Donington Park National Circuit proved to be an incredibly happy hunting ground for Pietro Fittipaldi (Camberley) today, Sunday, 1st June, as he increased his Protyre Formula Renault Championship lead to 25 points after an outstanding double victory in rounds five and six.
Making it three wins for the weekend in his MGR Motorsport car, and four for the season as whole, the Brazilian – grandson of 1972 and 1974 Formula One World Champion Emerson – was in terrific form once again today as his main rivals each encountered difficulties.
“Three wins – you can’t ask for more”, said Fittipaldi, “The team did a great job all weekend, it was a case of getting the starts and then being consistent. It was harder today than yesterday, with it being so much warmer, but everything worked well. I’m really looking forward to the next one now.”
Two new faces appeared on the Protyre Formula Renault podium as well, talented Indian teenager Tarun Reddy finishing third for MGR in this morning’s fifth round – on his first appearance at Donington Park – with rapid team-mate Colin Noble Jnr (Penicuik, Midlothian) also securing his maiden podium in the category with a very competitive runner-up spot to Fittipaldi in round six.
Under glorious sunny skies, Fittipaldi delivered a masterclass in round five to go from a single point clear at the top of the standings to 18 points ahead as fellow MGR driver Matteo Ferrer (Colchester) and Scorpio Motorsport’s Piers Hickin (Knaphill) had problems.
Fortec Motorsport’s Alex Gill (Womersely, Doncaster) started the race on pole position but was beaten into the first corner by Fittipaldi who, from that point forward, was able to pull clear to eventually win by three seconds. Gill ran in second throughout and just wasn’t able to quite match Fittipaldi, although he did produce a best lap within just 0.1 seconds of his South American nemesis.
“I had a bit of a bad start”, explained Gill, “I tried to go up the inside of Pietro [Fittipaldi] but then had four other cars on the inside of me, so had to back out. It’s been a struggle this weekend, we don’t seem to have the overall pace. We might not be getting the wins, but podiums are still good.”
One of the true star performances of round five came from 16-year-old Reddy who took his maiden podium in Protyre Formula Renault during only his second weekend on British soil. At the start, Canada’s Patrick Dussault anticipated the lights better than anyone to surge through from sixth on the grid into third ahead of Reddy and erstwhile series leader Ferrer.
On lap three at Redgate, Reddy dived to the inside of the Cliff Dempsey Racing driver to grab third and Ferrer also got ahead of the Canadian soon after before then mounting a fresh challenge on the Indian racer at Redgate on lap six.
Reddy, though, hit back at McLeans and in the skirmish – which featured half a dozen cars – the order was well and truly shaken up with too many cars trying to fight it out for the same piece of track on the run through Coppice and to the Esses.
Reddy emerged still in third place, ahead of Dussault, Noble Jnr and Hillspeed’s Dimitris Papanastasiou (London). Ferrer, meanwhile, held seventh but his car sported front wing damage which progressively got worse and ultimately led to a 10th place finish.
With Reddy seeing off Dussault by less than 0.3 seconds in the end, Noble Jnr finished in fifth with Papanastasiou glued to his tail in sixth place. Hickin, who had to mount a major recovery after an unfortunate stall on the grid, managed to climb into seventh and, very importantly, bagged the bonus points for the fastest lap on the final tour.
“This is only my second race weekend in Europe, we started fourth so obviously went into the race with good confidence”, said Reddy, “It’s great to get my first podium position, especially as yesterday was my first day in the dry at Donington. I didn’t expect a podium for sure! I’d just like to thank the team, my mechanics, all of my family and my driver coach [Rupert Svendsen-Cook].”
Noble Jnr and Hickin push Fittipaldi harder in round six
For round six, Hickin lined-up on pole position for the first time in his career after a sensational performance in the second of Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, shading out the equally impressive Noble Jnr by a mere 0.075 seconds.
Incredibly, another cruel stall meant the Scorpio driver couldn’t capitalise and he instead ended the first lap at the tail of the top 10. Noble Jnr, therefore, took the early lead and fended off Fittipaldi until lap four when the series leader made his move at the Old Hairpin.
This time, though, the Brazilian couldn’t escape as Noble Jnr and the chasing pack remained well in touch. Hickin, in particular, was very impressive as he put the disappointment and frustration of the stall behind him to carve his way back through the order.
By the start of lap five, the young Briton was in a position to challenge for third and he grabbed the place brilliantly from Ferrer at Redgate, boldly passing the Italian around the outside. During the second half of the race, Ferrer posted the fastest lap on the 11th tour but had to settle for fourth in the end behind Fittipaldi, Noble Jnr and Hickin – just 2.6 seconds covering the lead quartet.
“The team delivered me a quick car, they always work so hard to do that, and I’ve got no-one to blame but myself”, reflected Hickin, “Scorpio gave me a car that could have won all three races this weekend, we definitely had the pace and we proved it – it just didn’t work out for us. We really should be winning races so next time I really hope we can.”
Second placed Noble Jnr added: “It was a good team performance with Pietro getting the win and me finishing second. We got up to P1 at the start and Pietro’s car came on a few laps before ours, once my car came on we drew him back in but the gap then stayed the same and I wasn’t close enough to make the move. We’re very pleased with the way this weekend has gone, I’m really happy”
Gill was only 0.7 seconds behind Ferrer in fifth at the chequered flag with Dussault rounding off, by far, his best weekend yet in the UK with sixth position after just managing to keep Papanastasiou at bay. Eighth went to America’s TJ Fischer with Reddy ninth and rookie Hayden Edmonds (Tamworth) completing the top 10 for the SWB Motorsport-assisted MTECH Lite entry.
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent will host rounds seven and eight of the Protyre Formula Renault season over the weekend 26th/27th July.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault is additionally supported by Michelin.
Provisional 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
1st Pietro Fittipaldi, 174pts; 2nd Piers Hickin, 149pts; 3rd Matteo Ferrer, 144pts; 4th Alex Gill, 135pts; 5th Colin Noble Jnr, 120pts; 6th Tarun Reddy, 103pts