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Archive for April, 2011

Davide RigonScuderia Coloni chose Davide Rigon to complete their line-up for the 2011 GP2 Main Series season, flanking the already confirmed Michael Herck. The agreement between the Italian team and the driver from Vicenza was a natural conclusion after a very positive experience in pre-season testing, with the newly formed pair shining in the recent Barcelona outing: on the spanish track Davide clinched the sixth fastest time overall (and the 2nd quickest in the final session) despite having just a few kilometres under his belt on the new Dallara car equipped with Pirelli rubber.

This was possible thanks to both a great job by the team and Rigon’s great talent and versatility, qualities that led him to two Superleague Formula titles (2008 and 2010) and to being selected by Scuderia Ferrari for a very important task, the simualtor development in Maranello.

Now the team, boosted also by the best overall laptime posted by Herck in the Barcelona test, is ready to tackle the season that is going to start in less than two weeks time in Istanbul.

Paolo Coloni: “I think that we can be satisfied with the line-up that we will field like never before. Davide, despite his late arrival in the team, managed to get on with the guys in the best possible way thanks to a very good attitude, and his talent proved to be an immediate boost for our outfit. Besides this, I’m really happy to be working again with a driver who has been selected by Scuderia Ferrari: this takes us back to 1989 when Roberto Moreno, who was on testing duties with Maranello, made his debut in F1 with our team.

We have great expectations also with Michael, as he was really good in GP2 Asia and he’s still improving, showing that he can be steadily among the top challengers.

So we believe that we have two very strong drivers, that have the talent and the experience to manage even the most tricky moments in a race. We hope that this, together with the positive mood of the team, will lead us to great results”.

Davide Rigon: “I’m really delighted to be back in GP2, and doing it with Scuderia Coloni, a team that has been racing in the Series from the very first year, is a further boost to my ambitions. They clinched great results in the past and they have a lot of experience, something that proved to be very useful in Silverstone, where they managed to make my first contact with the car very easy. I’m happy to feel that I have the trust of both Enzo and Paolo Coloni, and I’m sure that together we will clinch great results”.

Giovanni Minardi (Minardi Management): “I’m really happy that all our efforts had such a good outcome. Davide is in a crucial moment of his career, both his shape and experience are at the top and he really has what it takes to win. That’s why this agreement with Scuderia Coloni is very important for him, giving him the chance to focus only on his driving duties. We have very high ambitions, and we want to impress some team managers”.

Robert WickensRobert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne dominated the first Formula Renault 3.5 race of the weekend today, around the challenging Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The Carlin duo finished a full 17 seconds ahead of their nearest rival to take a one-two for the reining champions. Today’s result puts Carlin at the top of the teams’ championship and elevates Wickens to the top of the drivers’ championship.

Having qualified first and third this morning, both Wickens and Vergne had their first race win of the season in their sights as they lined up on the grid for race one this morning. Having learnt from a disappointing start last time out in Motorland, Wickens made the perfect getaway to lead the field into the first corner, while team mate Vergne jumped second placed man Albert Costa off the line to snatch second. The order was soon to change however, when Vergne lost out behind an early braking Wickens which allowed Costa back into second.

The three were line astern in the run up Eau Rouge and into Les Coombes, as Costa slip streamed Wickens to take the lead. The Epic Racing driver locked up at the next corner however and ran wide, allowing Wickens and Vergne back through into first and second.

From then on the Carlin duo were in a race of their own, as they began to pull away from the field. Wickens and Vergne matched each other lap for lap – with the gap remaining constant at round one to one and half seconds. As the two leaders continued to push each other, the gap to third man Costa began to grow, and by the chequered flag the duo were 17 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

Reflecting on his win, Wickens said, “I made a good start, and made it around the first corner this time! I knew it was going to be tough though and that I would be in trouble on the back straight and sure enough Costa got past me. But I kept him under pressure and he out braked himself and I was able to take the lead back. From then on I pushed really hard; I was trying to pull away from Jev to be honest but we were putting in the same lap times the entire time. It’s a great result for the team though, we’re leading the teams’ championship and I’m at the top of the drivers’ championship as well.”

Team mate and second placed man Vergne added, “It was a really good race. At the beginning I was right behind Robert but I lost all my downforce through sector two and couldn’t stay close so I decided to drop back a bit and have another attack. I pushed hard again and caught him quickly, but again I just couldn’t get up to him in the second sector. It was a good result for us though, I had a really good car throughout the race; we just need learn from today and push more for tomorrow, because for sure everyone else will be trying to catch us.”

A delighted Trevor Carlin added, “I’m delighted with the team and the drivers today. Everyone has done a fantastic job and it’s good to see all of the team’s work come together this afternoon. It was great to see Robert Wickens’ engineer Paul Wallace on the podium to collect the teams’ trophy today, which is a richly deserved reward for all the hard work he has put into our Formula Renault 3.5 team. We need to keep pushing though and try and replicate this result tomorrow.”

