DORSET student Josh Barnett continued his impressive start to the Formula Ford season with his second victory in three races.
After retiring from an encouraging third place last time out on his first visit to Oulton Park in Cheshire, Barnett was raring to get back to winning ways in the second Champion of Brands race of 2012.
Qualifying was a wet affair – conditions that Barnett traditionally struggles in – but after some encouraging progress on his car setup, he was instantly more comfortable in the slippery conditions.
After gradually improving his times lap after lap, the Shaftesbury speedster took his second pole position of the year with a last-ditch effort in the dying seconds of the session.
Having grabbed pole from Oliver White by just 0.088secs, Barnett knew the race was going to be a close battle between the two young guns.
Conditions for the race were improving all the time as the track became drier and drier, yet Barnett decided to stick with a wet weather set-up – expecting the track to still be damp.
However, as soon as he completed the warm-up lap, the Dorset driver realised that this was a big mistake.
The track was nearly bone dry, with only a few minimal wet patches. And to make matters worse, the pole slot on the grid was wet, while White enjoyed a much drier starting position.
As the lights went out, Barnett, immediately lost the lead as he suffered too much wheel-spin. He tried to out-brake White into the Druids hairpin on the opening lap but the wet inside line meant he had to brake early to avoid careering into the side of his opponent.
For the next few laps, White edged away into a 1.5 second lead. As soon as lap six, the leading pair were already passing backmarkers, allowing Barnett to close up slightly.
On a few occasions, White slid slightly wide at the fast Paddock Hill Bend, allowing Barnett to attack into the Druids hairpin. Both times though, White was able to defend the inside line while Barnett tried to run side-by-side on the wet outside line.
With just one and a half laps to go, and having been held up once more in traffic, Barnett’s hopes of victory looked to be over.
However, as White entered the final corner for the penultimate time, he lost control on a wet patch of tarmac, spinning away his lead and promoting Barnett into first.
Having never been far behind White, Barnett had forced him into a mistake – something his opponent later admitted.
In order to prevent a similar mistake, Barnett backed off on the final tour, eventually finishing over seven seconds ahead of his recovering rival.
The pair had set a scorching pace throughout the race, finishing over 20 seconds ahead of the third-placed driver, while Barnett’s victory meant that he became the first driver in the modern era to successfully defend his Champion of Brands crown.
Incredibly, despite his set-up disadvantage, the 21-year-old also managed to set the fastest lap to complete his second hat-trick of the year.
Following the race, Barnett, who travels to Thruxton on Sunday, thanked his sponsors Assured Valeting Group and ZZ Creative.