Southampton motor racer Matthew Harris battled his way through to the final stages of the Formula Renault Winter Championship at Donington on Sunday.

Harris, a newcomer to the series, lined alongside Mike Spen-cer (Essex) and ano-ther newcomer Shaun Edwards (Henley-on- Thames) in the Chestefield based JVA team.

The 17-year-old South-ampton driver got through Sunday's heat, albeit in the last-chance event, and went on to take 25th in the final.

He is looking for a stronger performance in the second and last round at Croft this Sunday.

Harris comes into the championship directly after taking fifth overall in the BRDC single seater winter series behind the wheel of a Formula Ford.

He also raced in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy and comes into single-seater racing after cutting his competitive teeth in karting.

The championship opened up at Donington Park with an historic victory for Vitalli Petro, the first ever Russian to win a race in the Formula Renault series. He took the flag from his Eurotek team-mate Jay Howard after poleman Mike Conway had to pull off on the green flag lap. Sweden's Stefan Soderberg was third.

The Fleet-based Welch Motorsport teams suffered the worst possible start when 17-year old debutant Mathew Nicholl Jones was involved in a high speed crash in the first of the heats.

He was stretchered to the medical centre but recovered in time to compete in the last chance race the following day.

Eastleigh's Shane Kelly was hoping to compete in Sheffield's Hill Speed Racing team, but continuing lack of support for the former Silverstone School racing champion means they are running with just one driver, the 2003 'Champion of Brands', 16-year old Josh Weber from Tiverton.