Junior Single Seater Race Weekend Round-up – 27-29 September 2019

by Paul Hensby

Super Formula – Okayama

Ria Hirakawa started from pole position at Okayama but it was Kenta Yamashita and Naoki Yamamoto who were celebrating come the chequered flag as they took the win and the championship lead respectively.

Team Inpul’s Hirakawa held onto the lead at the start with Nirei Fukuzumi moving up from fourth on the grid to run second having jumped both Yuji Kunimoto and Yamashita. However, Fukuzumi was responsible for a lap eight safety car after spinning out on the entry to Attwood.  This would have a massive effect on the strategy calls, with teams up and down the paddock wondering which way was the best to go.

The race leader stayed on track, as did pre-race championship leader Nick Cassidy, and they maintained their positions at the front of the field before Vantelin Team TOM’S driver Cassidy made a move on Hirakawa into the hairpin on lap fifty-eight.

However, when Cassidy hit the pit lane on lap sixty, his advantage to Yamashita, who had pitted behind the safety car, was insufficient for him to retain the lead, and unfortunately for the New Zealander, he made contact with Kamui Kobayashi whilst battling for the minor points and left without adding to his points tally.

Hirakawa was also left without points as he ended twelfth following a slow pit stop and a small off on his out lap, with Yamashita giving Kondo Racing their first victory of the season ahead of Kazuki Nakajima of Vantelin Team TOM’S, while Harrison Newey claimed his maiden Super Formula podium in third for B-Max with Motopark.

Alex Palou kept himself in championship contention by finishing fourth for TCS Nakajima Racing ahead of Lucas Auer of B-Max with Motopark, whilst Patricio O’Ward secured his first points of his Super Formula career in sixth for Team Mugen ahead of the twice-stopping (both under the safety car) Yamamoto and Kazuya Oshima of UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans.

Yamamoto heads into the season finale at Suzuka with a single point advantage in the championship standings ahead of Cassidy, while Palou is only four points back in third.

Kenta Yamashita took victory at Okayama – Credit: Super Formula

Eurocup Formula Renault – Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

Race One

Renault Academy driver, Victor Martins, gave his championship chances a boost by claiming a lights-to-flag victory in race one at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Martins, racing for MP Motorsport in his sophomore campaign in Eurocup, consolidated his pole position at the start and was largely untroubled as he took his third win of the campaign to edge him closer to championship leader Oscar Piastri, who could only manage fifth.

Piastri could only have himself to blame for his result as a slow getaway and a spin at the exit of turn one on the opening lap left him at the back of the pack.  He was able to climb back into the points-paying positions with around ten minutes remaining before making some further gains in the closing laps to end up sixth.  A penalty for Petr Ptácek post-race promoted him to fifth.

Behind Martins, Alexander Smolyar claimed second position for R-ace GP ahead of Ptácek, who thought he had claimed only his second podium result of the season only to be handed a time penalty to relegate him to sixth.  This promoted Alex Quinn to the podium, the Arden Motorsport driver initially having finished fourth ahead of R-ace GP’s Caio Collet.

Lorenzo Colombo ended seventh for MP Motorsport as his championship ambitions faded still further, while Patrik Pasma, Ugo de Wilde and Leonardo Lorandi completed the top ten and the points scorers.

“The target this afternoon was to get a good start, because we knew that we had the pace to convert our pole position into victory,” said Martin.  “That is exactly what we did by keeping a cool head at turn one.

“We were able to look after the tyres throughout the race to get this result that is great for the general classification as the end of the season nears. Barcelona is my second favourite circuit, I set the category track record last year and took my second pole here in two years this morning.”

Victor Martins celebrates victory in Spain – Credit: Clement Luck / DPPI

Race Two

Martins took pole position again for race two and was in equally strong form on Sunday to claim a second lights-to-flag victory of the weekend to further close the gap to Piastri in the championship battle.

