Renault Sport Academy racer Christian Lundgaard claimed pole position in dramatic fashion for the opening Formula Renault Northern European Cup race in Pau amid mixed weather conditions.
Spots of rain began to fall in the south of France as the session began and lasted throughout, but regardless the field were able to maintain pace on slick tyres, and times began to drop as the session progressed.
Almost the entire field improved on their final runs around the 2.7km circuit, but Formula Renault Eurocup standings leader Lundgaard ultimately did enough with a 1:14.080 – the quickest lap time of the weekend thus far – to edge out MP Motorsport team-mate and experienced Pau race winner Alex Peroni by just seven thousandths of a second.
Tech1 Racing’s Alexander Smolyar topped the timesheets for the vast majority of the session but will head up the second row alongside R-ace GP’s Logan Sargeant.
His team-mates Charles Milesi and Victor Martins will line up fifth and sixth respectively ahead of a Tech1 trio led by Red Bull Junior Neil Verhagen, then Thomas Neubauer and Frank Bird.
Fortec Motorsport’s Arthur Rougier rounds out the top ten, despite being fourth at the chequered flag before the rest of the field completed their final flying laps, highlighting the ultra-competitive nature of the series.
Anders Motorsport’s Doureid Ghattas impressed by going fastest of the full-season NEC entries, though practice pace-setter Gabriel Gandulia (R-ace GP) will look to strike back from 12th in the opening race.
The Formula Motorsport pairing of Nicolas Melin and Nicolas Pironneau share the seventh row, with ScoRace Team’s Sharon Scolari, Lamo Racing Car’s Thierry Malhomme and the second Anders-run car of Phil Hill rounding out the field.
Wet conditions are expected to throw another variable into the mix when all 17 cars take to the circuit at 18:57 CEST for the opening round of the 2018 season.
Christian Lundgaard (#31) said, “I was under pressure the whole session after my mistake during second free practice yesterday, but I learned from that and tried to not to over-push at any point.
“I knew that we had one lap at the end, maybe two. I decided on the last lap to push and got the lap together without any mistakes so here we are, in front by seven thousandths of a second.
“I don’t think he [Peroni] will get the win [laughs]. I’d like to win this one, but the most important thing for the team is that we don’t hit each other and come home 1-2. Which order we finish in doesn’t really matter; of course, everyone wants to win, but at this point it’s most important to focus on the team.”
Alex Peroni (#32) said, “It’s always very difficult when you’re on slicks and it starts raining. It was very tricky with traffic, I think my last lap was the only clear one I got.
“I was happy to get the time up there, but got pipped by my team-mate by seven thousandths. It’s good to be on the front row, though.
“Obviously it’s the best result possible for the team, it shows we’ve done a good job and we’re happy. It’s difficult to overtake here so I’ll push him [Lundgaard] and see if he’ll make a mistake. It’s going to be fun.”
Alexander Smolyar (#22) said, “I’m happy with the pace, we will see how it will be in the rain. It’ll be my first time on a wet track here in Pau and then it depends on the pace; if it’s good, then we will overtake.
“In the wet someone can be slow in the beginning and then find the line and be quicker in the middle of the race. If there’s a possibility to overtake, then I will.”