Piñeiro dominates at Croft as Moore closes on Jousse
Ramon and Max Snegirev take first-ever victories in Croft triple header
Fresh from a points-scoring debut in the FIA Formula Two Championship at Valencia, Spain's Ramon Piñeiro dominated Formula Palmer Audi's triple-header meeting at Croft this weekend (9/10 October) - taking his first ever single seater victory in the opening race before doubling up in the second contest.
The 18-year-old Spaniard opened his weekend with a superb showing in qualifying, which was split into two sessions - each 12 minutes long - to determine the grids for the opening two races. Every driver opted for fresh rubber to start the first session but it was Piñeiro who rose to the top in the early stages, twice dipping below the 1m17s bracket to secure his first ever pole by a dominant margin of more than four tenths of a second. Britain's Nigel Moore was second, with Jose Alonso Liste third and championship leader Maxime Jousse fourth.
Piñeiro was on form again in the second session, running at the front throughout before eventually being edged out by compatriot Jose Alonso Liste. On his return to the series following a spell in Formula 3, Max Snegirev secured third, with Maxime Jousse and Nigel Moore qualifying fourth and fifth respectively.
A frantic opening to the first race saw Ramon maintain the lead away from the line, while Nigel Moore initially lost second to Jose Alonso Liste, only to repass the Spaniard at the final hairpin on the first lap. From there Moore shadowed Piñeiro for the entire 18 laps, but was never quite close enough to mount a serious challenge - eventually finishing less than one second behind in second. Moore's runner-up spot was enough for him to gain heavily on overall points leader Maxime Jousse however, as the Frenchman fell down the order during the race - eventually ending seventh, his worst result of the season. Kieran Vernon followed up his double race win at Brands Hatch with a fifth consecutive podium, having charged through the field from seventh on the grid.
The start of race two again saw Piñeiro assume the lead into the first corner as he jumped the slow-starting Jose Alonso Liste away from the line - the latter dropping to fourth as Maxime Jousse and Max Snegirev also got by. Jousse was able to challenge for the lead in the early stages but faded as the race wore on. Behind him Jose Alonso Liste staged a strong comeback, passing Snegirev around the outside on the main straight on lap 11 before a similar move on Jousse four laps later gave him second. Jousse hung on for third as Snegirev and later Nigel Moore put him under pressure - Moore passing Snegirev with a decisive move down the main straight on the penultimate lap.
Jousse's advantage therefore stood at just 13 points over Moore (40 points without dropped points being taken into account) heading into the final round, and the pair's rivalry was the main talking point after a controversial incident on the sixth lap of the race. Jousse had been running fourth and Moore fifth, but as they approached the final hairpin Moore spotted a gap and made an opportunistic move to the inside. Jousse tried to cover the space, forcing Moore onto the kerbs, but had to cede ground and lost momentum - dropping from fourth to sixth, with Moore passing him at the hairpin and France's Vincent Beltoise picking him off along the straight.
The incident was referred to the stewards but no action was taken, allowing Moore to close to within 11 points of the overall lead after dropped scores are accounted for. It was one of a number of talking points in the final race, which had seen Callum Holland line up on pole position for the very first time in single seaters after setting the fastest lap of any driver during the two races (the race three grid was determined by fastest laps from either race). Holland lost out at the start to Max Snegirev, who went on take a maiden single seater victory as Holland quarelled with Jose Alonso Liste for second. The Spaniard eventually picked off the Briton around the outside of Clervaux, but Holland stayed glued to Alonso's tail - finishing less than one second behind to claim his first single seater podium. Moore finished fourth, ahead of Beltoise, Jousse and Piñeiro.
The series next heads to Silverstone for the final round of the season, where four races will decide the 2010 Formula Palmer Audi Champion and the winner of the £100,000 scholarship prize towards a seat in Formula Two. The top six FPA finishers will all receive test drives in the F2 car. Jousse's tally currently stands at 275 points after the worst two rounds are discounted, while Moore - who already has two DNFs - is on 264 points. Piñeiro's strong weekend sees him move into third in the amended table on 240 points, with Jose Alonso Liste six points behind in fourth and Kieran Vernon a further five points back in fifth. France's Vincent Beltoise looks comfortable in sixth, with Dutchman Melroy Heemskerk not expected at Silverstone having also missed this weekend at Croft.