The Formula Renault Eurocup season continued at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium this weekend, and the drivers had to contend with difficult conditions in both races.
Racing in support to the 24 Hours of Spa, Eurocup had its races on Friday and Saturday, and for the first time since the second round of the season at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in July, neither Victor Martins nor Caio Collet took the victory.
Seventeen Drivers after Colombo’s Withdrawal
The same eighteen drivers who raced at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya two weeks ago were back in action at Spa-Francorchamps, but before the start of the first race, the field was down to seventeen as Italian racer Lorenzo Colombo withdrew from his ride at Bhaitech Racing.
For the second consecutive round, Kas Haverkort was racing as a guest racer with MP Motorsport, although he remained illegible for points as a result. However, much like in Spain, he showed extremely well, particularly with the conditions that faced the drivers at Spa-Francorchamps.
Colapinto Takes Second Win of 2020 in Crash-Shortened Opener
Franco Colapinto, who took the chequered flag first in the opening round the season at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in July, was back on the top step of the podium at Belgium, but the conditions at Spa-Francorchamps made for a tricky and shortened race after a crash for Reshad de Gerus.
Martins took his ninth pole position of the season for the race, equalling the series record he already held from last year alongside Scott Speed (2004) and Sacha Fenestraz (2017), but by the first corner, from third on the grid, Colapinto was in the lead.
Martins held onto second despite close attention down the Kemmel Straight from Arden duo Ugo de Wilde and Alex Quinn, while Paul Aron found himself out of the race after contact with his ART Grand Prix team-mate Grégoire Saucy broke his suspension.
Colapinto and Martins were able to pull away from de Wilde as they tested the conditions, with the latter making a couple of mistakes at the back of the circuit. Despite this, however, he was able to keep up with the Argentine racer, right up until the safety car was deployed.
De Gerus, who was running outside the top ten at the time, lost control of his Arden car at the top of the hill at Radillion, with the Réunionese driver hitting the barriers and heavily damaging his car. He was able to get out of the car himself, but the safety car was deployed as a result.
The weather conditions at Spa-Francorchamps continued to worsen, and not long after the safety car was called upon, the decision was taken to red flag the event. Half points were to be awarded, with Colapinto taking the win from Martins and de Wilde.
Quinn took fourth ahead of the impressive Haverkort, with Amaury Cordeel sixth for FA Racing with Manor ahead of the off-key Collet, who could only take seventh for R-ace GP. The Brazilian will feel fortunate that half points were awarded as he lessened the gap to Martins in the championship battle.
Hadrien David took eighth for MP Motorsport ahead of JD Motorsport duo William Alatalo and David Vidales, while the final point went the way of Saucy despite his first lap contact with his team-mate Aron.
Quinn Takes Maiden Victory after Tyre Gamble Pays Off
Martins took the pole record all for himself for Saturday’s second race, with the Frenchman securing a record-breaking tenth pole position of the season.
Conditions were not as wet as they were on Friday and the rain was not falling, and this left drivers with a decision to make – to start on wet tyres and take advantage of the early conditions, or start on dry weather tyres and hope the track dried enough before the end of the race.
Poleman Martins took the latter option, and for much of the race it appeared to be the wrong option. He was second behind de Wilde on the opening lap and dropped as low as eighth with the conditions at their worst.
However, those who did decide on the wet tyres were charging through the pack. De Wilde was the early leader from Alatalo, while Quinn, from twelfth on the grid, was a man on a mission. He made up seven positions on the opening lap and was second by the end of lap three. And a couple of laps later he was able to catch and pass team-mate de Wilde for the lead!
Despite the track drying to the point that dry tyred drivers were significantly faster at the end of the race, Quinn was able to maintain a good pace to take his first victory of the season, while de Wilde made it an Arden one-two despite suffering some braking issues.
Alatalo’s early pace dropped off earlier and he ultimately was left down in ninth, with Saucy claiming only his second podium finish of the season after the Swiss driver found himself embroiled in a tight, yet fair, fight with the likes of Haverkort, Tijmen van der Helm (FA Racing by Manor) and Alatalo.
Martins, however, was on a late race charge, passing Haverkort for fourth on the penultimate lap before catching Saucy on the final tour. Unfortunately, despite being significantly faster, he was unable to get close enough to challenge for that final podium spot, but a couple of laps more of racing and we could have definitely seen a different order on the podium.
Haverkort dropped five seconds to Martins on that final tour such was the pace advantage of the Frenchman, while Martins’ championship rival Collet salvaged sixth having been outside the top ten in the early laps as he struggled with the dry tyres in the damp conditions.
Van der Helm took seventh ahead of László Tóth of Bhaitech Racing, with Alatalo fading to ninth ahead of Cordeel and Nicola Marinangeli. With Haverkort ineligible for points, eleventh place for Marinangeli meant a first point of the season for the Bhaitech Racing driver.
Despite the tricky conditions, all drivers who took the start saw the chequered flag, with the only retirement coming before the lights went out as Aron returned slowly to the pit lane on the way to the grid, ending a pointless weekend for the Mercedes-Benz junior.
Winning Drivers Reactions at Spa-Francorchamps
Franco Colapinto: “I got a great start, but the showers were really heavy and the conditions were trickier and trickier with standing water and several aquaplaning areas.
“I have to thank the team for giving me such a fast car and I will aim to do the same tomorrow starting from the front row!”
Alex Quinn: “It’s hard to find the right words… I hadn’t won since Formula 4. I’ve been on the podium several times, but it’s so different when you win!
“The team was incredible. They only slept three hours last night to repair Reshad’s car. They deserve this victory more than anyone else. We made the right tyre choice but we were also extremely fast compared to the other drivers who started on the rain tyres.
“I am delighted that our work and gamble paid off!”