Victor Martins rounded out a near-perfect weekend for R-ace GP by claiming victory in a dramatic final Formula Renault Northern European Cup (NEC) race at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
The Renault Sport Academy driver did well to fend off team-mate Max Fewtrell and the Tech1 Racing machine of Frank Bird in the opening exchanges in a fascinating three-way scrap for the race lead.
However, contact under braking for Variante Della Roggia between Bird and Fewtrell sent the former to the pit lane for repairs, and the latter into retirement.
That gave Martins the break he needed to extend his lead at the front of the field, and he duly took the chequered flag 4.128 seconds clear.
In-keeping with the highly competitive nature of the series, the battle for second on the road proved no less entertaining.
Though Charles Milesi was able to defend from race one winner Logan Sargeant (both R-ace GP) and home hero Lorenzo Colombo (JD Motorsport) throughout – and finished in the runner-up spot – Sargeant and Colombo had little interest in holding station.
The two duelled not once, but twice at Della Roggia, the first sending Sargeant wide over the kerbs before rejoining.
A lap later they were at it again, but this time a lock-up for the American sent him straight on, and gave Colombo the margin he needed to claim his first silverware of the weekend – his third of the season at Monza after his Formula Renault Eurocup double in April.
In doing so he also denied R-ace GP a clean sweep of trophies, with the French outfit leaving the 3.6 mile circuit with five of the six pieces of silverware on offer.
Sargeant resisted late pressure from the sister Tech1 car of Thomas Neubauer as the duo took fourth and fifth respectively, with Phil Hill sixth for Anders Motorsport – a result that sees him take a ‘de-facto double’ as the highest placed full season NEC entry.
His team-mate Doureid Ghattas took eighth as the pair sandwiched the final R-ace GP car of Gabriel Gandulia, in a battle that looks set to rage on until the season finale.
Frank Bird returned to the race, albeit a lap down on the leaders, and took ninth, with Zichao Wang continuing to improve as he rounded out the top ten for Cram Motorsport.
Sharon Scolari recovered from a spin at Variante Ascari to round out the field in 11th, with Fewtrell the only retiree.
The championship reconvenes at the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend of 28-29 July in the first of three shared events with the Eurocup – the next step on Renault Sport Racing’s junior single-seater ladder.
Victor Martins (#4) said, “At the beginning I got a pretty good start but it was quite hard to stay ahead of Max [Fewtrell] and Frank [Bird], especially given the slipstream.
“My tyres and the balance in the car were both good. At the end of the race it was quite calm, I was alone and just had to stay focused on my race.
“This weekend has helped me a lot in terms of confidence, I just have to keep it up and do the same in the next round of the Eurocup. A huge thank you to everybody at R-ace GP for all their hard work and effort.”
Charles Milesi (#3) said, “My start wasn’t too bad, I was focused on not making any mistakes on the first lap. After the incident with Max and Frank I tried to have a good rhythm for the rest of the race – the pace was good so I’m happy.
“For me, the whole weekend has been great. I had good performance in each session, I’ve learned a lot in the races. The work from the team has been great – we’ve made some steps forward.”
Lorenzo Colombo (#61) said, “It was quite a difficult race for me, fighting from the first lap until the end. But, as an event, I’ve learnt a lot about Monza and also the car, especially in the races.
“The battle with Logan was a bit tight for me at the second chicane because I kept the inside line and he was trying to overtake me on the outside. I didn’t have any space to turn the car into the corner any more – if I’d taken the kerb on the inside I might have broken the suspension. Sometimes these things happen.
“I’m pleased to end the weekend with some silverware, though, and thank you to JD Motorsport for preparing the car and working to such a high standard.”