Junior Single Seater Race Weekend Round-up – 16-18 August 2019

by Paul Hensby

Just a week after their trek to Zandvoort, the ADAC Formula 4 drivers were back in action, this time at another legendary track in the Nurburgring in Germany, while Super Formula had their latest round at Twin Ring Motegi.

Super Formula Championship – Twin Ring Motegi

The impressive Alex Palou started from pole position at Motegi, but it was Ryo Hirakawa who took his maiden Super Formula victory, while a podium finish for Nick Cassidy propelled the New Zealander to the top of the championship standings.

Palou, who was gunning for his second consecutive victory, had made a good start to maintain his advantage and was edging away, only for the Spaniard to struggle with his tyres in comparison to his rivals.

Itochu Enex Team Inpul’s Hirakawa was able to close up to the tail of Palou’s TCS Nakajima Racing car by the end of lap ten, and on lap twenty-three made the decisive move for the lead, taking the outside line coming out of the bridge to assume top spot.

Kamui Kobayashi was able to finish second after jumping Palou during the pit stops, with the former Formula 1 driver enjoying a strong race for carrozzeria Team KCMG.  The Japanese racer climbed from seventh to fourth on the opening lap, passing Tomoki Nojiri and Hiroaki Ishiura into turn one and Lucas Auer later around the same lap.

He was able to pass Nirei Fukuzumi to run third before taking over second during the pit stop cycle from Palou.  Kobayashi was unable to do anything, however, about Hirakawa up front and ended 2.972 seconds adrift at the chequered flag.

Cassidy was able to claim third and the championship lead after making a very early stop for tyres.  The Vantelin Team TOM’S driver found himself fifth after the pit stops were over and used his advantage with the tyres to pass Fukuzumi for fourth and Palou for third, the last move coming with just six laps to go.

Palou and Fukuzumi held on for fourth and fifth respectively ahead of Ishiura, with Auer and Nojiri completing the top ten.  Pre-race championship leader Naoki Yamamoto endured a tough day in the office.  Stalling at the start, the DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing driver was forced to start from the pit lane but could only recover to ninth, missing out on points by less than three-tenths of a second.

Ryo Hirakawa took his maiden Super Formula victory at Twin Ring Motegi – Credit: Super Formula

ADAC Formula 4 – Nurburgring

Just a week after racing between the sand dunes at Zandvoort, the ADAC Formula 4 field reconvened at the Nurburgring in Germany for the fifth round of the season, and one team – US Racing-CHRS – dominated proceedings.

Race One

After starting from the pole position and surviving an early safety car restart, Dennis Hauger was cruelly denied victory in race one at the Nurburgring, with his Van Amersfoort Racing machine grinding to a halt at turn seven.

This handed the victory, his second of the season, to US Racing-CHRS driver Théo Pourchaire, who was around eight-tenths of a second behind Hauger when the Norwegian retired.  The cause of the Red Bull Junior’s retirement was found to be a disconnected power cable, which occurred when he hit a piece of debris on track.

The safety car was deployed again to recover Hauger’s stranded car, and on the resumption, Pourchaire held onto the lead and took the victory, 0.734 seconds ahead of team-mate Roman Staněk.

The final spot on the podium went the way of Ferrari Driver Academy racer Gianluca Petecof, the Prema Powerteam driver finishing just ahead of another US Racing-CHRS driver in Alessandro Ghiretti. The top five was rounded out by Van Amersfoort Racing’s Ido Cohen, who had been passed by Ghiretti at turn one for fourth.

Mikhael Belov finished sixth for R-ace GP after coming out on top of a battle with Prema Powerteam’s Paul Aron, while another two R-ace GP drivers, Hadrien David and Gregoire Saucy, finished eighth and ninth respectively.

The top ten was rounded out by US Racing-CHRS driver Arthur Leclerc, who was forced to start lower down the field than he qualified thanks to his grid penalty carried over from the previous round at Zandvoort.  Leclerc fell further away from championship leader Pourchaire as a result. 

The final point, with eighth-placed finished David illegible to score points, went the way of Mücke Motorsport’s Joshua Dürksen, who finishing just behind Leclerc in eleventh and just ahead of the fourth Prema Powerteam driver, Oliver Rasmussen.

Théo Pourchaire (#21) claimed victory in race one – Credit: Gruppe C Photography

Race Two

Pourchaire began race two from pole position but lost out to Hauger heading into turn one, but the US Racing-CHRS driver was back in front after going around the outside of his rival between turns two and three.

This gave Pourchaire the imputus to take the victory, his second of the weekend and third of the campaign, with the wet track making it difficult for everyone.

After a spin for Hauger on lap three, it looked as though US Racing-CHRS were heading for a one-two-three finish, with Pourchaire leading Ghiretti and Leclerc, but Belov was not having any of it and made a fantastic charge through to second from eighth on the grid.

However, Belov was more than six seconds down on the race leader when the chequered flag fell, but it was still an impressive performance from the young SMP Racing-backed Russian.

Leclerc got the better of Ghiretti for the final spot on the podium by following Belov through, while Hauger claimed fifth despite his spin at the exit of the chicane.  The Norwegian was less than a second away from Ghiretti’s fourth place, but he knew it could have been a much better result but for his spin.

Rasmussen finished sixth having fallen from the same position to ninth at the start, but the Dane managed to finish ahead of Dürksen, Staněk and Petecof, while Aron completed the points scorers in tenth after keeping ahead of David.

Théo Pourchaire made it a double victory in race two – Credit: Gruppe C Photography

Race Three

Race three was also a wet affair, and from reverse grid pole, Staněk claimed his second victory of the season, his first since the opening weekend of the season at Oschersleben.

After a safety car start, Hauger made early gains to move from fourth on the grid to second, with the Norwegian taking advantage of a wide moment for Dürksen at turn five on the opening lap.  Dürksen’s race was to end at the same corner a few laps later as he crashed into the tyre barrier to bring the safety car back on track.

When the race resumed there was only five minutes remaining on the clock, but it was only a few seconds until the safety car was out again when Petecof and Saucy collided at turn four, with the former and the innocent Lucas Alecco Roy ending up in the barriers.

The safety car remained on track until the chequered flag, enabling Staněk to claim the win ahead of Hauger, with Rasmussen claiming the final spot on the podium ahead of Ghiretti and Leclerc.  Aron claimed sixth ahead of the R-ace GP trio David, Belov and Saucy, while the top ten was rounded out by Cohen.

Championship leader Pourchaire finished eleventh but claimed the final point on offer thanks to David’s ineligibility, with the Frenchman surviving a moment through the gravel trap on the outside of the final corner on lap seven that relegated him to fifteenth.  He was able to make a few gains and took advantage of misfortune ahead of him to take an all-important point towards the championship, which he leads by fifty-three points heading into the final two rounds of the season.

Roman Staněk took victory in an often disrupted race three: Gruppe C Photography

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