New winners in Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0: Dusseldorp, Hegewald on top at Zolder Stef Dusseldorp (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Tobias Hegewald (Motopark Academy) were the winners of season rounds eleven and twelve of...
New winners in Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0: Dusseldorp, Hegewald on top at Zolder
Stef Dusseldorp (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Tobias Hegewald (Motopark Academy) were the winners of season rounds eleven and twelve of the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0 at the circuit of Zolder in Belgium. Both drivers scored their first victory of the season during the "RTL GP Masters of Formula 3" meeting, while points' leader Valtteri Bottas (Motopark Academy) retired twice. On Saturday, he landed in the gravel trap when the right front wheel suspension of his car broke. On Sunday, Bottas spun off the track in wet conditions. After the first race, winner Dusseldorp was joined on the podium by Antonio Felix da Costa and Tobias Hegewald (both Motopark Academy). In the second race, Stef Dusseldorp came home second from Antonio Felix da Costa.
Because of the packed time schedule at the RTL GP Masters of Formula 3 at Zolder, the qualifying format for the sixth race weekend of the season was different from the normal procedure in the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0. Instead of two separate qualifying sessions to determine the grid positions for each of the two races, there was now only one session, during which the fastest lap for every driver decided on the line-up of the starting grid for race one and the second fastest lap decided on the grid positions for race two.
The fastest overall lap time of 1.31.181 minutes was set by Valtteri Bottas for Motopark Academy, who accordingly claimed pole position for the first race. The Finn outpaced Van Amersfoort Racing's Stef Dusseldorp, who scored his best-ever qualifying result in the series with second place. Third fastest was Antonio Felix da Costa from Motopark team-mate Tobias Hegewald, MP Motorsport's Nick Catsburg, Nigel Melker for Van Amersfoort Racing, the two Motopark drivers Johan Jokinen and Kuba Giermaziak and Koirainen bros. driver Daniel Aho.
The second fastest lap time of 1.31.207 minutes by Valtteri Bottas was enough for him to claim pole position for the second race as well, followed by Dusseldorp, da Costa, Hegewald, Catsburg, Johan Jokinen (Motopark Academy), guest driver James Calado (Fortec) and MP Motorsport driver Daniel de Jong.
The race got underway in bright sunshine, Valtteri Bottas making the most of his pole position by taking the lead into the first left-hander. Antonio Felix da Costa beat Stef Dusseldorp and moved up into second, but the Dutchman soon claimed back his position. Bottas came back from the first lap with a margin of more than one second and went on to increase his lead by one second per lap for the first six laps of the race.
On lap six, James Calado took eighth place from Kuba Giermaziak on the run- up to the Gilles Villeneuve chicane. There was a nice battle for fifth place between Dutch drivers Nick Catsburg and Nigel Melker, but Johan Jokinen wanted to have a word in that fight too, and it was the Dane who moved up into sixth place on lap nine, having successfully overtaken Melker. One lap later, Melker dropped back to ninth, losing two more places to Calado and Giermaziak.
There was drama on lap 11: after the right front suspension of his car had broken, Bottas spun at the Jacky Ickx chicane while comfortably in the lead and got stuck in the gravel trap - his first retirement of the season. That handed the lead to Stef Dusseldorp from Antonio Felix da Costa and Tobias Hegewald. One lap later, Jokinen dropped back to seventh while Calado and Melker could benefit. However, the latter went off the track on lap 14 and re-joined in tenth position.
Out in front, Stef Dusseldorp took the chequered flag after 17 laps, scoring his maiden victory in the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0. The Dutchman finished ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa and Tobias Hegewald.
Post-race quotes Race 1:
Stef Dusseldorp (1st place, Van Amersfoort Racing):
"I had a bad start and was overtaken by Antonio Felix da Costa, but got him back again before the end of the first lap. After that I had to defend my position, but then I gained a couple of meters every lap. Then I saw Bottas spin out. I had butterflies in my stomach as for the first time I was lying in first place. I am just very happy being on the top step of the podium."
Antonio Felix da Costa (2nd place, Motopark Academy):
"I had a good start and could overtake Dusseldorp, but because of the rain we had yesterday in qualifying, my set-up was not the best and as a result, I didn't really have the pace. That is why I was overtaken by Dusseldorp again. As I am second in the championship I decided not to push but just drive my car safely to the finish."
Tobias Hegewald (3rd place, Motopark Academy.):
"The race was not what I had expected. I had some understeer problems with my car and found the track quite dirty. Although it is nice to be on the podium, I must admit that I am not happy."
The second race was a totally wet affair. There were problems at the start for Bottas, who stalled on the grid. Da Costa, lined up right behind him, dropped back as he had to avoid a collision. This allowed Dusseldorp to take the lead, but he lost it after the first two corners to a charging Tobias Hegewald, with Johan Jokinen third, On the opening lap, Garcia and Samarone collided coming out of the chicane, while Catsburg overtook Jokinen for third.
Bottas came back in twelfth position after the opening lap, but lost another two places on lap two. After three laps, Hegewald had already established a margin of 6.6 seconds over second-placed Dusseldorp who, in turn, was one second clear of Catsburg. Bottas gained back the two places he had lost earlier on and was twelfth again while Johan Jokinen put the pressure on Nick Catsburg for third place. Jokinen had his team-mate da Costa right on his tail, the Portuguese eager to make up the ground he had lost at the start.
Halfway through the race, rain was getting heavier, making the conditions even more difficult for the drivers. On lap six, Valtteri Bottas showed up in the top ten for the first time. While Jokinen, da Costa and Catsburg were in a nice battle, racing three abreast at the back stretch of the circuit. Jokinen had the upper hand and claimed third place while Catsburg lost more places and dropped back to tenth.
Meanwhile, Bottas was on his way back up, making up two seconds per lap. On lap eight, the Finn overtook Hylkema for fifth, but then he got stuck behind his team-mate da Costa. Bottas tried everything he could to get past, but missed his braking point at the Bolderberg corner two laps before the end and landed in the gravel trap, where his car got stuck, putting the Finn out of contention.
Out in front, Tobias Hegewald took the chequered flag after 14 laps, scoring his first victory of the season. The German was followed home by Stef Dusseldorp and Antonio Felix da Costa, who benefited, inheriting third place after Jokinen on the final lap. The Dane still made it home fourth from Bart Hylkema, Daniel de KJong, Daniel Aho, Filip Forsman, Nick Catsburg and Nigel Melker.
Post-race quotes Race 2:
Tobias Hegewald (1st place, Motopark Academy):
"I had a good start and I think the others had some troubles. I could overtake Dusseldorp before the first corner and started pushing really hard. I could pull a big gap and felt comfortable. I had a great car today and it worked very well in the rain."
Stef Dusseldorp (2nd place, Van Amersfoort Racing):
"It was the first wet race this year. I had a difficult start and Hegewald overtook me in the first corner. Hegewald pulled a huge gap and I let him go, but pushed to make the gap bigger between me and the following cars. I had a great weekend, a first and a second, I cannot be happier. Last year I only did five races and then had an accident. This year the team works really well together and I am really happy."
Antonio Felix da Costa (3rd place, Motopark Academy):
"I am getting closer in points but it is my first year in the NEC and it is not my goal to win the championship. Valtteri really deserves this. This is my first wet race in Formula Renault. My engine stalled on the starting grid but I got it restarted quickly. My car had a good speed and I had some good fights with Catsburg and Jokinen. Then Catsburg made a mistake and Jokinen spun so I got to the podium again."