Chipping Norton racing driver Alice Powell is celebrating becoming the first female driver to win a Formula Re-naut title at the weekend.

Seventeen-year-old Powell overturned a 16-point deficit held by title rival Mitchell Hale to land the 2010 Protyre Formula Renault Champ-ionship at Thruxton – an accolade which should be the springboard in her ambition to become the first successful female in Formula 1.

Powell is a year younger than Lewis Hamilton was when he won his first Renault Championship at 18 in a similar car.

Going into the weekend, she trailed Hale by a considerable margin, but she closed that gap down to just four points after the opening race.

And Powell triumphed again in the finale in the best possible way – a race victory securing her the title.

A delighted Powell said: “In the final race, I started on pole, got a good start and led lights to flag to win the championship.

“It’s been a mega year. I have to thank my engineer, Sarah Shaw, for all her help and effort she has put in this season, as well as to my team Hillspeed.

“Taking the championship with a race win is the perfect way to end the season.

“I’m doing the Formula Renault UK Winter Series with Manor, and I’m hoping we can try and win that and look at the UK again for 2011.”

Powell won in perfect style at Thruxton, clinching the coveted crown by eight points.

She said: “There was no pre-race testing, so all the 18 cars had to go straight out into qualifying.

“As the cars began their qualifying runs, my car would not start. At that moment, I could see nine years of blood sweat and tears, as well as every penny invested going down the drain.

“The seconds and minutes seemed like hours when I heard the cars screaming by on the straight.

“As the session approached halfway, I could hear the cars coming into the pits to change their tyres. I now felt it was all over.

“However, just after halfway through the session, my engineer Sarah managed to start the car by sorting the fuel injection problem.”

Powell added: “As the race started, I managed to build a lead, but the safety car came out which bunched the field up, so I had all the drama of the start, once more.

“I pulled out another lead and to my horror there was another safety car.

“I managed to pull away again, but on the last bend, on the last lap, in my excitement I clipped a kerb and lost control for a split second, but I managed to hang on for the win.”