Gabriel Gandulia claimed a maiden pole position in the Formula Renault Northern European Cup (NEC) after a tense opening qualifying session at the world-famous Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The R-ace GP driver set a quickest time of 2:21.320s around the 4.3 mile circuit to edge out Anders Motorsport’s Doureid Ghattas and ScoRace Team’s Sharon Scolari.
With the championship sharing grids for the next three events with the Formula Renault Eurocup – the next step on Renault Sport Racing’s junior single-seater racing ladder – to give the NEC field a chance to measure their skills against the best on the continent, qualifying took place in slightly unorthodox fashion with the field split into two groups.
Scolari and the second Anders Motorsport-run machine of Phil Hill were placed in Group A and took to the circuit first, with the latter initially setting the pace before a track limits infringement on the exit of Les Combes invalidated his best time, dropping him behind Scolari.
Hill’s session was then brought to a premature end after the #90 car suffered a broken camshaft, preventing him from returning to the fray to set a quick time.
Swiss racer Scolari looked on course to become the first female racer in the championship’s 13-year history to claim a pole position, but joint championship leaders Gandulia and Ghattas – each keen to take the early advantage on a pivotal weekend heading into the summer break – spoilt the party.
Ghattas looked the man to beat after their first runs, but Gandulia improved as the session progressed to claim top spot by half a second.
The Argentine, therefore, will line up on pole position for the second and final race of the weekend – scheduled for 11:45 CEST on Saturday [28th July], with the grid for the opening race set to be decided during Qualifying 2 at 11:55 tomorrow [27th July].
Gabriel Gandulia (R-ace GP) said, “I’m really happy with the result and my lap today. Sharing grids with the Eurocup is good because instead of comparing with 10 or 12 other cars, the numbers are higher, and being at the Spa 24 Hours is great in general, especially with the number and variety of cars and teams here this weekend.
“I think testing here before helped. It doesn’t matter about the difference in the conditions, every lap is beneficial. The more time I spend in the car, the better it is. My aim for tomorrow is to improve in a few areas – I want to gain some positions in the overall classification, not commit any mistakes and to have fun, of course!”
Doureid Ghattas (Anders Motorsport) said, “My last lap could have been around seven tenths faster and pole position was a realistic possibility today. It was an improvement from free practice where we had problems with the car.
“Now the setup is better and I did my best. For sure I have to keep an eye on Gabriel because of the points situation, but not just him. The mindset is definitely maximum attack and hopefully we can take some good results this weekend heading into the summer break.”
Sharon Scolari (ScoRace Team) said, “It’s amazing for me, especially to be qualifying alongside the Eurocup. I know I have a lot of training to do, and being here is very difficult – there was a lot of traffic, at some points I had to slow down for other drivers and that meant some laps were not as good as they might have been.
“It’s another big step for me and it’s important to be in this ambience because I find it inspiring, it’s incredible. There are a lot of differences between driving the Lotus here and the Formula Renault, I almost have to learn some things again. It would be cool [to take the first female podium finish in the NEC], but this season is very difficult, I see that we’re improving every race and hopefully by the final race in Hockenheim we’ll be in good shape for next year.”