PERFECT MAILLEUX SEALS WINTER SERIES TITLE IN STYLE Formula Renault UK star Franck Mailleux capped an outstanding Winter Championship campaign at Croft Circuit earlier today, a brace of faultless victories seeing the Manor Motorsport ace cruise...
PERFECT MAILLEUX SEALS WINTER SERIES TITLE IN STYLE
Formula Renault UK star Franck Mailleux capped an outstanding Winter Championship campaign at Croft Circuit earlier today, a brace of faultless victories seeing the Manor Motorsport ace cruise to the series title and a 100 per cent perfect race-to-win ratio.
Arriving at the North Yorkshire venue with a healthy 11-point lead in the championship thanks to a pair of wins during the previous two rounds at Brands Hatch last weekend, the 22-year-old Frenchman climbed from fifth on the grid in round three and seventh on the grid during the final race of the series to claim a truly memorable title triumph.
Sealing the championship crown 36-points clear of his nearest rival, Franck underlined his status as the class of the field with two remarkable drives in contrasting conditions to chalk up a tally of four victories in as many races and also enter the record books as the only driver in the history of the winter series to win every round.
"It's fantastic to have won the championship", said a delighted Mailleux after he received the 2006 Formula Renault UK Winter Championship trophy, "Winning all four races is a really good achievement and something I am very proud of.
"After qualifying I was not sure I would manage to win either of today's races but Manor gave me a perfect car and so I want to thank the team for working so hard. Winning the first race was fantastic and when the rain came before the second race, even though I was seventh on the grid, I knew another victory was possible."
In addition, Manor team-mate Alexander Sims saw his stock as a star-in-the-making continue to soar after achieving his first Formula Renault UK podium in only his third ever car race. Starting on the front row after a terrific run in qualifying, the Peterborough ace finished second in round three and also posted the fastest lap of the race.
"I'm very pleased with the result but it's just the way we got the result which is a little bit disappointing", explained Alexander after round three, "We did have the opportunity to win the race but I made a few mistakes unfortunately. All in all though, to finish second to my team-mate is a good solid result so I'm quite happy with what we've achieved."
After this morning's damp 20-minute qualifying session, which determined the grid for both races, Franck's title challenge did appear to have suffered something of a blow when the chequered flag was shown as he crossed the line to begin his final flying lap.
While Mailleux and his Dinnington-based team thought two pole positions were secure, it soon became clear the flag had fallen just as the Frenchman had started his last lap and therefore meant his fastest time at the end of the session did not stand.
With each driver's best and second-best times taken to determine grid order for rounds three and four respectively, Franck saw his quickest time eroded and therefore his next best lap, 1m 25.235 seconds (89.83mph), would place him fifth on the grid for race one.
The time taken as his second quickest qualifying lap, which was actually, of course, the Sojasun-backed star's third best of the session, saw him fall back to seventh on the grid for the final race and the complexion of the title race began to alter.
Undaunted, Franck prepared for round three focused on nothing less than his third victory on the bounce and this he achieved with an outstanding drive from row three and yet another lightning start to the race.
Rocketing from fifth on the grid, Franck moved into the top three behind team-mate Sims before the train of cars had even arrived at Clervaux for the first time but before the end of lap one the Manor drivers found themselves locking-out the top two positions after pole-sitter Martin Ragginger spun out from the lead.
With a combined total of just 24 racing laps in a Formula Renault UK car under his belt, Alexander found himself leading the pack as round three of the winter series entered lap two and he opened up a gap of six 10ths of a second over Mailleux.
The more experienced Frenchman, however, applied pressure to Sims in the hope of forcing an error from the teenager and this Franck achieved at the end of lap three as the team-mates approached the hairpin.
Mailleux quickly began to string together several consistently fast laps after seizing the lead but on lap eight it was a regrouping Sims who posted the fastest lap of the race, worth two bonus points, with a time of 1m 18.332 seconds (97.75mph).
Over the course of the remaining seven laps, the Manor duo controlled the race at the front with Mailleux crossing the line on lap 15 just over 1.3 seconds clear of Sims to move into a 28-point championship lead, the latter a further 1.1 seconds clear of third position to take a career-best finish and move into fifth position in the driver standings.
With a major cloud-burst ahead of the fourth and final round of the winter series, wildly contrasting conditions faced the drivers in comparison to the dry morning race but the end result for Mailleux was the same, another outstanding and very popular victory.
In fact, it was the Frenchman's best performance on UK soil and possibly the finest of his career to date as he fought his way through from seventh place on a very wet grid to take the lead of the race less than three laps from the end.
Another good start saw Mailleux claim two positions before arriving at Clervaux but Sims suffered a reversal in fortune when he slipped from fourth to seventh. Before the end of lap one, Franck had moved into third position and had the winter title easily within his grasp while Alexander gained ground too and was now in the top five.
Unfortunately for the latter, a spin at Tower Corner on lap two brought an early end to his winter campaign but the pace and ability Sims has displayed over the last two weekends certainly underlines his potential as a single-seater champion of the future.
An unrelated incident resulted in the deployment of the Safety Car on lap four and at the re-start on lap seven, Franck was positioned well to make the most of any opportunities as second-placed Adriano Buzaid attempted to challenge race leader Richard Keen.
Enjoying a great run out of the chicane, Franck shadowed Buzaid along the straight and into Tower Bend the Manor ace took second position with an excellent move. Although a perfect record of four victories from four race starts was getting tantalisingly closer for Mailleux, Keen did appear to have a good enough lead to hold on until the end.
But with five laps left to run the Frenchman started to slice big chunks of time out of Keen's lead and on lap 16, again at Tower Bend, Mailleux moved ahead with a superb pass and went on to win the race, and the championship, in truly faultless style.