Maldonado set for final fight
By claiming his fourth win of the season at Le Mans, Pastor Maldonado (Draco Multiracing USA) has put himself back in contention for the title! Borja Garcia (RC Motorsport) did much the same in finishing third behind Tristan Gommendy, who did his Pons Racing team proud in taking second.
The rain had stopped two hours before the start of the second race. All the drivers decided nevertheless to start the race with wet weather tyres. The key factor in determining pit stop strategy was going to be the speed at which the track would dry out.
Lined up on the right side of the track, Tristan Gommendy made an excellent start from pole position. Several drivers ended up in the gravel trap at the Dunlop chicane: Andy Soucek, Gregory Franchi, Milos Pavlovic and Gavin Cronje were the ones caught out. The safety car was called out as Alx Danielsson came into the pits, his race already over!
At this point, Tristan Gommendy therefore led from Borja Garcia, Alvaro Barba, Pastor Maldonado, Miguel Molina, Celso Miguez, Ryo Fukuda, Ben Hanley, Bruce Jouanny and Christian Montanari. The race resumed after four laps. At the Dunlop chicane, Alvaro Barba took his turn in the gravel trap whilst attempting to overtake Borja Garcia, who was then put under pressure by Pastor Maldonado. Barba rejoined in fifth, in front of Fukuda and he used every trick on the book to prevent the Japanese driver from getting past!
On lap 5, Alvaro Parente, James Rossiter and Marco Barba were the first drivers to come in to the pits for their mandatory stop. The trio all put on slick tyres.
Meanwhile, Maldonado snatched second spot from Garcia. Almost immediately, the Venezuelan started to attack Gommendy. A bit further back, Ryo Fukuda and Ben Hanley were involved in an epic struggle for sixth place, which turned into a battle for fifth when Alvaro Barba span off.
With 11 laps gone, Pastor Maldonado moved past Tristan Gommendy in the start-finish straight before then building up a two-second lead. Miguez, Valsecchi and Pilet came in to put on slicks on lap 14. Maldonado came in a lap later, allowing Gommendy to move back into the lead.
Gommendy and Garcia continued to race on wet tyres until lap 16. But they rejoined behind Maldonado, who could ease home to his fourth win of the year. With nine laps to go, Borja was climbing all over Tristan in an attempt to steal second spot from him. What a superb battle! After clashing with Steven Kane, Alvaro Barba was forced to retire. Maldonado, Gommendy and Garcia were followed by Fukuda, Miguez, Valsecchi, Jouanny, Pilet and Salignon. All four French drivers were in the top 10 at this point!
Pilet was moving up the field with style, first overtaking Jouanny and then Montanari! Montanari dropped out of the top 10 on the penultimate lap, meaning Steven Kane moved up into the points.
Pastor Maldonado: "We gambled by choosing a dry setup. It was difficult to stay on the track on the last few laps. We had a very good pit stop and the car was very quick at the end of the race."
Tristan Gommendy: "My assessment is more or less the opposite of Pastor, as we had gambled on there being rain. The race became more and more difficult, although I was a bit quicker on the last few laps. I think I will be at the Barcelona meeting."
Borja Garcia: "This podium finish is very important for the championship. Our setup was for a wet track. I didn't want to go flat out against Tristan."