June 24th 2017, Monza: Gabriel Aubry edged Tech1 Racing teammate Max Fewtrell to victory at Monza, in the first race of the 2017 Formula Renault Northern European Cup. Bartek Mirecki, driving for the family-run BM Racing Team, earned his first-ever Formula Renault NEC podium position with third place.
After topping every timesheet – both free practice sessions and both qualifying sessions – leading up to the race, Aubry looked favourite to win, but it was not straightforward. The margin between the Frenchman and British teammate Fewtrell on the grid was just 0.035s, and the two battled hard in the early laps of the race, swapping positions on several occasions and providing great entertainment.
After a mid-race safety car – called after Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer ended upside down following contact with Théo Coicaud at the second chicane – the two Tech1 drivers pushed hard. They pulled away from Mirecki, who lost some time at the restart, and crossed the line 0.6156 apart after 25 minutes. Aubry continued his perfect streak by claiming the race’s fastest lap – 1:51.038 – just a few thousands faster than his teammate’s best.
Mirecki drove superbly to earn his podium from third on the grid. After first-turn contact eliminated Thomas Maxwell and Charles Milesi behind him, the Polish driver had a small gap and drove sensibly to stay in touch with the leaders. At the restart he found himself under pressure from first R-Ace’s Gilles Magnus – who set a string of fast laps in pursuit of the leaders – and then Sun Yue Yang. Both got close to the green car, but neither could pass, and Mirecki held on to the line.
Magnus and Yue Yang fought hard over fourth, but it was the Chinese driver in the JD Motorsport car who held on to the position at the line. Rounding out the top six, despite missing all of Friday, was Thomas Neubauer.
Behind him was Burdett Motorsport’s Julia Pankiewicz. Her race was thrilling, battling hard with Fortec’s Frank Bird and Coicaud of R-Ace GP, the three often running side-by-side. Both Bird and Coicaud were penalised – Bird for track limits, and Coicaud for weaving at the start – and thus Pankiewicz was classified seventh.
Eighth was Chia Wing Hoong, with Bird and Coicaud behind him in the results. Simmenauer, Maxwell and Milesi were all non-finishers after their various incidents, while Presley Martono was eliminated after sliding into the Parabolica gravel trap. Michael Benyahia’s race ended in the pitlane with mechanical difficulty.
Tomorrow’s second race will take place at 12:10, with Aubry once more starting from pole position. His time – 1:50.056 – edged Magnus for the top of the times. Fewtrell starts third, and Yue Yang fourth.
#14 Gabriel Aubry, Tech1 Racing
“It’s my first ever Formula Renault race win, and it feels great. It was a really good race, battling hard with Max in the first part of the race before the safety car. It was fair, close racing but without contact, which is just what we want. The second part was just about pure pace, trying to go as fast as possible and make a gap to Max behind me.”
#7 Max Fewtrell, Tech1 Racing
“It was a really close fight. Every lap before the safety car we were battling, changing positions. I tried my best, but he was just a little quicker than me in the end. After the safety car we were really pushing, the gap was pretty much the same for lap-after-lap. It shows we’re pushing each other hard, which is great. I hope we can keep this momentum into tomorrow’s race.”
#96 Bartek Mirecki, BM Racing Team
“I’m really happy, this is my first podium in racing. I actually think I could go faster, so I think I can do better in the second race. It was really hard trying to chase the two guys ahead, and hold my position too… I made a mistake at the start today, so if I can eliminate that hopefully another good result is there for us.”
Olivier Maernhout, Tech1 Racing
“It’s a very good result for the team, and we’re very satisfied. Gabi and Max did a great job at the front, with a really exciting battle. We were very fast today; the mechanics did a great job on the preparation side. This championship is a good place for us to be racing, keeping the drivers sharp and helping their rhythm through the season.”