Anders Motorsport’s Doureid Ghattas put in a composed drive to win the opening Formula Renault Northern European Cup (NEC) race at the Hungaroring, with team mate Phil Hill behind to complete a 1-2 finish for the German outfit.
The result means that Ghattas – the fifth different race winner of the season – now ties level with Hill in the championship standings heading into the final race in Budapest tomorrow [2nd September], with just five contests left to decide the 2018 champion.
It was a near lights-to-flag win for German Formula 4 graduate Ghattas, who took advantage of an errant trip across the gravel for R-ace GP’s Gabriel Gandulia – the Argentine himself avoiding an incident ahead between the Formula Renault Eurocup field – at the chicane to assume the lead of the field, from which he would never be bested.
A safety car period for Thomas Neubauer’s stranded Tech1 Racing machine brought a brief stalemate to the action, but once it resumed Ghattas was able to build a buffer of several Eurocup cars between himself and Hill, whose challenge was dented after contact with JD Motorsport’s Najiy Razak into the first corner two laps after the restart.
That gave the #90 Anders-run machine bad under-steer and he will start tomorrow with a two-place grid penalty handed out by the stewards post-race for his part in the incident, but the erstwhile championship leader was able to maintain his advantage over Gandulia and take the chequered flag to claim the runner-up spot.
Following the usual race weekend format, another qualifying session awaits the field at 09:00 CEST tomorrow, with the final race at the tight, twisting Hungaroring scheduled to begin at 13:50.
Doureid Ghattas (#91) said, “It’s a nice feeling to be showing our potential, but I made a few mistakes and without those, we could have been even higher amongst the Eurocup field. I’ll prove that tomorrow – first in qualifying, which was bad today – and then in the race to be more consistent and stay in my rhythm.
“It was important because we [Ghattas and Hill] are now on the same points, and also for Gabriel [Gandulia]. Now, when he comes in front of me, it’s not so big a deal. When he finishes in front of me for two races, it doesn’t matter, I just have to finish ahead of Phil.”
Phil Hill (#90) said, “The start was okay, I didn’t gain any places but didn’t lose any ground. I made up a few positions with the incident at the chicane, before the safety car. The restart wasn’t good for me, already in the last turn there was a difference, and then on the second lap afterwards I had a slipstream on the main straight to one of the JD Motorsport cars.
“I wanted to overtake but he didn’t look in his mirrors and turned into me, so my front wing broke and I had some more under steer. For sure, it was difficult to drive, but I was a tenth faster than Doureid on his fastest lap. In the last three laps I could gain a lot on him, so for tomorrow I hope to be in the better qualifying group so I can have a chance for the NEC pole. I’ll do my best to be in front tomorrow.”
Gabriel Gandulia (#5) said, “I think we had good conditions to win because of my starting position. My first lap was going to be a good one, with some overtakes, but into the chicane a car spun ahead of me and to avoid hitting him I had to go through the gravel, so I lost everything I’d gained and some more.
“I think we have a good chance tomorrow. The car is good, the pace has been there all weekend so let’s try again, I’m confident. It’s difficult to make a difference in only one race in terms of points, but I haven’t won yet this season, so I’ll have to do a good job tomorrow.”