Three weeks after the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship season got underway in Italy, the series arrived at the Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France for three more races, but like in round one, one team took all three victories.
In round one, each of the Prema Powerteam drivers, Oliver Rasmussen, Arthur Leclerc and Gianluca Petecof took a victory each, but this time the wins were shared by just two drivers – Leclerc with a double either side of a win for Petecof that kept him top of the championship standings.
Regalia Makes Surprise Race Return in France
The same eleven drivers who competed in the opening round of the season at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli at the beginning of the month were back for the second instalment of the Formula Regional European Championship season in France, however, there was an additional entrant in the form of Argentine racer Facu Regalia at Van Amersfoort Racing.
The twenty-eight-year-old had not been competing in top level motorsport since the 2015 Auto GP season, and had been working as a driver coach with Van Amersfoort Racing before his surprise call-up. Whether or not the 2013 GP3 Series runner-up will return for future outings is yet to be determined, but he was a welcome twelfth entrant for the series at Paul Ricard.
Leclerc Excels in Close Battle for Race One Victory
Leclerc survived a messy first lap and an off on lap four to secure the opening victory of the weekend, with the Monegasque racer leading home team-mate Petecof for a Prema Powerteam one-two.
Jüri Vips ran second in the early laps but the KIC Motorsport driver fell too far away from Leclerc to be in a position to take over the lead when he made his mistake at turn five, and ultimately that was the last opportunity the Estonian would have to lead.
It was from behind where Vips would need to worry, with Petecof and Van Amersfoort Racing’s Pierre-Louis Chovet making it a four-car battle for the lead. Leclerc was able to pull a gap on the chasing pack, with Petecof moving ahead of Vips to take second, with Chovet also moving ahead of the Estonian and onto the podium.
Chovet kept Petecof honest but was unable to make a move on the Brazilian, however the Frenchman had done enough to earn himself his first podium result of the season, with Vips ending the day in fourth.
However, no one had an answer to the pace of Leclerc, who took his second victory of the season by 2.612 seconds ahead of Petecof, Chovet and Vips. Vips’ KIC Motorsport team-mate Patrik Pasma was thirteen seconds away from the race win in fifth, with the Finn finishing just ahead of the third Prema entry of Rasmussen.
Regalia, making his racing return for Van Amersfoort Racing, finished inside the points in seventh, not far away from the battle for fifth. It should have been a better result for the Argentine racer however as he ran in that fifth position for most of the race before both Pasma and Rasmussen passed him with just a couple of minutes remaining on the clock.
Konsta Lappalainen ended eighth for KIC Motorsport after finding a way ahead of Gillian Henrion, with the Frenchman running behind Regalia before a technical issue dropped him to ninth at the chequered flag. The final point went the way of Jamie Chadwick, with the fourth Prema driver edging out DR Formula’s Emidio Pesce on the final lap.
Petecof Denies Leclerc in Race Two as Vips Finally Takes First Podium
Petecof started race two from pole position but was kept honest throughout the second race of the weekend in France, with team-mate Leclerc keeping up the pressure until the chequered flag.
The victory for Petecof was hard-fought, but the Brazilian did everything he needed to as Leclerc was unable to find a way ahead, with the two ending 1.213 seconds apart.
Behind the leading Prema duo, the battle for the podium places was equally intense, with Vips coming out ahead of Chovet to claim his first top three result of the year. The Red Bull Junior Team member was made to work hard for it, with the Estonian making a decisive move after running side by side with the Frenchman.
Rasmussen, who came into the weekend as joint championship leader alongside Petecof, was a lonely fifth after coming out on top of an early battle with Pasma, while Regalia claimed his second seventh place finish ahead of Henrion.
Chadwick and Pesce were again battling for the minor points places in race two, and a collision between the duo ended their afternoons in the barriers on the Mistral Straight. Chadwick made a mistake at the chicane and lost her front wing and then hit Pesce as he attempted to pass her.
The incident promoted Monolite Racing’s Andrea Cola into the points in ninth, while Chadwick claimed the final point despite failing to see the chequered flag.
Leclerc Wins Again in Race Three, Petecof Passes Vips for Second
Petecof once again started on pole position but a slow start relegated the Brazilian to fourth place on the opening lap as Leclerc took over at the front.
Leclerc withstood early pressure from Vips behind and was able to consolidate his position in the lead as team-mate Petecof made early gains to make up for his bad start.
Petecof quickly dispatched team-mate Rasmussen to run third before catching and passing Vips for second. He moved closer to Leclerc but was unable to take the fight to the Monegasque racer, ending 1.250 seconds behind.
Vips dropped away from the leading duo but was able to claim his second podium finish of the weekend in third, with Rasmussen claiming his best result of the weekend in fourth.
Pasma and Lappalainen ensured all three KIC Motorsport entries finished inside the top six, with Chovet failing to keep up his good form of the first two races to finish down in seventh ahead of team-mate Regalia, Prema’s Chadwick and Henrion.
The gap at the top of the championship is just five points between the Petecof and Leclerc heading into the third round at the Red Bull Ring next month. Will anyone be able to deny another clean sweep of race victories in Austria for Prema Powerteam?
Winning Drivers Reactions at Paul Ricard
Arthur Leclerc: “Really happy about the weekend overall. We had a really good speed, we can see an improvement every race and we will continue to work even harder.”
Gianluca Petecof: “Overall I think we can say that it was a positive weekend for us with the high point obviously being our race 2 win.
“Race 1 was positive too, coming from third to second, then a mistake at the start of the last race made us fall back to fourth and recover to second which of course is not what we wanted but we got to look at the positives even though there is a lot to improve and learn from.
“Head down to the next round, we are still leading the championship five points ahead so there’s plenty of hope to fight for the title.”