Jean-Eric VergneBritish F3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne was back at the front today, with a second place in round three of the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Red Bull Junior qualified third and went on to finish second, a huge 17 seconds ahead of his closest rival.

Having missed all of collective practice at the last round in Motorland, Vergne was keen to make the most of all the track time available in Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, a circuit on which he won three British F3 races last year.

The Frenchman was clearly on the pace, and was on provisional pole for the majority of this morning’s qualifying session before just losing out in the final minutes to qualify third.

After a strong start from third on the grid, Vergne was second by the end of lap one in this afternoon’s race and kept team mate Robert Wickens under pressure for the duration of the race. At the chequered flag Vergne was second, adding a hefty 18 points to his tally.

Q. You have a good record at Spa, is it nice to be back?
A. Yes definitely! Last year I had three wins in a row here, which is a great memory. It’s my favourite circuit, so it’s really nice to be back here and this time in a FR3.5 car.

Q. You were P1 for most of qualifying, were you a bit disappointed not to qualify on pole?
A. Yes for sure, but in the end third was quite a good result as I had a slight problem with the steering wheel.

Q. You and your team mate left the rest of the field behind today, are you happy with the car?
A. The car was perfect, the only problem I had was with the tyres, as every time I got too close behind Robert [Wickens] I lost all downforce and so my tyres went off quite quickly.

Q. You did a great job to go from third to second today, is a race win the aim for tomorrow?
A. The aim is always a win..! ;) But for sure we have a good car, without the problem with my steering wheel, pole should be the target. Then the win……

Photo by Frederic Le Floc H / DPPI

Alexander RossiAlexander took a commanding win in the opening round of the series and came home in second position in race two at Motorland Aragon earlier this month. With a current total of 43 points and a 15 points lead over his nearest rival, Alexander now heads to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Rossi a past winner at Spa in 2009 Formula Masters and 2nd in 2010 GP3 Championship is no stranger to what’s considered by drivers and fans alike to be one of the most challenging race tracks in the world.

Alexander Rossi comments, “Coming off the opening rounds in Aragon a few weeks ago, I can confidently say that the team and I met our goals to open the season. However, we are still looking to improve a few key aspects of our overall performance to ensure that we can maintain this current momentum. I am very much looking forward to the event in Spa this week as it’s personally one of my favourite circuits and I have a good track record there in previous championships. The weather always plays a factor at Spa, but we feel that our wet set-up is on par with other teams, so we are relatively confident in that respect. Our focus this weekend remains the same as always, to win, but with the added pressure of coming in as Championship leaders, we cannot get complacent. We need to keep pushing, there’s a lot of work to do.”

Jamie Dye, Team Manager, Fortec Motorsport, concludes, “Alexander’s pace over the winter, and in race rounds 1 and 2 earlier this month, shows that he is one of the men to beat this season. We go to Spa this weekend leading the Drivers’ and Teams’ World Series by Renault Championships and will aim to take away maximum points once again. Spa is another circuit where we have a good set-up, so for the Fortec team our goal is to extend the lead in both points tables and keep up the fight at the business end of the grid. Good luck to our drivers and the team and we hope to see plenty of fans support in Spa.”

World Series by Renault rounds three and four, April 30th – May 1st, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.

Shinji NakanoFrench sportscar team and manufacturer OAK Racing, which will this year enter four prototypes – two LMP1s and two LMP2s – at the Le Mans 24 Hours, can confirm the signing of Shinji Nakano and Nicolas De Crem for its second LMP2 machine.

The #49 OAK-Pescarolo is lead by Nakano whose speed and experience will be a significant asset in the team’s bid for LMP2 class victory. The 40-year-old boasts a fantastic racing CV across Formula 1 and sports prototypes that already includes four appearances at Le Mans. Nakano was also the first Japanese driver to contest world motorsport’s three biggest events; the Le Mans 24 Hours, Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500.

He is joined by 20-year-old Nicolas de Crem who in 2010 demonstrated his potential while racing in Formula Le Mans. Last weekend’s Le Mans Test Day saw the Belgian also prove his capacity to adapt to the La Sarthe circuit’s unique characteristics during the mandatory 10 lap stint required of all debutants.

François Sicard, OAK Racing Managing Director: “Entering two LMP2s strengthens our challenge for class victory. We have chosen a competitive and intelligent crew which includes a silver driver as specified by the regulations. Nicolas De Crem is a promising prospect, as well as solid and fast, whose talent we hope to develop in endurance racing. Pairing him with Shinji Nakano represents a great opportunity for himself and OAK Racing. A platinum driver, Shinji’s CV and popularity speak for themselves while his speed means we have high hopes for an excellent result.”

