Racing on the support bill to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the Formula Renault Eurocup competitors were back at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari for a second time in 2020, and despite seeing his championship rival Caio Collet win on Saturday, it was Victor Martins who was smiling on Sunday evening.
First time around at Imola, David Vidales was the man to beat as he won twice on his car racing debut, but this time around the JD Motorsport driver fared less well as he was twice forced into retirement, with his second failure to finish having big consequences on the championship battle as he wiped out Collet at Variante Alta.
Nineteen Cars Compete at Imola as Pulling Makes Debut
Formula 4 racer Abbi Pulling joined the Eurocup field for the first time at Imola, with the Briton joining FA Racing by Drivex as a guest driver. It was the first time in 2020 the team had field three cars.
R-ace GP swapped their second driver ahead of the weekend, with Petr Ptáček being replaced by Russian racer Mikhael Belov. Belov had started the year with M2 Competition but left the series to race in the FIA Formula 3 Championship. However, the SMP Racing-backed teenager was back in the series for the final few races.
Ptáček found a new home at MP Motorsport, with the Czech racer running the third car for the team that had already seen Joey Alders, Roman Staněk and Kas Haverkort run alongside Franco Colapinto and Hadrien David.
After missing the Spa-Francorchamps weekend due to ill-effects of a coronavirus test, Lorenzo Colombo was back on the grid for JD Motorsport alongside William Alatalo.
Collet Closes the Gap with Race One Victory
Colombo made the most of his return by taking his first pole position of the season on Saturday morning at Imola, while Alex Quinn, fresh from his maiden Eurocup victory of the season in Belgium joined him on the front row in his Arden.
Collet qualified third ahead of Colapinto, while championship leader Martins could only manage fifth for ART Grand Prix.
At the start, Colombo appeared to get the jump on the field, but a mistake allowed Collet to assume the lead, just prior to the intervention of the safety car. László Tóth had failed to get off the line and was stranded on the grid, while Paul Aron, David and Vidales all tangled at the first chicane. Aron and Vidales were retirements while David was lucky to escape relatively unscathed.
On the restart, Colombo attacked Collet for the lead but was unable to make the move stick, and it was not long before the safety car was out again as Grégoire Saucy spun out.
On the second restart, Collet held the lead ahead of Colombo and was able to pull a gap, before a mistake from the Italian allowed Quinn through to second, a place he would hold until the chequered flag.
Collet took a superb fourth victory of the season, 4.362 seconds clear of rookie class winner Quinn, with Colombo securing the final spot on the podium. Colapinto closely followed home Colombo in fourth, while Martins could not make any positions up from his starting place and wound up fifth.
After surviving his first lap tangle with Aron and Vidales, David took sixth ahead of Arden’s Reshad de Gerus, who enjoyed his best result of the season in seventh. Alatalo, Ugo de Wilde (Arden) and Ptáček completed the points scorers, with the Czech racer beating his R-ace GP replacement Belov to the final point by 0.355 seconds.
Martins Recovers to Win Race Two as Collet Crashes Out
After languishing fifth on Saturday, Martins was back to where he belonged on Sunday morning as he secured his tenth pole position of the season, further extending the record he broke for the most poles in a single season in Formula Renault Eurocup.
Collet joined him on the front row, 0.150 seconds behind his title rival, with Colapinto third ahead of David and Vidales. The top thirteen were separated by under a second.
At the start, Collet attacked Martins but was unable to find a way ahead, but the Brazilian was not to make it around the first lap. Vidales was attacking Colapinto for third but misjudged the move, clipping the back of the Argentine racer. Unable to slow down, his damaged car then struck Collet as they headed into Variante Alta, ending both of their afternoons.
The safety car was deployed to allow marshals to clear Collet’s car from the side of the road, while Vidales managed to make it back to the pit lane. However, it was Collet who would be the more disappointed of the two as it meant he lost significant ground to Martins in the championship.
On the restart, Martins comfortably held onto the lead ahead of Colapinto, with the pair edging clear of David. Martins would go on to win his seventh race of the season, with Colapinto 1.195 seconds back in second. David claimed his maiden outright podium in third, albeit almost ten seconds behind the race winner.
Quinn recovered from qualifying down in seventh to finish fourth, with the Briton making a good pass on Arden team-mate de Wilde on the fifteenth lap of seventeen. Ptáček held on for sixth ahead of Saucy, while Aron made up four places from his starting position to take eighth.
Alatalo finished ninth, with Belov taking the final point on offer in tenth, with Saturday’s podium finisher Colombo being edged out of the points in eleventh.
Winning Drivers Reactions at Imola
Caio Collet: “It was an extremely complicated and busy day for the team and I really didn’t expect to be on the top step of the podium. However, the team did a phenomenal job in giving me a car that was simply incredible in the race and they deserve this win even more than I do.
“I just had to get a good start, to take advantage of Lorenzo Colombo’s mistake at turn one and control everything on the two restarts. Once again, I dedicate this success to the whole team!”
Victor Martins: “Something went wrong yesterday but we had to stay focused as we knew we had the potential to take pole position and win. We continued to work hard and calmly, like we have been done since the start of the season.
“It is still too early to think about the title. I think the best thing is to stay focused on each qualifying session. Pole position allows us to avoid small incidents in the field and to manage the races in order to score big points. The main target remains to win every race until the end of the year.”