Martins was aided by a slow start from fellow front-row starter Smolyar, who dropped down the order after being hampered by Ptácek into turn two, with the Frenchman going on to win by more than seven seconds.

Ptácek recovered from his race one penalty to claim his best result of the season in second, while Piastri secured the final spot on the podium despite putting pressure onto the Czech racer for second in the second half of the race.

Colombo ended fourth ahead of Smolyar, who made a late move on Quinn as the race neared its conclusion.  Unfortunately for Quinn, he took a trip through the gravel trap after coming off worse in a committed battle with Collet at turns one and two.  De Wilde was able to get ahead of Collet to claim sixth while Quinn was relegated to eleventh as he recovered to the track.

Federico Malvestiti claimed eighth for Bhaitech ahead of Lorandi, while guest driver Franco Colapinto ended the day in tenth for FA Racing by Drivex.  With Colapinto unable to score points, Quinn was able to take one point away from the day despite his late off.

“It has been a perfect weekend, because we couldn’t do better than two pole positions, two wins and two fastest laps,” said Martins. “We have worked hard since the start of the season. It is paying off and our confidence is high heading to the final two rounds of the year.

“We are hitting our stride and we have the right mindset. Things didn’t go well for me last year at Hockenheim, but I need to move on because the car, the team and the stakes are no longer the same. We have to remain focused to carry this momentum and reach our target.”

Victor Martins pays tribute to Anthoine Hubert after taking victory in Spain – Credit: Clement Luck / DPPI

F3 Asian Championship – Shanghai International Circuit

Race One

Ukyo Sasahara came into the final weekend of the season with the advantage in the championship standings, and the Japanese racer delivered early by taking pole position for races one and three at the home of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Sasahara, racing for Hitech Grand Prix, defended from team-mate and championship rival Jack Doohan at the start but left the door open for Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao to take the lead, the Chinese driver going around the outside of both of them from third on the grid.

Cao was able to pull away as Doohan passed Sasahara for second, before Brendon Leitch took over third as the championship leader slowed with some kind of technical issue.  However, a puncture for Leitch denied him a podium finish and allowed Sasahara back into the top three.

Cao claimed the win by 1.113 seconds ahead of Doohan, with Sasahara completing the podium places despite ending more than sixteen seconds adrift of the leading two.  He was followed home by Hitech Grand Prix team-mate Jackson Walls, with Pinnacle Motorsport’s Jordan Dempsey completing the top five.

James Yu claimed sixth for Zen Motorsport ahead of Eshan Pieris of Absolute Racing, while Akash Gowda (M-Sport Asia), Paul Wong (852 Challengers) and the unfortunate Leitch completed the top ten.  Wong’s ninth place also ensured he took the honours in the Masters’ Cup class as rival Thomas Luedi retired.

“Before the start, I knew my tyres were the newest out of the three cars, so my car had more grip at the start,” said Cao.  “Before turn one, I had passed the two Hitech GP cars and then led the race.

“During the race it was a bit dangerous for me because Jack Doohan was so fast in the last few laps. But I’m very happy and thanks to everyone! Tomorrow, from pole, I will do my best to repeat this.”

Daniel Cao won race one at the Shanghai International Circuit – Credit: F3 Asian Championship

Race Two

Cao started race two from pole position and maintained his advantage into turn one and was able to convert his position into a second consecutive race victory despite early pressure from Leitch.

Doohan managed to get ahead of Sasahara early on but both Hitech Grand Prix drivers were passed by BlackArts Racing’s Leitch, who then turned his attention to race leader Cao before a safety car was needed following another retirement for Leudi.

Cao again kept Leitch at bay at the restart and went onto the claim the win by 2.619 seconds, while Doohan got the better of Sasahara for the final spot on the podium. However, it was not enough for the Australian to deny the Japanese racer the title as Sasahara wrapped it up with a race to spare despite not finishing on the podium.

Walls finished fifth, again ahead of Dempsey and Yu, while Gowda, Tommy Smith (Pinnacle Motorsport) and Pieris completed the points scorers.  Wong again took Masters’ Cup honours thanks to Leudi’s retirement after finishing eleventh overall.