Shinji Nakano: “It has been three years since my last appearance at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2008. From the bottom of my heart I am looking forward to returning to race at the beautiful and challenging La Sarthe circuit. At the same time, I am honoured and privileged to be a member of the OAK Racing team, which has an excellent history, record and great deal of experience.

“As you are already aware, my country recently suffered a devastating earthquake that led to unimaginable disasters. Many people are still living under very difficult conditions. I am therefore dedicating this race to the victims of the disaster, by doing my best at Le Mans to lift their courage and spirits in the hope of somehow aiding their swift recovery.”

Nicolas De Crem: “My objective for the 2011 season was twofold: to participate in both the Le Mans Series and Le Mans 24 hours in LMP2. Now it is done! The LMS season has started very well and that will continue, I hope, in the same direction at the Le Mans 24 Hours with OAK Racing. I would like to thank the entire team for the confidence it has placed in me. Our common objective is clear: to finish in the best possible position. All that’s left is to do just that! Trust me, my motivation is huge!”

Fellow Le Mans-based team DAMS, which this year expressed an interest in returning to endurance racing and the Le Mans 24 Hours, will offer technical and logistical support to this second LMP2 entry. The collaboration is one which came about naturally between neighbours and friends, with DAMS having already experienced the event with a manufacturer as prestigious as Cadillac.

As a reminder, OAK Racing’s #35 OAK-Pescarolo-Judd will feature the same crew as that competing in this year’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Andrea Barlesi, Frédéric Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue will defend the team’s colours at Le Mans’ 79th running on June 11/12.

Benoît TréluyerAfter a winter break that proved as discreet as it was serious, Benoît Tréluyer’s season began in earnest at Le Mans last weekend where the three new Audi R18 TDIs made their first public appearance. With the successful test complete, he now heads to Japan for 2011’s opening Super GT round.

On Sunday evening, after the official test for the forthcoming Le Mans 24 Hours, Benoît’s smile revealed his delight at returning to competitive action and the targets he has set for 2011. Following months of development work, the first public appearance of Audi’s brand new prototype was a great moment.

“We have completed a lot of mileage since the end of last season so it is a great reward to see the car at the top of the timesheets,” he said. “We have to remain cautious as we are not totally ready yet, but it is looking good. The Audi R18 TDI is totally different from the Audi R15 TDI of last year and there is a lot of expectation. New regulations, a closed car, the desire to prove that we can be more reliable than our rivals whilst at the same time being faster; with this car Audi wanted to come back with a bang!”

While Benoît remained guarded on the potential of Ingolstadt’s latest prototype, he was more open when discussing its ease of usability.

“What is certain is that we have a car which is easy to drive. It’s great in the Porsche Esses for instance which is a critical section of the circuit. You enter the corner without any apprehension, whilst normally it can be a bit hairy! As a driver, it’s a big deal to enjoy driving and that helps improve overall performance.”

Focusing on the basics was the German manufacturer’s main objective over the Easter weekend at La Sarthe. “Shakedown the three cars and test several different things, followed by a major debrief with all the team’s engineers in order to get the most out of the gathered data! We did not take it easy!”

Benoît’s preparations for the famous event continue on 6/7 May in the Ardennes region during the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps.

Before then, another of his season’s commitments will have already begun. This weekend, in Japan, the Super GT championship kicks off at Fuji. Just as the entire country was badly affected by the terrible earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March, so Japanese motorsport is slowly finding its feet again. For all its fans and those associated with the sport, the first meeting of 2011 will have strong symbolic value and be marked by great solemnity.

“I was in Tokyo the day of the earthquake,” said Benoît in La Sarthe. “It was not what scared me, but the tsunami which I witnessed live on television and the difficulty realising it was only 100 kilometres away. Then Fukushima happened… I left shortly afterwards for Audi testing. I have not returned since, but have spoken to the team nearly every day on the phone or by email.

“I will be delighted to see everyone again even if I’m going back with some apprehension. Saying that, I have never questioned returning in light of the nuclear issues as Japan has offered me so much.”

Benoît left Le Mans on Sunday night, making a quick visit to his home, before flying off to Tokyo. On Friday he will be reunited with his Motul Autech squad, team mate Satoshi Motoyama and the Nissan GT-R with which he intends to recapture the title won in 2008. In life as on the track, it’s safe to say he’s flat out!

Facu RegaliaArgentinean-born driver Facu Regalia concluded yesterday his 2011 pre-season, when he is doing his debut in Italian Formula 3, one of the most competitive single seaters championships in Europe. Regalia tested on Tuesday at Franciacorta circuit, located near Castrezzato.

