Junior Single Seater Race Weekend Round-Up – 31 May – 2 June 2019

by Paul Hensby

It was a quick turnaround for the Formula Renault Eurocup drivers, as after racing last week around the streets of Monaco they moved just along the coast for two races at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Formula Renault Eurocup – Circuit Paul Ricard

For the first time in 2019, the same driver dominated both races of the weekend at Paul Ricard, with Lorenzo Colombo taking his first two Eurocup victories during Saturday and Sunday’s races.

Race One

Colombo took his fourth Eurocup pole position on Saturday morning, the MP Motorsport driver denying R-ace GP’s Oscar Piastri top spot by just over a tenth of a second, while their respective team-mates and championship rivals Victor Martins and Alexander Smolyar locked out row two ahead of leading rookie Caio Collet.

When the lights went out, Colombo retained the lead despite Piastri’s best efforts, with Martins, Smolyar and Collet slipping in behind, but it was not long before the race was neutralised with a safety car after an opening lap collision between Amaury Cordeel and Petr Ptáček.

BhaiTech Racing’s Ptáček was pitched into a barrel roll after contact with MP Motorsport’s Cordeel but was fortunately unhurt in the incident, while a separate spin for Alessio Deledda at the back of the field saw the GRS driver hit pit lane to retire.

Petr Ptácek goes airborne after contact with Amaury Cordeel – Credit: Marc de Mattia / DPPI

It was lap three when the field were unleashed again, but Colombo was untroubled and was able to edge away from his rivals to claim his maiden Eurocup triumph, 4.945 seconds clear of Piastri, who had Martins just behind him all the way to the chequered flag. 

“It was a perfect day,” said Colombo.  “The car has been fast since the collective tests and along with the team we have been able to make further progress. We had to do the job in qualifying and I managed to take the pole.

“I had to first hold off Oscar at the start, but I never stopped pushing as soon as I could get the most out of my tyres after the safety car. I felt confident and I hope we can do the same tomorrow.

“After giving points away to my rivals since the start of the season, I think I should be a but higher in the general classification, but I should soon find a position more in line with my ambitions if everything goes as well as it did today!”

Smolyar finished off the podium in fourth, over nine seconds away from the race winner at the end of the fifteen-lap event, while Collet took rookie honours in fifth for R-ace GP.

Kush Maini was one of the star performers of the race, with the Indian racer finishing sixth having started the afternoon down in tenth.  The M2 Competition driver made two places on the opening lap before moving up ahead of JD Motorsport pair João Vieira and Ugo de Wilde.

Vieira finished behind de Wilde in eighth, fending off the challenge of Arden Motorsport’s Sebastián Fernández, while Frank Bird did likewise against Callan O’Keeffe to claim the final point on offer in tenth.

Lorenzo Colombo was unstoppable in race one at Paul Ricard – Credit: Marc de Mattia / DPPI

Race Two

Colombo was again the man to beat in Qualifying for Sunday’s second race in the south of France, and the Italian did the pole double with a time of 1:59.968, 0.249 seconds clear of Piastri.  Smolyar and Martins were again on the second row, with Maini the best of the rookies in fifth.

At the start, Colombo got away well but Piastri made a dreadful getaway, falling all the way down to eighteenth, while Ptáček from sixth on the grid fell right to the back after an equally appalling launch.

Everyone was able to make it through the opening turns unscathed, with Colombo pulling out an immediate gap on those behind, which was now led by Smolyar with Martins in close pursuit.  Just behind, Collet made a good start to get into fourth ahead of fellow rookie Maini.

Colombo was untroubled throughout the race, winning by an impressive margin of 8.849 seconds from Smolyar, with Martins completing the podium to ensure he left Paul Ricard still at the top of the championship standings. 

“Another pole and a win by a big margin… I am speechless!” said Colombo.  “These two wins are a huge confidence boost, which I needed!

“I am really happy with the work put in by the team, because we have really developed the car since the pre-season tests in March. We knew that we have good pace here and it was seen on the track.

“In scoring maximum points, we have caught up to the leaders in the general classification, but we need to continue to regularly put in this kind of results just until the end of the season.”

Martins, a member of the Renault Sport Academy, trailed Smolyar for all of the sixteen laps but could not make a move on the SMP Racing-backed Russian, the duo finishing less than seven-tenths of a second apart.

Collet took his second rookie win of the weekend and his fifth of the season in fourth, with the race made easier for him when Maini dropped out of the points after damaging his front wing that needed him to pit for a replacement.

Fernández secured his best result of the season in fifth for Arden, while Piastri made good ground to claim sixth on the line ahead of Cordeel and de Wilde, the trio finishing less than three-tenths of a second apart as they made it a drag race to the chequered flag.

From eighteenth, Piastri will be happy to have brought home some points with his recovery drive to sixth, but the Australian was disappointed to have put himself there in the first place after his nightmare getaway.

“I stalled at the start of race two when I released the clutch too much and that was it,” said Piastri. “I went for the outside going in to turn five, thinking it would be a good move, but there was so much rubber I got on the marbles, drifted off [the track] and couldn’t get back on, which made it even worse.

“I was a bit frustrated, but after three or four laps where I saw I was passing people I thought I could get to the points. I passed de Wilde into the second last corner and squeezed him in to the inside, but it was pretty tight, and I had to run off track to avoid hitting him, so it was a pretty exciting last corner. I think P6 is the best recovery job I could have done. I was pretty determined for sure.

“The main thing was to get good points. I think we could have ended up second, so we’ve probably lost ten points, but Thibault [de Merindol – R-ace GP President] says ‘championships are won on the bad days’ and we did a pretty decent job of recovering. Now I’m going back to school for a few weeks and will get some time in the sim closer to Spa.”

Xavier Lloveras took his second points finish of the season in ninth for GRS, while the top ten was completed by JD Motorsport’s Vieira, who came out on top of a great battle with team-mate Leonardo Lorandi and Arden Motorsport’s Bird for the final point.

Lorenzo Colombo celebrates after his second win of the weekend in France – Credit: Marc de Mattia / DPPI

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