Once again the sun was shining on the Spa Francorchamps circuit although the track temperature was only 22° due to the morning start time for the 18 lap Sprint Race. Following yesterday’s problems Nathanaël Berthon would be starting from 14th place on the grid and Fabio Leimer’s early retirement saw him back in 23rd place.
As the lights went off and the cars raced into the first corner several cars made contact including Berthon who was badly delayed dropping back to 23rd place and having to make a pitstop to repair the damage his car sustained.
Leimer was more fortunate and was able to take advantage of the confusion to move up to an amazing 12th by the end of the first lap, an improvement of 11 positions! On lap 2 the Racing Engineering car was able to gain another place to take 11th and he was now just 0.7 seconds behind Palmer.
Berthon was quickly back on track in 21st position and on lap 3 he set the fastest lap of the race so far with a time of 2:01.270s and on lap 4 he did it again with a lap of 2:00.757s. Unfortunately for the young Frenchman the gap to Razia in 20th was 49 seconds on lap 6 and with only 12 laps remaining, despite still being one of the fastest cars on track, further progress looked very difficult although a spin by Canamasas saw him improve to 19th.
On lap 5 Leimer had reduced the gap to Palmer to 0.3 seconds and was looking for a way past the iSport car. There was now an intense battle going on between six cars for 7th place and Leimer was still trying to pass Palmer without allowing a closely following Coletti a chance to overtake and on lap 9 the Racing Engineering car was able to pass the British driver and move up to 10th.
Leimer’s next target was Onidi in 9th who was 1.6 seconds ahead and on lap 11 there was contact between Leal and Gutiérrez which saw both cars leave the track promoting Leimer to 8th. With 6 laps remaining the young Swiss passed Onidi on the outside at Blanchimont in an incredibly brave move to take 7th and he wasn’t finished yet as one lap later he passed Haryanto for 6th.
With 4 laps remaining Leimer was up to 5th as he took Richelmi on the exit of La Source, next was Ericsson in 4th but the Swede was 6 seconds ahead and with only 3 laps remaining Leimer had to settle for 5th.
After the disappointments of yesterday’s Feature Race things were much improved in today’s Sprint race with an outstanding race from Leimer to gain 18 places and although Berthon’s race was ruined by the opening lap incident he showed tremendous race pace and would, undoubtedly have scored points in the race.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: "We finished today's race with mixed emotions, on one hand Fabio, who started 23rd, had an amazing race with a very strong pace, overtaking several cars in great manoeuvres to finish in a fantastic fifth position. Nat, on the other hand, was very unlucky in turn 1 of the opening lap as other cars came together and he could not avoid contact with a damaged car stopped in the middle of the corner.
Nat came into the pits straight away to quickly have his front wing changed and showed an incredible pace throughout the entire race. It is overall a disappointing result for us this weekend, considering that both drivers and cars were performing very well and external factors kept us from scoring more points."
Fabio Leimer: "Today's race was really great. I had a good start and I got through the accident scene in turn 1 quite well. Then I was able to manage the tyres really well and make up positions. Towards the end of the race I still had a very good pace and was able to move all the way to fifth."
Nathanaël Berthon: "There are times when luck becomes a very important factor in motorsport. I was so fast in both races here in Spa and could do nothing to avoid what cost me so many points. Throughout the entire race I was quicker than the others, and towards the end of the race my lap times were so significantly faster than those of the rest of the field. I know so much was possible not only yesterday, but also today."
Source: Racing Engineering