Barcelona winner Julien Jousse takes runner-up spot
After his win last Saturday Julien Jousse was already a happy man, and Sunday saw him on top of the world. The last two items of unsettled business in the 2008 Formula Renault 3.5 Series were in the balance in Barcelona, and things went Julien's way as he helped himself to the vice- champion's mantle and his team Tech 1 Racing to its second consecutive Team title!
Championship winner Giedo Van der Garde had already been crowned in Estoril, but the runner-up spot was still up for grabs in Barcelona. Experienced driver Fabio Carbone held a two-point advantage over Julien Jousse going into the meeting. Also, Miguel Molina still had an outside chance of making up for lost ground on home territory.
The driver from the Var region of France started the weekend in studious form during open practice on the Catalan circuit, and was efficient during qualifying. "By Friday we knew our set-up was good, so all I had to do was make sure I qualified for the Superpole the next day. The qualifying session took place in the rain. I was improving my time but then the red flag came out just 5 seconds from the end of my flying lap. So I only came 5th in my group. Anyhow, it got the job done because the top six qualify for the Superpole. Unfortunately the rain got worse, to the extent that the track got flooded when the Superpole session started. Due to aquaplaning, there was no way we could get up to full speed along the straights!"
In the end the Superpole was called off and the Race 1 grid was set up on the basis of the positions in the qualifying groups. Julien came 5th in group A so he was 9th on the grid. Not great, but it was worse for Fabio Carbone who was to start 12th. So cautious optimism reigned in the Tech 1 Racing camp before the final showdown.
In the formation lap for Race 1 Salvador Duran, who was supposed to have started just ahead of Julien, ran off the track totally unaided and unabetted. Julien got off to a smooth start as the lights extinguished. After making the most of the space that had opened up in front of him and impeccably negotiating the opening turns of the race, Julien emerged in 3rd position! The Tech 1 Racing driver was gaining ground on the leading duo but it became clear that caution was central to his race strategy. Which is more than can be said for some of his rivals! As they came past the pits for the 12th time the leaders collided in the middle of the straight, causing Bonanomi's car to flip over. Judiciously positioned on the left side of the track, Julien got by the accident unscathed and moved up behind Aleshin. "Ten laps from home he made a mistake on braking and I managed to slip by. After that it was plain sailing."
Plain sailing? Julien strung together 10 laps at the head of the race and had opened up a 10 second lead by the time he took the flag. This maiden victory was duly celebrated but he kept a cool head. You might say Julien eat the icing before the cake! The situation was clear -- holding a 4-point lead over Carbone all he had to do was keep the Brazilian's progress in check. Easier said than done of course, especially in a race with mandatory wheel change stops when you don't know what your rival's tactics will be.
The cars lined up for Race 2 with Julien 8th and Carbone 11th. "I was feeling the pressure because this was the biggest race of my career. I was cautious at the start but was soon lapping at a good pace. In my pit stop the team performed the tyre change perfectly. After that, knowing Fabio was way back in 10th place, I decided to play safe and make sure of the points for coming 5th. It feels great to be vice-champion, and it's even better knowing the team as a whole is successful." How right he is. Tech 1 repeated its 2007 success by taking the Teams title.
After a dream weekend Julien will be concentrating on his preparation for the 2009 season. There are still more questions than answers for the future so let's just savour the moment. But Julien will be back as soon as testing starts!