Jean-Eric Vergne's revenge puts him back in the title hunt
Jean-Eric Vergne (SG Formula), who was beaten by Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi) in the French round, turned the tables on his Spanish rival when the Formula Renault 2.0 West European Cup was held on Costa's home turf. The Frenchman won both races on the Valencia circuit closing the gap to Costa to 11 points. Nathanael Berthon (Epsilon Euskadi) wrapped up the French title in the FFSA French Formula Renault 2.0 Championship, which will also give him a test in Formula Renault 3.5.
The first qualifying session was a hotly-disputed one. Jean-Eric Vergne set pole on the Valencia circuit on his last flyer. It was his first pole position since the opening round of the season at Nogaro.
Vergne and Albert Costa on the front row did not make the best of starts, and the Spaniard was passed by his team-mate, Nathanael Berthon. Miki Monras (SG Formula), who was sixth on the grid, went straight on and ended up in the gravel trap with a blocked accelerator. He managed to restart but in last place.
Up front, Vergne dialed in a succession of quick laps and left Berthon behind. The latter was having his work cut out to fend off Costa. On lap 5, Berthon, made a mistake and the Epsilon Euskadi driver snatched second place. He went pedal to the metal to catch the Frenchman setting the fastest lap in the process, but Vergne was too far in front. He had not won in the Formula Renault 2.0 West European Cup since Barcelona; he made no mistakes and scored his fourth victory of the season. The end of the race was enlivened by Monras's comeback. He got as high as eighth and then found himself stuck behind Benjamin Lariche (Lariche Pole Services). After the race, the latter was given a penalty for changing trajectories too often to keep Monras behind, handing seventh place to the Spaniard.
Berhon's third place was good enough to give him the national title in the FFSA Formula Renault 2.0 Championship. The Pau round in which Vergne had scored only 6 points while Berthon racked up thirty-two proved to be the turning point in the French Championship.
On Sunday morning, Vergne continued his winning ways and was the quickest in qualifying from Costa. When the lights went out he shot to the front, while the Epilson Euskadi driver had to fight off a fast-starting Monras. Albert managed to keep his fellow countryman at bay and came round in second place at the end of the first lap hotly pursued by Monras and Berthon who had got the better of Arthur Pic (SG Formula).
Vergne followed the same strategy as the previous day and banged in a succession of quick laps to open up a gap. Costa held on initially and then began to fall back. Monras and Berthon were a little further behind. Pic in fifth place led a scrapping group of pursuers with Miguel Otegui (Epsilon Euskadi) on his gearbox. Carlos Munoz (Epsilon Euskadi) snatched seventh from Hugo Valente (SG Formula) with a daring overtaking manouevre. Marcelo Conchado (Amiter Galuppo) went out with an engine problem and Lariche also retired with broken suspension.
Vergne went on to score his second victory of the weekend in the hot Valencia sun. With 2 pole positions, 2 victories and 1 fastest lap, the Frenchman bagged a big haul of points and closed the gap to Costa, who again came second, to eleven. Miki Monras in third place completed the podium.
With 2 races to go the suspense is building up, and the final on the Portimao circuit at the beginning of November looks like being a thriller. It will be a kind of Winter Cup as all the other Formula 2.0 Renault Championships will have finished. A number of new arrivals are expected, especially as there will be a 2-day test session for Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula 3 after the Portuguese meeting.