Following a breakthrough 2021 season which saw him take third overall in the F1000 UK championship, 130R Performance supported athlete Rob Welham has opened his 2022 campaign in similar style. The Ipswich-based teenager currently sits in second place overall in the series standings, having taken six podium finishes including two wins at Croft and Brands Hatch.
All photos courtesy of Jonathan Elsey
The last time we caught up with Rob for a sit down chat was at the opening round last year, where he discussed his aim to use 2021 as something of a learning year following two challenging seasons hampered by reliability issues and limited track time. Rob aimed for consistency (an approach he has certainly carried through to this season) and worked on improving small areas of his driving that there hadn’t been time to focus on previously due to missing out on valuable seat time in the car. The fruition of this work was clear to see in the results as the season progressed. Two wins alongside multiple podiums saw him occupying fifth place in the overall championship for much of the year, before another double podium at Snetterton resulted in leaping to a best ever top three finish in the competitive single-make series.
Despite the obvious successes last year, there were still some frustrations that results, and therefore points, got away from the team at a few events. A start line shunt at Silverstone was unavoidable, and a win on the road at Oulton Park was lost due to a frustrating jump start penalty; but elsewhere there were also a few races where lower placings impacted on the points tally at the end of the season due to various external factors. Therefore the start made this year is a declaration of intent that while uncontrollable or external challenges may still occur, the aim is to control what is in Rob and the team’s hands and maximize every possible opportunity for points over the course of a three race weekend. The performance so far this year is also testament to the hard work that Rob, his family, and the team at Jedi Racing have done in ensuring that no stone was left unturned over the winter in giving him the best possible chance to showcase his talent in the Jedi race car this year.
The season has gone really well so far, and I am very pleased to be in second place at the halfway point of the year. I have worked hard with the team and my race mechanic to adapt to each circuit and, despite some clutch gremlins, the package has performed very well.
While the opening race of this year at Silverstone National saw an unfortunate mechanical DNF (one of those previously mentioned uncontrollable external factors), since then Rob hasn’t finished outside of the top 6 in any race; including coming through from a back of the grid start after that first non-finish. Furthermore, the athlete of a few seasons ago might have taken that mechanical retirement badly, however Rob didn’t let previous experience affect his mindset, focusing on damage limitation to ensure that he still came away from the weekend with a strong haul of points and a podium in race three. Croft saw another impressive wet weather performance, in a car that is notoriously not easy to master in low grip conditions due to its light weight on the rear axle and peaky power delivery from the 1000cc Suzuki bike engine.
On this note, many of Rob’s early F1000 wins came in wet races; to the point where series commentators began to refer to him as something of a mixed condition specialist. However recently a host of dominant (as much as you can dominate in a one-make series as closely matched as F1000) dry weather performances, also across a variety of circuits with very different characteristics, are further evidence of the versatility developed alongside his new approach to utilising every learning experience out on track.
The highlight so far has to be achieving the circuit champion award at Croft, although the triple podium at Brands Hatch was pretty special too. Next up is Donington Park, which although a circuit I really enjoy driving hasn’t always been kind to me in the past… but hopefully I can put that behind me this season!
After a brief summer break the remaining races this season will feature a first time visit to the picturesque Anglesey Coastal circuit in Wales, and conclude with a trip down the road to Rob’s local circuit of Snetterton. The Norfolk track is one that Welham has experienced much success at over the last few seasons, including taking a first F1000 win during his debut season back in 2019. It continues to be a pleasure to work with Rob and be involved in his progression as he establishes himself as one of the most exciting young talents on the UK club racing scene.
You can catch the remaining races of the season streamed live via the 750 motor club YouTube channel, or follow either the 130R Performance or @robwelhamracing social media channels to keep updated on his progress through the rest of the 2022 campaign.