The Strakka Racing team made their Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Series debut at the Hungaroring, with Briton’s Jake Hughes and Matthew Graham behind the wheel of the 2.0 litre cars in Hungary.
Although ending the weekend without finishing inside the top ten, in a very competitive series Hughes achieved the fastest lap in race two after making a number of overtaking manoeuvres on a circuit not renowned for lots of overtaking.
Hughes has been racing primarily in the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup in 2014, but made his own Eurocup debut for Mark Burdett Motorsport earlier in the season at Spa-Francorchamps. Before arriving in Hungary, the twenty-year-old spent some time testing with his new Strakka Racing employees before arriving in Hungary for the team’s debut.
“Prior to racing at Hungary I spent several days testing with the team so I had some experience of the car already,” said Hughes to The Checkered Flag. “It feels very balanced and great under braking which is confidence inspiring.
“I had completed only three laps of wet testing before the weekend so the fact that the official test sessions on Friday and the two weekend qualifying sessions took place in the rain was a definite challenge, but things went much better when we got the dry running.”
Feeling good about the set-up of the car, Hughes demonstrated his and the teams abilities in both races in Hungary, and although he was forced into retirement in race one in a clash with ART Junior Team driver Aurelien Panis, he came back strongly in race two and made a number of good overtaking manoeuvres to finish twelfth, and he took fastest lap!
“Both races took place in the dry,” described Hughes. “Our set-up was good in clear air and I was challenging Aurelien Panis when unfortunately on the penultimate lap we collided. The second race was much better. We changed the front end of the car a little which gave me greater grip and I could make moves stick even when braking from 50 yards back giving me confidence to keep going and progress. I was able to pull off several overtaking moves at a circuit not renowned for overtaking, reaching 12th and it was as I made my final passing move on Ryan Tveter I set the fastest lap!
“The Hungaroring is notoriously hard to overtake on, but not impossible. I carried out two moves at Turn 1 and two on the outside of Turn 2, including one of the best I’ve ever done! We were still learning about the car in free practice and qualifying but from testing we knew the car was good and this year is about Strakka getting to grips with the FR2.0.
“The car felt really good and quick throughout testing, so I wasn’t surprised that Strakka could deliver a fast car first time out. In fact when the engineer came on the radio and said I had fastest lap I remember replying, ‘No way, I can go a lot quicker than that!’”
Before the team’s debut, Hughes admitted to visiting the Strakka Racing factory at Silverstone to get to know the team who would be looking after his car in Hungary, and to using the simulator to help familiarise him with the car. He believes the standard of driving within the Eurocup championship is high, and felt that every extra bit of knowledge gained would benefit them greatly in Hungary.
“Before getting in the car I went over to the factory at Silverstone to meet the team and I spent some time with my engineer in the simulator familiarising myself with the car which really helped ahead of the track time,” said Hughes. “I feel the relationship with your race team is crucial and I immediately felt very at ease with Strakka. The guys are extremely professional and motivated to show what they can do against the tough crop of Eurocup drivers.
“The competition in Eurocup is significant. There are a lot of very good drivers and the grids are huge compared to the Northern European Cup. The series also allows ‘Wildcard’ entries, where drivers can race but not score points within the official championship, so there are plenty of drivers on track with their own objectives for the weekend. That makes for a busy racetrack!”
Hughes returns to the Strakka Racing team for the Eurocup finale in Jerez, and is hoping to get another test under his belt before then to further assist the development of both the team and himself.
“We are hoping to do one more test between now and Jerez in between my other racing commitments,” said Hughes. “In addition to my single-seater racing this year I was selected as a BMW Junior Driver, so I have been fortunate enough to race a BMW M235i Cup Car in the VLN series in Germany. I have one further round left on 11 October that I am very much looking forward to.
“I feel both the team and I have made great progress; we learned a huge amount in the wet and proved our pace in the dry, so I am feeling extremely confident for the final Eurocup round at Jerez.”