Last weekend saw the first EuroFormula Open event of 2020 at the Hungaroring and with it the first race outing for the new-for-2020 Dallara 320 chassis.
It was also a dominant weekend for former Renault Sport Academy member Yifei Ye, who took both pole positions and both victories at the Hungarian circuit as EuroFormula Open finally got underway following the delays caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.
Twelve Cars Compete in Hungary
Defending teams’ champions Team Motopark field two cars at the Hungaroring for Niklas Krütten and Manuel Maldonado, although their third driver, Cameron Das, was unavailable due to his commitments in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, and it is yet to be seen if the American will race in EuroFormula Open this season.
An offshoot of Motopark was CryptoTower Racing, the first Japanese team to race in the EuroFormula Open championship. They also fielded two cars in Hungary, with former Renault junior Ye of China being joined by Angolan racer Rui Andrade.
Carlin Motorsport, the only other team to win a race in 2019 aside from Motopark, fielded two cars for Israeli racer Ido Cohen and Barbados-born 2019 British Formula 4 champion Zane Maloney, while the second British team on the grid – Double R Racing – brought one car for Ayrton Simmons.
Van Amersfoort Racing fielded three cars for Frenchman Alexandre Bardinon and German brothers Andreas and Sebastian Estner, while Drivex School ran Dutchman Glenn van Barlo and Omani racer Shihab Al Habsi.
Fortec Motorsports were expected to race in Hungary with American racer Kris Wright, but they withdrew from the event with the driver now expected to compete solely in his homeland in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ye Takes Dominant First Victory
Ye took a commanding pole position on Saturday morning ahead of the Estner brothers, and he withstood the pressure from the Van Amersfoort Racing duo early on before pulling out a significant advantage at the front.
The Chinese driver was untouchable once he had escaped from the chasing pack, and he became the first driver from China to win a race in EuroFormula Open history. It also marked a debut win for CryptoTower Racing.
Andreas Estner just held onto second ahead of his younger brother Sebastian, but they were more than seven seconds behind Ye when the chequered flag fell.
Maloney ended just off the podium in fourth ahead of Maldonado, with Cohen ending sixth ahead of Double R Racing’s Simmons. Krütten will be disappointed to finish only eighth, while Drivex School saw both its drivers finish inside the points in ninth and tenth, van Berlo ahead of Al Habsi.
Andrade and Bardinon both saw the chequered flag but missed out on points but it mean that at the end of the Dallara 320’s debut, all twelve cars saw the end of the race.
Ye Doubles Up on Sunday with Another Impressive Drive
Ye again took pole position for Sunday’s second race of the weekend, and much like in race one, he was able to hold the position at the start and move away from the chasing pack.
Andreas Estner was Ye’s closest challenger but he was unable to keep the same kind of pace as the race winner and was left to drive a lonely race to second, while Maloney took his first podium finish of the season in third after Sebastian Estner was delayed at the start.
Estner had been challenging for second heading into turn one but a bad exit from the turn dropped down to sixth, and although he was able to find a way ahead of Maldonado, he was unable to better fifth behind Cohen.
Maldonado ended the day sixth ahead of Simmons, while Bardinon, van Berlo and a slow-starting Krütten completed the points scorers. Andrade ended well off the back of the pack after an early spin left him facing the barriers at turn twelve whilst battling hard for ninth position.
Winning Drivers Reactions at the Hungaroring
Yifei Ye (Race 1): “It was a really tough race. I think the heat was around 36degrees air temp, so not so far from 50 degrees track temp. Pretty hot session. Happy with the result and thanks to the team.
“This new Dallara 320 is a fabulous car to drive. It’s got good performance and good balance, and it really demands intelligence from the team and their driver; their co-operation to get the perfect car to perform. I think this is a car really for the driver and for the engineer to show their performance.”
Yifei Ye (Race 2): “A good start leads to a lights-to-flag victory. It wasn’t too easy to manage the tyre, but we did. We didn’t have so much pressure from behind so was more more-or-less an easy race for me.
“But as we have seen from the beginning of the weekend, everyone was close quite closely matched, so the difference we can make is in the qualifying: how fast can we put the lap together? How fast can we put the performance in? And that’s the advantage we need to get.
“Really happy about this weekend, and hopefully we can carry this momentum to Paul Ricard.”