFormula Renault UK Championship last year, but the results were not satisfying from the privateer team he ran with. He aims to win at least one race and to be in the top 3 of the Championship. He is the eldest of the drivers in the team.