GEARBOX PROBLEMS HINDER QUALIFYING
The Cram by P1 team arrived in Estoril with high hopes for a strong weekend, but following a myriad of manufacturing problems on Pippa Mann's car, it was fingers crossed for Saturday morning's qualifying session.
However, disaster struck for the team when Mann's No.20 WSR car failed in the early stages of qualifying. The gearbox problems the young Brit's car had been suffering throughout testing reared their troublesome head again, and prompted Mann to pull off the circuit on her second lap. Unable to continue from this or post a flying lap in the entire session, Mann will be forced to start the afternoon's race from the back of the grid.
Mann commented on her disappointment, "The last few days have been so frustrating for me and the guys, and this morning I really felt that had we lasted the session, we could have been right up the order. There isn't much more I can say - the team couldn't have done any more than they did, and we'll just have to see how this weekend pans out for us.
"I have to tell myself we can still get points in the second race, but that will largely depend on whether we can get he car ready for Race One, and whether or not we continue to be dogged by the gearbox issues. It's so unfortunate that we should struggle with reliability at this event, because we really could have had such a strong weekend."
Race 1: Mann On The Pace But Out Of Luck
Pippa Mann's torrid weekend continued on Saturday afternoon, as the 23-year old from Suffolk faced more heartache as she was denied the chance to climb up through the field following an incident on lap one. Finishing the race in 24th place, the result was agonizingly unrepresentative of Mann's impressive performance. Posting the second fastest lap of the race overall, second fastest time in sector three, and fastest time in sector two, unfortunately for Mann it was a case of 'if only'.
Mann made a fantastic start off the line, but before she was halfway to the first corner, Ben Hanley (Prema Powerteam) had a collision, sending his car up into the air where he connected with the pit wall. The field was forced to brake and swerve to avoid debris, so Mann backed off but still made up three places exiting turn one.
At turn two another car went off into the gravel ahead of Mann and re- joined on the entry into the third corner, just in front of the Cram by P1 car. Mann had nowhere to go and the impact knocked her right front tyre and damaged the front wing. Nursing the car back to the pits, Mann came in for a wing change but unfortunately, as the incident occurred outside of the pit window, the team would have to bring her in separately for the mandatory tyre change.
Knowing she would have to make a second pitstop, Mann continued and was lapping impressively. The team called her in relatively early on in the race, and when she re-joined was amongst the leaders - albeit a lap down. However, the No.20 WSR machine was lapping consistently quickly, and actually gaining on those leading the race.
Mann brought the Cram by P1 car home in 24th position, from where she will start Race Two. Her notable pace was bittersweet for all involved, as had gearbox problems not hindered her qualifying position, she could well have been challenging for some major points in Estoril.
Pragmatic as ever Mann said, "Of course it's good to know that the only two people to break into the 1:27.00s during that race were myself and the winner. You have to look at the positives - I've been quick since we got here. I was fast when we put the car down, fast yesterday afternoon, even fast for my one qualifying lap and definitely right up there during the race in terms of speed. I'm sure we'll be quick tomorrow, I'm just hoping we have a bit more luck."
Race 2: Top Fifteen Rounds Off Difficult Weekend
Pippa Mann drove a solid second race at Estoril to take a deserved 15th position at the World Series by Renault event in Portugal. The penultimate race meeting of the year was dogged by gearbox problems, a qualifying session that was over before it had begun, and a lap one incident in the first race that put pay to any real chance the young British driver had of getting into the points. Nonetheless, her impressive performance, consistency and speed was something positive to take away from the weekend, with the rookie driver showing more potential than ever.
When the lights went out Mann got off the line well from 24th, with plenty of momentum despite some slight wheel spin. She managed to complete lap one without incident and started the second lap in 22nd position, pushing hard to catch Dani Move (Interwetten). On lap three Mann dived down the inside of Move at the first turn and successfully passed the Russian driver. A couple of laps later Mann repeated the move on Comtec's Michael Herck, leaving the 23-year old from Suffolk in 20th position.
Now lying behind championship contender and fellow Brit Ben Hanley (Prema Powerteam), the team began to urge Mann to push harder. Mann responded and her lap times instantly came down, though she was suffering from slight handling problems due to wear on her tyres. Sticking close to the tail of Hanley, Mann continued to fight for position, but after eight laps the Prema Powerteam car pulled into the pits and Mann moved up into 19th position.
The No.20 Cram by P1 car was now closing in on Carlin Motorsport's Mikhail Aleshin, but the Russian noticed Mann in his mirrors and responded accordingly, pulling away by a couple of tenths. Mann soon closed the gap again and the pair were now nose to tail and catching the group of cars ahead.
Both Aleshin and Mann managed to squeeze past Salvador Duran (Interwetten) and were now lying in 14th and 15th position respectively. Unable to get close enough to Aleshin's rear wing, despite setting her fastest time of the race on the last lap, Mann was forced to settle for 15th place.
It was a tough weekend for Mann, who is now approaching the end of her first season in the World Series by Renault. However, she remained upbeat about the situation, saying, "We have been quick all weekend and I can't be unhappy about that. Obviously the gearbox problems hindered us from the start, and that's very frustrating in light of how quick we were at an event that as it turns out, would have had so much potential."