Yifei Ye has taken a brace of pole positions – his first in the Formula Renault Northern European Cup (NEC) – after going quickest in both wet weather qualifying sessions at Hockenheim this afternoon [6th October].
With team-mate and current Formula Renault Eurocup leader Sacha Fenestraz for company on the front row, the stage is set for a battle royale between the Josef Kaufmann Racing duo in each of tomorrow’s contests.
MP Motorsport’s Richard Verschoor and Jarno Opmeer both put in strong showings on their first-ever visit to the 2.8 mile circuit, with the former claiming third on the grid for the opening race with his team-mate fifth. The two will swap positions for the second contest.
Gabriel Aubry (Tech1 Racing) still remains in mathematical contention for the championship crown – set to be decided in an action-packed double header tomorrow at 09:30 and 17:00 CEST respectively – and after securing fourth for both races the Frenchman has left himself best-placed of the title contenders.
With only a five point deficit to current standings leader Gilles Magnus, his R-Ace GP team-mate Michael Benyahia – fresh from a trip to Valencia to test for the Venturi Formula E outfit – outqualified him on both occasions to put himself in the frame for the honours should he out-score Magnus sufficiently on raceday.
It proved to be a difficult afternoon for Magnus – after a red flag for team-mate Charles Milesi’s stricken car nearly robbed him of the chance to put in a flying lap in the first session, he could only manage 14th in the second. He remains in the driving seat for the title, but will face stern opposition to remain there come the end of tomorrow.
BM Racing Team’s Bartek Mirecki sits slightly further back in the points, but did everything neccesary to put himself ahead of the duo for the second race in 6th. Starting down in an unlucky P13 behind them for the opening race, however, means the 21-year old needs to come out fighting in the curtain-raiser.
British F4 regulars Oscar Piastri (Arden) and Logan Sargeant (R-Ace GP) will start a race from seventh and tenth apiece after consistent running on their debut weekends in the series – the latter impressively topped the opening free practice in dry conditions.
Alex Vartanyan (Arden) will also look to secure a brace of top ten finishes and continue a consistent return to the championship this weekend.
James Pull is no stranger to the NEC either, having raced earlier in the season at the Nurburgring, and his best chance of a maiden podium is likely to come from sixth in the first contest.
Charles Milesi, Théo Coicaud and Thomas Neubauer will also look to be in the hunt for points, the former after recovering from a spin at Turn 13.
Yifei Ye said, “Today the car felt very good – the qualifying format was very long compared to the Formula Renault Eurocup and having the car on high fuel wasn’t that easy but I managed to keep on the circuit and improve every lap until the end to score these two pole positions. Two podiums is the man objective – of course, it’s nice to win, but I won’t desperately go for it, I have to race clever.”
Sacha Fenestraz said, “Yifei did an amazing job, he was faster than me all day. Qualifying was a little bit hard, I let him through and tried to see what he was doing, so we tried to help each other and have done since this beginning of the season. He was faster so I followed his line and qualified second just behind him. That was good – I’m happy for him for the pole. Obviously the main goal is to finish 1-2. It’s a race situation, he will try to do his best and so will I – if I have the opportunity to pass him, I will pass him. The aim is to have a good start, to try to do the best and if I have the opportunity to pass Yifei I will try.”
Gilles Magnus said, “It’s frustrating, to be honest I don’t really know what happened, the pace was just really bad, we still don’t know why. For tomorrow, it’s mainly just finishing the two races and then taking as many points as I can but we won’t take any big risks because we want to finish the race. We’ll see what happens.”