Alex Gill Ends First Weekend with Victory

by Nick Smith
Alex Gill (Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography)

Fortec Motorsport’s Alex Gill has taken victory in the final race of the opening Protyre Formula Renault weekend at Rockingham. After starting second and losing out to MGR Motorsport’s Pietro Fittipaldi, the sixteen year old countered at Tarzan in a bold move up the inside. It took a further seven laps of action for Gill to get the better of race 2 winner, Matteo Ferrer in a dive at Deene hairpin, after which he was forced onto the defensive by the Italian in #20.

A brief respite was offered when the RenaultSport Clio safety car was called into action to deal with yet more action at the second corner. This time it was Gill’s Fortec team mate Wolfgang Reip and Cliff Dempsey Racing’s TJ Fischer who scored the headlines after the #88 hit the American from behind, spinning both onto the run off. The two cars returned to the pits under their own steam where Fischer received a check over and Reip a new nose. They lost a lap and two laps respectively.

Come the restart there was little opposition to the blue Fortec machine at the head of the field. A fastest lap on the restart helped to build a safety margin but Ferrer chipped away at the lead for the remaining six laps, bringing it down to just 0.306 seconds at the line. Piers Hickin took third for Scorpio Motorsport, rivalling Ferrer for constancy over the weekend.

Pietro Fittipaldi looked set to drop from his second place after the first corner, potentially as far as sixth. He held out against a determined Ben Barnicoat for much of the race distance however and when Colin Noble Jr got on terms with the Racing Steps backed Autumn Cup champion the pressure eased a little. Noble would later lose out to his MGR team mate, Tarun Reddy who tucked his #22 car up the inside in a rare move at Yentwood on the last lap.

A strong finish for Dimitris Papanastasiou put the Hillspeed man in eighth ahead of Cliff Dempsey’s Patrick Dassault. Atte Lehtonen rounded out the top ten for SWB Motorsport with a comfortable margin over the #8 Circulation Motorsport entry of Niklas Tiihonen. Niklas staged an exceptional recovery drive, aided by the safety car after locking up and running onto Speedway 2 on the opening lap. He was 12 seconds down on Jack Butel’s #96 SWB car at the end of the first lap, a deficit he turned around to a 2.340 second advantage at the end of the race.

Butel showed what he could do with a stronger position when he lost only 5.178 seconds to Tiihonen over the final six lap dash to the flag. A poor weekend for the Jersey based racer turned a little bit better in the end but more testing is in order ahead of the next meeting at Donington Park.

Wolfgang Reip never managed to recover either of his lost laps by the flag and finished a lap down on TJ Fischer. Likewise, the American racer was a lap behind Butel but every car which started the race finished for the first time in this season.

Gill was delighted with his first win in the Protyre Formula Renault championship. He said, “It feels great. Obviously in the last few laps Matteo was getting a bit closer and my tyres were going off a bit because I pushed extra hard at the start to get past him. The safety car didn’t help me but we managed to cool the tyres down a little bit so it was a double edged sword.

“I’m delighted and say a huge thanks to the team. They have worked extra hard this weekend after the problems in qualifying, so a huge thanks to them for producing me a great car. Hopefully at Donington we will be there or there abouts pushing for more wins and getting points for the championship.”

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