EU 2.0: Series Le Mans race one report

Merhi back with a bang It looks like the summer break has done Roberto Merhi (Epsilon Euskadi) a world of good! The 17-year Spaniard picked up his second race win of the season at Le Mans today, while, for the fifth time this year, ...

Merhi back with a bang

It looks like the summer break has done Roberto Merhi (Epsilon Euskadi) a world of good! The 17-year Spaniard picked up his second race win of the season at Le Mans today, while, for the fifth time this year, Andrea Caldarelli (SG Formula) took second place. With Daniel Ricciardo forced to withdraw from today's race, Caldarelli now lies just seven points behind his SG Formula teammate in the championship standings.

The day began with the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 qualifying race, won by Italian driver Sergio Campana (Prema Powerteam), who thus earned twenty-fifth place on the starting grid for the race proper, with Roberto Merhi in pole position. Marcelo Conchado (Amiter Galuppo Sport), Himar Acosta (Iquick), Dino Butorac (RB Racing Team), Stephane Richelmi (Epsilon Sport) and Richard Campollo (Epsilon Euskadi) were the six drivers who failed to qualify.

There was drama before the race as Daniel Ricciardo was forced to withdraw. The SG Formula had had to replace the engine of his Formula Renault 2.0 (number 12) this morning, and the Australian driver was unable to line up on the starting grid.

Not without difficulty, Roberto Merhi was still clinging on to the lead at the first bend, where Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi), Ramez Azzam (SG Formula), Juan Pablo Garcia (Team Motopark), Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (BVM Minardi Team) and Mathieu Arzeno (Epsilon Sport) were all involved in a spectacular collision. Out came the safety car, ahead of Merhi, Valtteri Bottas, Cesar Ramos (BVM Minardi Team) and Andrea Caldarelli.

When the safety car left the track, Merhi was still out in front, with Bottas coming under pressure from Ramos and Andrea Caldarelli. The Finn eventually fell back from second to fourth, while his teammate Tobias Hegewald (Motopark Academy) moved in the opposite direction, overtaking Alexander Sims (SG Formula) to climb to fifth place.

With Roberto Merhi opening up an unassailable lead, Andrea Caldarelli tried to find a way past Cesar Ramos. Further back, meanwhile, Daniel Zampieri (BVM Minardi Team) and Bastien Borget (Epsilon Sport) collided and were forced to abandon.

On lap 10, first Caldarelli and then Valtteri Bottas moved past Cesar Ramos, but neither man stood a realistic chance of catching Mehri, who had by this stage extended his advantage to five seconds.

There was no further change before the end of the race, Roberto Merhi winning his second race of the season by a sizeable margin, with Andrea Caldarelli notching up his fifth second-place finish of the year, and Valtteri Bottas in third.

Roberto Merhi: "The start was a bit tricky. I skidded a little bit, so it wasn't easy holding off Andrea Caldarelli and Valtteri Bottas. Once the safety car left the track, I focused on putting together a string of fast laps to try and open up a gap. I'm happy to have won today, because after qualifying in the rain, we managed to get the car in good shape for a race in dry conditions today."

Andrea Caldarelli: "I dropped two places at the start! It's a pity, because I think I was the fastest driver today. I lost too much time behind Ramos. I'm disappointed, as I really needed to win this race!"

Valtteri Bottas: "I got stuck after the restart. Ramos went past, and Caldarelli took advantage. But then I lifted myself and stayed behind Andrea for the rest of the race. I'm confident for tomorrow, when I'll be starting from pole."

-credit: wsbyrenault.com

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Series Formula Renault
Drivers Daniel Ricciardo , Albert Costa , Juan Pablo Garcia , Adrian Quaife-Hobbs , Roberto Merhi , Richard Campollo , Mathieu Arzeno , Andrea Caldarelli , Stéphane Richelmi , Bastien Borget , Cesar Ramos , Sergio Campana , Alexander Sims , Valtteri Bottas , Ramez Azzam