Oliver Rowland got Manor MP Motorsport’s Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season off to a successful start at Motorland Aragon in Spain on Sunday, 28th April, by racing to a tremendous podium finish in the second encounter of the weekend – the British driver ending the event sixth in the points table.
With torrential rain having a major bearing on the track action throughout the season-opening race meeting, the first two rounds of 2013 were challenging to say the least for all involved but in round two the former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner produced a spectacular drive.
The action started behind the Safety Car due to the treacherous conditions but when the racing proper got underway, Rowland made an outstanding start from fifth place to immediately slice past Jake Dennis and Luca Ghiotto to move into third.
Attacking second placed Egor Orudzhev, Rowland tried everything he could to carve open an opportunity but with the severe spray making any chance of overtaking near to impossible the Briton eventually – and very sensibly – settled for third position.
“It wasn’t like Spanish weather this weekend”, reflected Manor MP Motorsport’s Tony Shaw, “Rain, rain and more rain, it was non-stop. We’re pretty happy how it all turned out though and it’s great to be on the podium on the first weekend.
“Qualifying for race two went well for Oliver, it was very close between the top three guys and any one of them could have been on pole. Anyway, we started P5 with him and he had a mega start, he was definitely quicker than the guy in second place but the visibility was really bad so he chose to take the points for third which was the right thing.”
In round one on Saturday, 27th April, Rowland also finished in the points in 10th position after a fairly sedate race. Starting in ninth, he slipped to 10th early on before regaining ninth but was pushed back once again to 10th place three laps from the end.
Fellow Briton Melville McKee did a superb job on his first outing at the wheel of the brand new 2013 FR 2.0 car and produced two excellent races. Making a sensational start from 16th on the grid in round one, McKee scythed his way through into the top 12 on the first lap alone and remained there until late in the race when he gained one more position at the expense of the retiring Ed Jones.
In the Safety Car-started second round, McKee moved up from 12th place to 11th when racing began and climbed into the points-paying top 10 on lap six. Holding station for the next four laps, only the slightest error on the final tour prevented him from taking away some points as he slipped to 11th.
“Melville did a really good job all weekend”, said Shaw, “In the first race he was very strong and in race two only a small mistake at the end cost him some places. It really was a shame, he deserved to be in the points but, nonetheless, he did a really good job and especially as he’d never driven this new spec of Formula Renault before the weekend.”
Argentinian racer Javier Merlo had a very eventful debut outing in race one with a continually chopping and changing order just outside the top 20. Moving into 24th on lap one, he slipped back, regained a position and then dropped back again before having to finally settle for 26th position at the chequered flag.
In the incredibly difficult rain-lashed second race on Sunday, which offered a particularly steep learning curve for the South American, he progressed from 32nd on the 37-car grid into 29th position but eventually had to settle for 30th place at the finish.
Shaw said: “Javier just needs more track time, it wasn’t such an easy weekend for him with the rain – it made it difficult to get into a rhythm and learn. All he needs is time in the car and to adjust to being at this level, Eurocup is really competitive but he will get stronger as the season goes on.”
Rounds three and four of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season will take place on 1st/2nd June at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
Provisional 2013 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Standings (after Rd2):
6th Oliver Rowland, 16pts; No Score – Melville McKee & Javier Merlo
Provisional 2013 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Team Standings (after Rd2):
5th Manor MP Motorsport, 16pts
Photo by Dutch Photo Agency.