Adrian Quaife-Hobbs

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs began his 2009 Formula Renault campaign with a dominant lights-to-flag victory in the opening round of the North European Cup at Zandvoort on Easter Saturday. The 18 year-old from Tonbridge, on his first ever visit to the Dutch track, qualified on pole and romped to victory leading the Motopark Academy team to a clean sweep of the podium.

The BRDC Rising Star stamped his authority on proceedings with the fastest lap of the race as reigning NEC and Eurocup champions Motopark took five of the top six places.

The weekend kicked off well for the former double T-Cars Champion, the teenager setting the pace in Friday’s testing and then storming to pole position on Saturday, more than three tenths of a second ahead of his team-mate Felix Da Costa. As the lights signalled the start of race one, Adrian made the perfect getaway to take the immediate lead and over the course of the 16-lapper extended the gap to nearly eight seconds at the flag.

“I’d never driven anything here before Friday so I was very happy with the performance in testing,” said Adrian. “In each session there was about enough time to get 12 laps in and I spent much of the first session learning the track. In the second session, I was second quickest and then in qualifying on my first set of new tyres I posted a 37.7 and on my very first lap on the second set the pole time of 36.2.”

Race two was held on Monday and featured a reverse grid for the top eight putting Adrian on the fourth row. At the lights, with the cars ahead some one and a half seconds a lap slower, the first corner proved critical and effectively ended Adrian’s bid for a repeat of his race-winning performance of Saturday.

Entering the bend, the pack ahead braked early, leaving Adrian with nowhere to go as he ploughed into the back of his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, damaging his front wing and dropping him to ninth. A spirited drive however allowed him to move through the field and by lap five he was up to fifth, just two tenths off the pace of the leaders, despite a severe lack of downforce.

By mid distance however his front left tyre overheated and burst forcing Adrian to pit for a replacement. At the stop the team also fitted a new front wing and after rejoining a lap and a half down, the Sackville School pupil recovered well, posting the fastest lap of the race but crossing the line down the order.

“With the grid reversed for the first eight, some of the cars ahead were much slower than the rest of us and as we went into the first corner, they braked so much earlier that we expected. I had nowhere to go and hit the back of Magnussen, who in turn hit a car in front.

“Unfortunately that damaged half of my front wing but I still managed to fight on and get up to the back of fourth place although it was hard to overtake when losing so much downforce. Had the tyre not burst I feel I could have carried on through the order as my pace was still quicker than several of the cars ahead.

“Despite that result though, I’m very happy with the performance across the weekend, I was quickest throughout both races so the pace is definitely there which should set me up well for next weekend and the rest of the season.”

Adrian will return to racing action next weekend with the opening rounds of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship, supporting the World Series by Renault, at Barcelona in Spain.