Prema Powerteam continued their impressive record in junior single seater racing in the opening round of the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship last weekend, with three of their drivers sharing out the wins at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
After delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the season finally got underway months after it was initially scheduled to, with the Italian circuit hosting the first round of what is expected to be an eight round, twenty-four race calendar.
Eleven Cars for the Opening Round
Prema Powerteam led the entry list with four entrants for the opening round of the year, with Ferrari Driver Academy duo Gianluca Petecof and Arthur Leclerc being joined by 2019 W-Series champion Jamie Chadwick and Oliver Rasmussen.
KIC Motorsport entered three cars for Estonian Red Bull Junior Team member Jüri Vips, Patrik Pasma and Konsta Lappalainen, while there were single car entries for DR Formula RP Motorsport, who fielded Emidio Pesce, Monolite Racing, who gave Andrea Cola their seat, and Gillian Track Events, who brought in Gillian Henrion.
Just prior to the season, Alessandro Famularo withdrew from his planned ride with Van Amersfoort Racing due to personal reasons, leaving the team down to one entry for Misano for Frenchman Pierre-Louis Chovet.
Rasmussen Takes Surprise Opening Win after Frontrunners Crash
Leclerc took pole position for all three races in Qualifying, but the Monegasque racer, the younger brother of Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, was unable to convert it into a win after a first lap crash.
Vips, Petecof and Leclerc were all fighting for the same piece of tarmac on the opening lap and made contact, with all three suffering different levels of damage. Vips appeared to get away with it while Petecof headed to the pits for a change of tyres. Unfortunately, Leclerc was out on the spot.
This allowed Rasmussen to assume the lead, with the safety car coming out to retrieve Leclerc’s stricken car. Pasma put pressure on the race leader when the race resumed but was unable to find a way ahead, while Chadwick was able to claim third despite pressure from firstly Lappalainen and Chovet before the recovering Vips moved up to fourth.
Unfortunately for Vips, he was the cause of a second safety car period as he spun out into the gravel attempting to pass Chadwick, and the Briton was then left to defend her third place from recovering team-mate Petecof, but the Brazilian was unable to find a way ahead.
Rasmussen held on for the win, with Pasma and Chadwick completing the podium. Petecof ended fourth ahead of Chovet, while Cola and Pesce completed the finishers after the latter collided with Henrion. Lappalainen’s race was also over with four laps remaining with a technical issue.
Leclerc Rebounds with Race Two Domination
After crashing out in race one, Leclerc turned it all around in race two, leading from start to finish as Prema Powerteam locked out the podium.
Vips was handed a two-place grid penalty for his part in the first race clash, dropping him from second to fourth, with Petecof and race one winner Rasmussen profiting. But neither of Leclerc’s team-mates had an answer for the pace at the front of the field, with the Monegasque racer winning by 4.772 seconds from Petecof, while Rasmussen was 15.806 seconds back in third.
Vips ran fourth early on and fought Rasmussen for the podium, only to fade the longer the race went on, with the Estonian dropping behind the charging Pasma and Chovet to finish sixth at the chequered flag.
Chadwick was unable to match the pace of her team-mates and, despite running fifth in the early laps, finished down in eighth, losing positions to Pasma, Chovet and Lappalainen. Pasma and Chovet took time to pass Chadwick but had enough time to catch and pass Vips before the end.
Cola ended just over five seconds behind Chadwick in ninth, just ahead of Henrion, while Pesce saw the chequered flag in eleventh but missed out on points as a result.
Petecof Denies Leclerc in Final Race
Leclerc again started from pole position for race three, but unlike in race two, he was unable to convert it into the win, with the Monegasque losing the place at the start to team-mate Petecof.
Petecof withstood early pressure from Leclerc and Rasmussen to hold onto the lead, with the Brazilian going on to take the chequered flag 0.814 seconds ahead of the Monegasque. Rasmussen dropped away from the front two but was able to retain his place on the podium ahead of Vips.
Pasma’s strong weekend ended with a fifth place finish and leaves Misano fourth in the standings ahead of Chadwick, who also finished behind the Finn in the final race. Unlike in race two, it was a more relaxed race for the 2019 W-Series champion, with Chadwick ending well clear of seventh placed Chovet.
Henrion and Cola completed the finishers in eighth and ninth after Lappalainen and Pesce were eliminated in an incident after the latter ran wide and collected the former as he returned to the circuit.
Petecof and Rasmussen jointly lead the championship after round one on fifty-five points, with Leclerc left to rue his race one retirement to leave Misano third, twelve points adrift.
Winning Drivers Reactions at Misano
Oliver Rasmussen: “I’m pretty satisfied on a global view. The weekend started with my first win in single-seaters which was pretty awesome.
“I think we got some good points but just didn’t have the right pace in race 2 and 3, and we will have to look into that if we want to aim for the championship. Great job by the team, we exit the weekend in the lead tied with Gianluca.
“Thank you to my crew, Jonathan, Alessandro and Ivan for the great run!”
Arthur Leclerc: “I’m really happy about the pace, we proved that we can be really fast. Now I think the main thing to work on is the starts, it will be a key aspect as we saw in race 2 and then in race 3 when it put me in trouble.
“That’s why I ended up P2 and struggled to manage the tyres. We know that we have the speed though, and it’s positive for the next races.”
Gianluca Petecof: “It was a great weekend. It didn’t start the way we wanted, missing a little bit in qualifying. In race 1 we deserved to be on the podium and in the end, we weren’t, but after that, the other two races were very positive.
“The last race was great, although a little difficult to manage but in the end, we got away with a win and the championship lead. That’s positive and we’ll keep fighting.”