Protyre Formula Renault Championship leader Pietro Fittipaldi (Camberley) extended his incredible winning streak to six successive victories during round nine of the season at Snetterton 300 Circuit this afternoon, Saturday, 30th August, to head home an MGR Motorsport one-two-three.
Joined on the podium by Indian youngster Tarun Reddy, who secured a career-best second place finish, and Italian racer Matteo Ferrer (Colchester), Fittipaldi boosted his overall advantage to 42 points in the driver standings, 31 points when the category’s ‘drop score’ rule is applied.
The key moment of the weekend’s opening race, which was televised as part of the Motors TV Live Raceday, came on lap three when pole position qualifier Alex Gill (Womersley) and fellow front-row starter Piers Hickin (Knaphill) were both served with drive-through penalties.
Adjudged by the Clerk of the Course to have both made false starts, Fortec Motorsport racer Gill and Scorpio Motorsport’s Hickin had been running in first and second place. Pitting together at the end of the third tour, they ultimately finished fourth and sixth respectively.
“Obviously we were a bit lucky, the first two guys got a drive-through penalty but we were still quickest by about six tenths so we have a fast car here”, said Fittipaldi, “I think it would have been a pretty close battle with Alex [Gill] and Piers [Hickin]. We start third and first tomorrow, so hopefully we can keep the run going.”
When the lights went out, Gill led away and opened a good early lead over Hickin who managed to fend off Fittipaldi at Riches. Reddy held onto fourth, after an impressive run to qualify on the second row, ahead of Ferrer and American racer TJ Fischer.
With the top three all running a very similar pace on lap two, a fantastic race looked in prospect but the penalties for Gill and Hickin enabled Fittipaldi to dominate. As soon as his rivals darted into the pitlane at the end of lap three, the Brazilian motored into the distance and eventually won by more than nine seconds from Reddy. Fittipaldi also posted the fastest lap to gain two bonus points.
Reddy was under immense pressure from team-mate Ferrer as the race reached mid-distance, but after holding firm he was able to then eke out more of a cushion to take the chequered flag 1.5 seconds ahead to secure his best result yet in Protyre Formula Renault – his first season in the UK.
“I struggled a bit at this circuit in testing but yesterday we seemed quite fast, unfortunately in qualifying we didn’t do the best job and started fourth – it’s a very competitive championship”, said the Indian 16-year-old, “I got a very good start, I almost passed the driver in front of me at the first corner but backed off as it could have led to an incident. After that, I drove a consistent race.”
Third place for Ferrer enabled him to edge a few points further clear of Gill in the championship standings, although the Fortec driver did his best to recover as much ground as possible after his drive-through penalty. Reeling in fourth placed Fischer during the closing stages, Gill managed to get ahead of the Cliff Dempsey Racing driver on the final lap at Montreal.
Hickin rounded-out the top six, finishing within 1.7 seconds of Fischer, with MTECH Lite’s Hayden Edmonds (Tamworth) taking seventh and Jersey youngster Jack Butel finishing in eighth place for SWB Motorsport.
Reflecting on round nine, third placed Ferrer said: “I got off the line well but then there wasn’t really anywhere to go. I was looking for a place to be, so tried to go around the outside of Tarun [Reddy] at Turn Two and just washed out – I was very lucky and fortunate as TJ [Fischer], behind me, did the same. Then, all of a sudden and before I knew it, two cars peel off into the pitlane and I’m third.
“I was worried, after qualifying, I wouldn’t get a decent haul of points but finishing third, and with second place points as Tarun doesn’t score, is good and I’m happy with that. With [Alex] Gill and [Piers] Hickin finishing behind me, that’s weight off my shoulders.”
Canadian driver Patrick Dussault and Scottish racer Colin Noble Jnr (Penicuik, Midlothian) tangled on the opening lap at Riches, resulting in a puncture for the Cliff Dempsey Racing car and a damaged front-wing for Noble. Both made enforced pit-stops, eventually finishing in ninth and 10th places.
Rounds 10 and 11 of the Protyre Formula Renault Championship season will take place at Snetterton tomorrow, Sunday, 31st August, at 12.20 and 15.40 respectively. Gill will start the first race from pole position ahead of Hickin, Fittipaldi and Fischer. For round 11, Fittipaldi will line-up on pole ahead of Hickin, Gill and Reddy.
Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault is additionally supported by Michelin.
Provisional 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
1st Pietro Fittipaldi, 272pts; 2nd Matteo Ferrer, 230pts; 3rd Alex Gill, 207pts