Opening lap incident ruins the day for both Racing Engineering drivers in the Sepang Sprint Race
There was a threat of rain as the cars lined up on the grid for today’s 22 lap Sprint Race and as the lights went off both Julián Leal and Fabio Leimer made good starts from 4th and 8th respectively.
Julián was up to second as the cars entered the first corner but he lost a couple of places under breaking to be 5th on the exit. As the cars entered the fourth corner Calado, following a slow start, made contact with Fabio and ran off onto the grass, as he resumed the track he made very heavy contact with Julián and Bird forcing all three cars into immediate retirement.
Initially Fabio was able to set a competitive pace and after 3 laps he was 1.0s behind Cecotto and 0.6s ahead of Trummer and he was able to keep these gaps constant for the next 5 laps.
By the 10th lap Fabio began to close up on Cecotto but the Racing Engineering car was in turn coming under pressure from Trummer as the cars from 2nd to 7th were all running with just a few seconds separating them.
As the race entered its last 5 laps Fabio was finding that the damage caused by the opening lap incident with Calado was causing excessive wear on his rear tyres and an unexpected loss of grip saw the Racing Engineering car run through a gravel trap dropping him to the 12th place where he finished the race.
Although today did not bring the hoped for results both Fabio and Julián have shown they will both be fighting for race wins and podium positions in the remaining races of the season. Racing Engineering will now be returning to their Sanlúcar de Barrameda base to prepare for Bahrain on the 19th and 20th of April.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: "Obviously these are very disappointing results for both drivers. As a team we were in a good position to score a lot of points, but in the end we scored none. Julian had a very good start, but wasn’t able to keep a good position during the fights through the opening corners.
Unfortunately his race was finished very early by Calado crashing into him; there was nothing he could have done to avoid this. Fabio was also fighting in the points, but was also hit by Calado on the rear right side of his car, which didn't help him to manage his tyres for the rest of the race.
He was in 6th position and towards the end of the race went off track finishing in P12. It's disappointing as, given our starting positions, expectations were high and even though he didn't do it on purpose, both cars were affected by Calado's contact with them. We will rebuild car and work on being strong again in Bahrain."
Fabio Leimer: "It was a quite hard race today. I had a really good start immediately overtaking Calado. Then in corner 1, I chose the wrong line by going to the inside. Normally it's the better choice, but I lost 2 positions there. Just after, in corner 4, Calado tried to overtake me on the inside when I was already closing for the turn in.
He touched the rear of my car and unfortunately he also hit Julian and took him out of the race. After that it was just driving in the field, but I do not know why, I had quite a lot of vibration on the rear of the car. It’s likely it came from the crash with Calado.
With 5 laps to go I therefore started to struggle with the rear tyres and went off the track. I came back, but it's disappointing to lose 6 places in the end.
Overall for sure this was a strong weekend. We were quick in qualifying and won the first race, so I think we are on the right path, and I think in Bahrain we can fight! for the win again."
Julián Leal: "It was a very short race for me. It was a shame as I expected a very good position today. The car was OK, so I think if we had finished the race, we could have been on the podium.
But this is how races are and we have to look ahead and continue to work into this direction. It was nevertheless a positive weekend as we saw the car is fast and I saw that I am able to be at the front."