A bold move late on the brakes into the Variante Del Rettifilo gave Logan Sargeant victory in an absorbing opening Formula Renault Northern European Cup (NEC) race at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, with R-ace GP completing a top four lock-out.
Renault Sport Academy drivers Max Fewtrell and Victor Martins completed the podium – though in truth any one of the top six could have walked away with silverware after one of the championship’s greatest showdowns.
In-form man Charles Milesi converted his pole position into an early lead after making the better start from the front row, with JD Motorsport’s Lorenzo Colombo forced to slot in behind.
He hadn’t, however, counted on a brave move around the outside of the first chicane from Sargeant – a pass that handed the American the inside line for Turn 2 and up into second.
Once released, Sargeant made the most of the slipstream to reel in Milesi, and despite a desperately late lock-up after getting the switch back at Rettifilo the two teammates gave each other room, giving Sargeant an advantage he would extend to 3.2 seconds at the chequered flag.
Milesi, too, suffered a lock up at the same corner, but his proved more costly as he ran straight on, dropping behind Fewtrell and Colombo, with Tech1 Racing’s Frank Bird waiting in the wings.
Milesi, Colombo and Bird would all take turns occupying the final podium spot – and Milesi almost managed to wrestle the runner-up spot back from Fewtrell – but a late race surge from Martins despite an earlier trip through the gravel at Lesmo handed the Frenchman the final spot on the rostrum.
Bird duly took fourth after a last-lap move at Curva Parabollica over Milesi, with Colombo rounding out the six-car scrap for honours.
Thomas Neubauer took seventh in the sister Tech1 car, though he was kept honest throughout by leading full-season entry Phil Hill (Anders Motorsport). Gabriel Gandulia and Hill’s team-mate Doureid Ghattas rounded out the top ten.
The race provided another opportunity for Sharon Scolari (ScoRace Team) and Zichao Wang (Cram Motorsport) to continue their development curves in eleventh and twelfth, with the latter setting his quickest lap times of the weekend so far.
The second and final race of the weekend gets underway at 14:35 CEST tomorrow following another nail-biting qualifying session – bets are off on predicting a winner!
Logan Sargeant (#2) said, “That race was pretty eventful! I don’t think I had quite enough speed in that one, so we’re going to have to go away, look at that and see what we can do tomorrow.
“I think my racecraft was pretty much on point, there’s not much more I could have done. I passed Colombo on the outside of the chicane at the start, and then with Charles [Milesi] I just sent it. Full attack mode, as I said before, and it paid off.
“I feel like I defended well and at the end of the race my pace definitely picked up. The team at R-ace GP did a great job today, so thank you to them. My main goal for tomorrow is to optimise qualifying, and going into my next Eurocup round that’s where I really need to be on point.”
Max Fewtrell (#1) said, “I’ve been struggling to find the balance of the car all week really and I’m quite off the pace, so to get second was really good.
“I just used as much racecraft out there as I could against any attack on me – I was really happy with the result to be honest. I kept it clean, didn’t touch anyone and it was great to have so many close battles – especially defending from Charles, who is really fast this weekend.
“In both championships we’ve competed in – both this and the Eurocup – R-ace GP have been really strong and it’s a testament to the work they put in.
“As long as I can qualify better, I think we can definitely go for the win tomorrow.”
Victor Martins (#4) said, “At the beginning I was struggling with oversteer in the car, it was impossible to drive. I went out in the first Lesmo but managed to catch the other guys and to finish on the podium was really good. I’d like to put on record my thanks to the team for this result.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow, I learnt a lot from qualifying this morning so I have to be at the front of the grid to get another strong result tomorrow.”