Regalia and his team developed a successful work, lapping eighty nine laps. “In the morning we made different set-up changes because it was important to know how the car behaved. In spite of my set-up was far from perfect, I got a good lap time with worn tires, finishing just two-tenths far from the fastest driver”, explained Regalia. During afternoon, team led by Piercarlo Ghinzani installed usual set-up and which such good results offered him in previous tests. However, “afternoon turned windy and it changed our schedule. I lost straight-line speed, and I couldn´t improve my time in the morning. Anyway, we leave Franciacorta very happy”, added Regalia.

His yesterday best lap-time was 1:05.311, signed in morning session, while in the afternoon 1:05.683 was the reference. Italian Formula 3 championship stars in three weeks time at Franciacorta where, according Regalia, “I think that I will be strong enough. I completed a good pre-season, evolving as Formula 3 driver and I hope to have a good car because my aim is to become the best rookie”.

Scott MalvernJamun Racing Star Scott Malvern became the first driver of the Duratec era to achieve a perfect maximum score at the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain Easter event at Oulton Park.

Malvern set the three fastest laps in qualifying giving him pole position for rounds four, five & six of the championship. He then went on take lights to flag victories in all three rounds and recorded the fastest lap in each race as well giving him a maximum score available to him for the weekend.

A check in the results archive proved that this had not been done before, the closest to it being another Jamun driver Wayne Boyd in his championship winning year 2008 taking three wins at Knockhill but only two poles and two fastest laps. His perfect record that weekend was spoilt by his Jamun team mate Tim Blanchard who had fastest lap in race two and pole position for race three. Ironically Blanchard’s mechanic that season was a nineteen year old Scott Malvern!

Scott delighted with his Oulton park results commented “obviously Silverstone could have been better but I didn’t dwell on what might have been. I simply refocused my attention to Oulton Park determined to put things right and thanks to the hard work of the team and my partners for getting me here that’s exactly what I did. I’m now firmly back on track and aim to stay there”

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Scott MalvernBarkingside Racer Scott Malvern stormed back into title contention at Oulton Park in Cheshire last weekend dominating proceedings in the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain. Malvern achieved the perfect score in the three championship rounds held on Saturday & Bank Holiday Monday taking three wins from three pole positions and fastest lap in every race in a superb master class display. Not only that but he was never headed in each of the races and achieved impressive winning margins of almost three seconds, seven seconds and six seconds respectively in the 20 car International field.

Malvern has now rocketed up the championship table form a lowly 12th position to 2nd place cutting by half the points advantage held by his Jamun Racing Team mate the Dutch driver Jeroen Slaghekke. Scott delighted with his results commented afterwards “I needed a strong performance after our problems at Silverstone two weeks ago and this has put me right back on track. I’d just like to thank all my partners who helped me to be here”.

Scott’s championship bid now moves onto Snetterton in Norfolk over the weekend of 14th & 15th May.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

British F3 champions Carlin will take Jazeman Jaafar, Carlos Huertas and Tom Dillmann to Germany this weekend, to take part in the first FIA Formula 3 International Trophy round at the Hockenheim circuit. The three Carlin drivers will take part in the F3 Euro Series race this weekend, which forms the first round of the new-for-2011 F3 International Trophy.

Jaafar and Huertas are both part of Carlin’s British F3 squad and have claimed podiums in their Volkswagen powered Dallaras already this season. Following three podiums so far in 2011, Jaafar lies second in the championship standings, with Huertas fourth.

Tom Dillmann, who will race with Carlin this season in the GP3 Series, makes a return to F3 this weekend at Hockenheim. The reigning German F3 champion has a good record at the circuit, having won there last year on his way to claiming the 2010 title.

“It will be nice to be back in an F3 car for the first time since I won the German championship,“ said Dillmann. “It will be a big change for us however, of course I have experience of an F3 car and Hockenheim, but it will be a big challenge with the tyres which will be new for me and the team. We will only have limited practice time, so it will be tough, but we need to push from the start and learn as much as possible.”

Jaafar, who is to contest the complete F3 International Trophy is eager for a new challenge in Germany this weekend, “We’ve been strong in the first few races of the season in British F3, so racing at Hockenheim is going to be a good learning experience to add to that. It will be quite a new experience; firstly on the Kumho tyres and secondly in the Euro Series environment. We’ll do our best to get some good results and get as much experience as possible from these international rounds.”

Joining Jaafar in Germany will be BF3 team mate Huertas who added, “This weekend is going to be really interesting for me as I’ll be racing on a tyre I have no previous experience of. It will be really interesting to see what difference this makes and how it affects the car.”

Trevor Carlin added, “This weekend will be a new challenge for us as a team. We know we have a quick car in British F3, but we’re faced with different tyres, different competitors and a different race format this weekend. We have three very quick drivers through and we already know how strong our package is with the Volkswagen engine, so we still need to be aiming for the front.”