Season Review: 2017 Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup – Benyahia’s Crown

by Paul Hensby

Just five full-time drivers competed in the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup in 2017 thanks to ill-judged and untrue rumours of the championships demise, but with the calendar confirmed, other teams and drivers joined each of the five rounds and brought excitement to the years actions.

R-ace GP field four of those full-time entries, and competed with four different drivers to their Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 contingent, with Frenchmen Charles Milesi and Theo Coicaud being joined by Moroccan Michael Benyahia and Belgian Gilles Magnus.

The fifth full-timer was Polish racer Bartlomiej Mirecki, who returned again with his own BM Racing Team, while Tech 1 Racing, Josef Kaufmann Racing, Fortec Motorsports, Arden Motorsport, JD Motorsport, Mark Burdett Motorsport and MP Motorsport all fielded entries at some point to boost the field.

With the exception of the round at Spa-Francorchamps, where the NEC entrants joined the Eurocup field, part time drivers won every race, and had Eurocup entrants been eligible to score points in that Belgian round, the final championship standings would have looked a whole lot different, and it would not have had a driver who did not take a single race victory as champion.

Gilles Magnus missed out on the title by just two points – Credit: Gregory Eyckmans

Eight different winners in eleven races

Tech 1 Racing were dominant in the opening round of the season at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, with Gabriel Aubry leading team-mate Max Fewtrell to two one-two finishes, with Mirecki and Benyahia standing on the third step across the weekend.

It was MP Motorsport’s turn to dominate at the TT Circuit Assen, with Red Bull Junior’s Neil Verhagen and Richard Verschoor each taking a victory. It was a one-two for them in race one in favour of Verhagen, with Milesi taking his first podium in third, while Verschoor took the honours in race two ahead of Magnus and Renault Sport Academy member Jarno Opmeer.

Josef Kaufmann Racing joined the field for the first time at the Nurburgring, with Sacha Fenestraz taking a double victory. Yifei Ye took second for the squad in race one ahead of Red Bull Junior Daniel Ticktum of Arden Motorsport, while Aubry finished second in race two, with Ye completing the podium.

A trio of races took place at Spa-Francorchamps as NEC linked up with Eurocup, and it was only the five NEC drivers that were eligible for points, meaning Magnus was declared the winner of the first race despite finishing fourteenth on the road, with the racing being held completely behind the safety car due to fog, with Milesi and Benyahia completing the podium.

Milesi took race two honours after Magnus crashed out at Raidillon on the opening lap, with Benyahia second ahead of Mirecki, while Magnus recovered to win race three after hard work from his R-ace GP team restored his damaged car, with the Belgian finishing ahead of Benyahia and Coicaud, who took his one and only podium of the season.

Overall honours in Belgium went the way of Fenestraz in races one and three, while Aubry won race two, although both drivers and the rest of the podium finishers were only eligible for points in Eurocup.

Josef Kaufmann Racing once again took both of the victories at the season-closing round at the Hockenheimring, with Ye taking his first victories ahead of Fenestraz in both races, with Verschoor and Aleksandr Vartanyan completing the respective podiums, but all eyes were on the championship battle.

Magnus and Benyahia went into the final races at the head of the standings, with Mirecki an outside shot, and it was ironic that all three weren’t podium contenders when it mattered.

Two ninth place finishes were enough for Benyahia to clinch the championship, mainly due to a disappointing weekend for Magnus, who finished fifteenth in race one and had to beat the Moroccan in race two to take the crown, only to fall short by one position. Benyahia ultimately became champion despite failing to take a victory, two points ahead of Magnus, and twelve ahead of Mirecki.

Bartlomiej Mirecki impressed despite being a family run team – Credit: Gregory Eyckmans

The Future of NEC…

There may have been only five full-time entries and only five rounds in 2017, but the championship now has direction once more, and the field is likely to grow again next season, while the calendar is also expanding.

BlackArts Racing Team has already announced its presence in the championship, while the uncertainty that prevented the likes of Josef Kaufmann Racing and Arden Motorsport, amongst others, has gone, meaning a full-time presence in NEC next season could before a distinct possibility, especially as the championship is being aimed as a feeder category for Eurocup.

Charles Milesi took a solitary win in Spa – Credit: Gregory Eyckmans

Northern European Cup Final Standings

13Michael BenyahiaMARR-ace GP163
24Gilles MagnusBELR-ace GP161
396Bartlomiej MireckiPOLBM Racing151
42Theo CoicaudFRAR-ace GP129.5
514Gabriel AubryFRATech 1 Racing115
611Sacha FenestrazFRAJosef Kaufmann Racing108
71Charles MilesiFRAR-ace GP106
841Yifei YeCHIJosef Kaufmann Racing104
929Richard VerschoorNEDMP Motorsport90
1030Jarno OpmeerNEDMP Motorsport68
116Thomas NeubauerFRATech 1 Racing52
127Max FewtrellGBRTech 1 Racing48
1315James PullGBRJosef Kaufmann Racing48
1431Neil VerhagenUSAMP Motorsport47
1522Jean-Baptiste SimmenauerFRAJD Motorsport47
1634Aleksandr VartanyanRUSArden Motorsport36
175Thomas MaxwellAUSTech 1 Racing36
1821Sun Yue YangCHIJD Motorsport33
1942Luis LeedsAUSJosef Kaufmann Racing28
2019Frank BirdGBRFortec Motorsports26
2181Oscar PiastriAUSArden Motorsport26
2225Julia PankiewiczPOLBurdett Motorsport25
2343Logan SargeantUSAR-ace GP24
2451Chia Wing HoongMALFortec Motorsports22
2526Presley MartonoINOBurdett Motorsport0
-Max DefournyBELR-ace GP-
-Will PalmerGBRR-ace GP-
-Robert ShwartzmanRUSR-ace GP-
-Daniel TicktumGBRArden Motorsport-
-Thomas RandleAUSAVF by Adrian Valles-
-Henrique ChavesPORAVF by Adrian Valles-
-Zane GoddardAUSArden Motorsport-
-Axel MatusMEXAVF by Adrian Valles-
-Alex PeroniAUSFortec Motorsports-
-Aleksey KorneevRUSFortec Motorsports-
-Raul GuzmanMEXR-ace GP-
-Xavier LloverasESPAVF by Adrian Valles-
-Najiy RazakMALFortec Motorsports-

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