“It’s not so easy to drive from the front because Brendon’s car was right behind him,” said Cao.  “I think I’m very luck because the two Hitech cars were fighting.

“On the big straights, sometimes I watched my mirrors, but in the corners, I focussed on the car.”

Daniel Cao follwed up his race one victory by winning race two – Credit: F3 Asian Championship

Race Three

After missing out on the title in race two, Doohan grabbed the lead from team-mate Sasahara at the start of the final race of the season in race three and went onto claim his fifth victory of the year as Hitech Grand Prix locked out the podium places.

It was a race that Doohan dominated, with the Australian pulling a gap of more than seven seconds on Sasahara, while Walls completed the podium despite finishing more than twenty seconds adrift of the race winner!

Leitch ended the season with a fourth-place finish ahead of Pieris and Dempsey, while Cao recovered from starting at the back of the field to finish seventh.  A suspension failure during Qualifying prevented him from setting a time, meaning he was always going to be fighting a losing battle in a bid to win all three races across the weekend.  However, he had already done enough to secure third place in the championship behind Sasahara and Doohan.

Smith ended the year with his best result of the season in eighth, while Yu and Gowda completed the top ten.  Wong again ended up eleventh overall, but the Masters’ Cup champion won his class once more as Leudi endured another retirement, his third in a row and the eighth of the season.

“Of course, I wanted to win the championship, but Ukyo did a phenomenal job all year and made it very tough,” said Doohan.  “I’m happy he was in the team because I learned a lot and improved – I think we improved ourselves as drivers to push each other.

“It was good to get the win. It’s all on the start here, there’s not much overtaking. I tried to manage the tyres but as there’s no other race for the rest of the year, I just pushed.”

Series champion Sasahara was naturally delighted and the Japanese racer thanked his team for giving him the chance to shine at the front of the field throughout the season.

“Thanks to Hitech GP who have been fantastic all year,” said Sasahara.  “This is my first championship in formula cars for me, so hopefully it will be a boost for the future.

“I’m happy to be here and to win the championship.”

Ukyo Sasahara is the 2019 F3 Asian Championship series champion – Credit: F3 Asian Championship

ADAC Formula 4 – Sachsenring

Race One

Mikhael Belov took a breakthrough victory in the opening race of the final weekend of the ADAC Formula 4 championship season, while Theo Pourchaire edged closer to the title after getting the better of Dennis Hauger.

Pourchaire started from pole position but the US Racing driver slipped to third at the start behind both Belov and his R-ace GP team-mate Gregoire Saucy, while Hauger moved up to fourth ahead of US Racing’s Arthur Leclerc.

The safety car was soon deployed as Joshua Dürksen spun his Mücke Motorsport car into the gravel trap at turn thirteen, and not long after the restart, Pourchaire found a way ahead of Saucy for second, and Hauger was soon able to follow him through.

Belov was able to edge away for his maiden win despite pressure from both Pourchaire and Hauger.  It all came to a head on lap fifteen when Pourchaire attempted to pass Belov for the lead but was edged towards the pit wall and Hauger attacked his rival.  Pourchaire held on this time but next time around the positions switched after the Frenchman ran wide at turn one.

Hauger attempted to pass Belov for the lead around the outside of turn thirteen but failed to make it stick, and instead of gaining a place, he was demoted to third by Pourchaire and to fourth a corner later by Saucy.  This is how the race was to end, allowing Pourchaire to extend his advantage to seven points going into the penultimate race of the year.

Paul Aron was the leading Prema Powerteam driver in fifth, while Leclerc ended sixth despite a mistake that dropped him down the order.  Gianluca Petecof of Prema ended seventh ahead of Alessandro Ghiretti of US Racing, while Van Amersfoort Racing’s Sebastian Estner and US Racing’s Roman Stanek completed the top ten.

