Nine races down, nine race victories. This is the record of Prema Powerteam in the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship, but unlike in the first two rounds, round three at the Red Bull Ring saw utter domination, with the team locking out all three steps on the podium in all three races.
Two wins for Gianluca Petecof and one more for Oliver Rasmussen ensured the team have won every race they’ve competed in this year, and it means they have more than double the amount of points of their nearest challengers in the Teams’ Championship after just three events.
Twelve Cars Line-up for Round Three in Austria
After running with Facu Regalia at the Circuit Paul Ricard last month, Van Amersfoort Racing continued running with two cars at the Red Bull Ring, with Pierre-Louis Chovet, fresh from his exploits in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, was joined by Venezuelan racer Alessandro Famularo.
Famularo had been set to race with the squad from the beginning of the season but problems ahead of the season opener in Italy at the beginning of August meant he was forced to skip the first two events.
The other team that needed a change of driver line-up in Austria was KIC Motorsport, with Jüri Vips absent due to racing in the FIA Formula 2 Championship with DAMS. The Estonian, a product of the Red Bull Junior Team, was replaced by German racer Nico Göhler, who was brought in to partner Finnish racers Patrik Pasma and Konsta Lappalainen.
Prema Powerteam continued with the drivers who had starred for them in the opening two races, with race winners Rasmussen, Petecof and Arthur Leclerc again being partnered by Jamie Chadwick.
There were also single-car entries for Gillian Track Events, DR Formula RP Motorsport and Monolite Racing, who fielded Gillian Henrion, Emidio Pesce and Andrea Cola respectively.
Petecof Storms to Opening Victory as Chadwick Crashes
Qualifying was dominated by Brazilian racer Petecof, as he secured top spot for all three races at the Red Bull Ring, and he converted the first pole into victory as team-mate Chadwick was eliminated in a first lap crash with Lappalainen.
The safety car was deployed after Chadwick crashed into and then over Lappalainen at the Rauch corner, with the British racer then hitting the barriers with a heavily broken car. Lappalainen was able to return to the pits but his race was also over due to the incident.
On the restart, Petecof, a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, once again controlled proceedings, and he was able to draw away from his team-mates Leclerc and Rasmussen to claim his third victory of the season by 3.136 seconds.
Leclerc was initially challenged by Rasmussen, but the Dane faded away to allow the Monegasque a clear run to second. Rasmussen came under late pressure from Pasma and Chovet but was able to cling on to the final step of the podium, albeit by under seven-tenths of a second.
Series debutants Göhler and Famularo battled hard for sixth, with the German edging out the Venezuelan by just under a second at the chequered flag, while Pesce and Cola ended eighth and ninth ahead of a lapped Henrion, who suffered engine issues ahead of the race and started well after the rest of the field. It was the first time in 2020 where Henrion did not score points.
Rasmussen Takes Second Victory of 2020 in Race Two
Rasmussen secured his second victory of the season in race two of the weekend in Austria after jumping polesitter Petecof at the start and defending resolutely thereafter from the Brazilian.
Rasmussen has often been left in the shadows due to the performances of Petecof and Leclerc at Prema, but race two was most definitely his for the taking after a super start gave him the lead.
Despite appearing to be faster than his team-mate, Petecof was unable to find a way passed for the lead, and he was forced to settle for second, 0.740 seconds adrift at the chequered flag, while Leclerc shadowed the leading two throughout to take third and complete another podium lock-out for the dominant Prema team.
Chovet claimed fourth for Van Amersfoort Racing, finishing just ahead of Pasma, with the latter also struggling to find away ahead of the former despite appearing to have better pace than his rival.
One driver who was able to make gains was Famularo, who made a bad start to drop near the rear of the field. The Venezuelan was able to finish sixth after catching and passing Lappalainen in the closing stages. Famularo managed to pass three other cars before half distance before making his move on the Finn.
Pesce ended up eighth ahead of Göhler, with Chadwick enduring another tough race in tenth. The only other finisher was Cola in eleventh as Henrion again struggled with his car. The Frenchman started late for a second consecutive race but unlike in race one, he returned to the pits after one lap and never reappeared.
Petecof Extends Championship Advantage with Race Three Victory
Petecof survived first lap attacks from team-mates Rasmussen and Leclerc to secure his second victory of the weekend on Sunday, and further extend his advantage in the Drivers’ Championship at the same time.
Again starting from pole position, Petecof ran wide at turn one and was immediately under attack from his team-mates on the exit and on the run down to turn three. The trio somehow managed to survive the corner, and despite all three locking their brakes heading into turn four, Petecof held onto the lead ahead Leclerc, with Rasmussen slotting into third.
Petecof was able to survive two safety car periods in the second half of the race to keep the lead for his fourth win of 2020, with Leclerc 2.746 seconds behind in second and Rasmussen just behind the Monegasque racer in third.
The first of safety car periods was needed to clear Göhler’s car from the turn four gravel trap after the German made contact with Pesce, while the second was needed as Lappalainen stopped on track.
Famularo was able to follow home the three leading Prema drivers for his best result of his first FREC weekend, while Chadwick secured her best result since her podium in the opening race of the season with fifth.
Pasma claimed sixth after passing Chovet late in the day, while Henrion put behind the disappointment of the opening two races to return to the points in eighth, ahead of Pesce and Cola.
Petecof leaves Austria on one-hundred and eighty-four points in the Drivers’ Championship, twenty-two points clear of Leclerc and forty-four ahead of Rasmussen. Prema have three-hundred and eighty-four points in the Teams’ Championship, with KIC Motorsport in second on one hundred and seventy-seven!
Winning Drivers Reactions at Imola
Gianluca Petecof: “It was nearly the perfect weekend for us. In qualifying the car was absolutely perfect and we snatched all three pole positions.
“In race 1 I had a good start, led from there, I was able to open a gap and win with the fastest lap. Race 2 was the complicated one, Oliver had a massively good start. Even if I was quick, I wasn’t able to overtake and finished second.
“The last race again was quite close in the start with my team-mates but I was able to hold the position. From there, I was just looking forward, trying to push as much as I could to have a safe distance.
“I scored another win with the fastest lap, so I think the summary of the weekend was extremely positive, we extended the championship lead in all the races. If we can work as hard and the work pays of the same in the next races, every weekend is going to be great.”
Oliver Rasmussen: “It was a pretty great weekend for us, and I’m happy with the step we have made. I think we have improved quite well since we were struggling in Paul Ricard.
“We worked hard and recovered the gap that we had. We had a great pace in qualifying and the races. It was amazing to win race 2. Unfortunately, I did my part of the job but the outcome was not the same in race 3.
“We will continue to work to be able to win all three races and go from there.”