Oscar Nogues got his 2014 Renault Eurocup Clio Championship campaign off to a perfect start with a double victory on the opening weekend of the season at Motorland Aragon.
It was reigning champion Josh Files who topped the timesheets in the first qualifying session of the season, securing his fifth successive Eurocup Clio pole position ahead of Eric Tremoulet and Massimiliano Pedala.
Files lost his advantage into the first corner as race one began though, with a fast-starting Mikel Azcona storming from fifth on the grid into the lead. The Eurocup debutant’s time at the front only lasted till lap two though, when an error saw him slip to fourth behind Tremoulet, Nogues and Files.
Positions changed constantly amongst the lead group over the next couple of laps, but Nogues soon stamped his authority and the 2012 Eurocup champion stormed away for a 1.9 second victory.
“This result will satisfy the entire team,” said Nogues. “We had such a difficult year in 2013 that we decided to stop early because we were out of title contention. This win is very important and I hope that it will continue like this.”
Files took a hard-fought second place at the flag, setting the fastest lap in the process, with Azcona grabbing third late on from Tremoulet. Salvatore Arcarese took fifth place ahead of Antonio Martinez with Pedala slipping to a frustrating seventh from third on the grid.
Thomas Fjordbach, Pablo Martin and Nikolay Gryazin completed the top ten, with current Renault UK Clio Cup championship leader Alex Morgan taking twelfth on his Eurocup Clio debut behind Olivier Jouffret.
It was Tremoulet who took pole position for the weekend’s second race, and the Vic’Team driver made the most of it to lead the pack away on the opening lap. Nogues and Pedala followed, while hitting drama three corners in was Files, contact from behind spinning the Team Pyro man to the back of the field.
Nogues grabbed the lead from Tremoulet on lap two, starting a close battle for the lead that went down to the final lap. Tremoulet’s pressure led to Nogues locking up and running wide into turn twelve, allowing the Frenchman through.
Nogues fought back heading into the final complex of corners though, and the two ran side-by-side up the hill to the line, Nogues snatching the win by 0.078 seconds.
”I want to congratulate Eric [Tremoulet] on his race,” commented Nogues. “The battle between us was very clean and his irreproachable defense and fair-play is appreciated. He is a better driver than I thought. This second win gives me hope for the title.”
2013 vice-champion Pedala completed the podium, with Azcona fourth. Facundo Della Motta ran fifth for a large part of the race, but fell back on the final lap to an eventual finish of fourteenth, giving Jouffret fifth ahead of Fjordbach.
Martinez took seventh ahead of Ivan Pulic, while a great recovery drive from Files saw him secure ninth ahead of his UK Clio Cup rival from 2013, Morgan.
Nogues’ double victory gives him a twenty point championship lead over Tremoulet, with Azcona three points further back. Files sits fourth meanwhile, 28 points behind Nogues, with Morgan twelfth in the standings.
The 2014 Eurocup Clio Championship now has an eleven week break before Rounds Three and Four of the eight-round championship at the Nurburgring on July 12/13.