“This is amazing, I am very happy to take the first victory in the ADAC Formula 4 Championship,” said Belov. “It seems that almost 80% of the distance I defended my position and fended off the attacks of my rivals, but still I managed to keep the lead and am very happy about it.”

Michael Belov took his maiden ADAC F4 win in race one – Credit: Gruppe C Photography

Race Two

Pourchaire moved closer still to the title by winning race two at the Sachsenring, but Hauger was able to keep himself involved by claiming second place.

Belov led initially but was soon passed by Pourchaire for the lead, with the Russian unable to follow his race one victory with another podium as he fell down the order to ninth by the chequered flag.

Two safety car periods ensure that Pourchaire did not have it all his own way, with both Petecof and Hauger both closing up on the Frenchman.  Hauger made a move for second on Petecof after the conclusion of the second safety car period, but a third safety car left the Norwegian unable to make a decisive move on his title rival.

Petecof held on for the final place on the podium ahead of Dürksen, Saucy and Leclerc, but a penalty for Dürksen post-race relegated him to sixth.  Leclerc fell out of contention for the title thanks to his result, leaving it a two-way scrap in the final race between Pourchaire and Hauger.

US Racing duo Ghiretti and Stanek ended seventh and eighth, with Belov and Lucas Alecco Roy completed the top ten.  For Roy, it was only the third time all year that he achieved a place inside the top ten, and even then he was lucky as he narrowly avoided the incident that saw the race end behind the safety car.

“It’s great to be 14 points ahead, but I know it’s not over yet,” said Pourchaire ahead of the season finale.  “I have one more race to run and must do well. 

“Dennis will start in front of me, so I’ll have to be on my toes. Today’s race was mega! It’s a great feeling to win.”

Theo Pourchaire edged closer to the title with victory in race two – Credit: Gruppe C Photography

Race Three

Hauger did everything he could to deny Pourchaire from taking the title, but a fightback from the Frenchman ensured he became the 2019 ADAC Formula 4 champion.

Joshua Dürksen took the chequered flag first in the season finale but was handed a thirty-second time penalty for an illegal restart, promoting Hauger to the top step of the podium, but despite falling to eleventh early on, Pourchaire worked his way back up to fourth to clinch the title.

After the race, Pourchaire was promoted to second after a disqualification for Ghiretti and a time penalty for Rasmussen, but he had already done enough to earn himself the championship.

Hauger and Pourchaire started side by side on row four for the race but had very different opening laps, the Norwegian ending up in third behind Ghiretti and Dürksen, while the Frenchman was relegated to eleventh. 

Stanek was handed a drive-through penalty for being outside of his grid box at the start and coupled with a good pass on Ido Cohen promoted Pourchaire back into the championship lead, before he moved up two more places ahead of Belov and Saucy.  Meanwhile, at the front of the field, Dürksen found a way ahead of Ghiretti for the lead with Hauger soon following through into second.

An unforced error by Petecof promoted Pourchaire up to sixth and when Rasmussen put Estner into the gravel trap as they battle for fourth, this promoted the champion-elect into fifth.  A safety car was deployed as a result, but Dürksen was untouchable, and took the chequered flag first only to be penalised with a thirty-second time penalty.

This enabled Hauger to take the win from Ghiretti and Rasmussen, but the former was later disqualified and the latter handed a penalty for his incident with Estner, allowing Pourchaire to end up in second position and as the new series champion.  The penalties also promoted Leclerc up to the podium in third.

Cohen ended the season with a fourth-place result ahead of Petecof and Stanek, while Aron, Kristan Thaqi (Mücke Motorsport), Lazslo Toth (R-ace GP) and the penalised Dürksen completed the top ten.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling to win the title,” said Pourchaire. “And the same goes for the team. My thanks to the team for their great support throughout the season.

“Congratulations also to Dennis for a great year. It’s a blow to lose out on the championship. But it all goes to show that the level has been really high this year.”

Hauger ended the year with victory but missed out on the title: Gruppe C Photography

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