OUTSTANDING YEAR FOR F3 EURO CHAMPION DI RESTA Scottish motor racing star Paul Di Resta can rightly reflect on 2006 as a truly remarkable year, the 20-year-old securing an outstanding double with championship victory in the Formula 3 Euroseries...
OUTSTANDING YEAR FOR F3 EURO CHAMPION DI RESTA
Scottish motor racing star Paul Di Resta can rightly reflect on 2006 as a truly remarkable year, the 20-year-old securing an outstanding double with championship victory in the Formula 3 Euroseries and a classy win in the prestigious BP Ultimate Masters event.
The 2004 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner, who continues to call Bathgate in West Lothian his home town, firmly established himself on the world stage this year as a genuine contender for future Formula One glory and is now waiting to see whether 2007 will bring a graduation to GP2 or a move to the world-renowned DTM touring car series.
Contracted to the Mercedes-Benz Junior Motorsport Programme, Paul is most certainly one of Britain's hottest prospects in world motor racing and having proven his credentials in the globe's most competitive and challenging Formula 3 championship, he clearly deserves the opportunity to climb the ladder all the way to the top.
With a total of six race wins during the season, including his memorable victory in the annual BP Ultimate Masters stand-alone event at Zandvoort in the Netherlands, and a further four podiums to his credit, Paul delivered yet another F3 Euroseries title success for the French ASM team and now aims to continue his rollercoaster of success in 2007.
"It's been an absolutely fantastic year for us and I'd like to thank Mercedes-Benz for giving me the opportunity to race with ASM in the Euroseries", said the Scotsman, "Our aim at the start of the season was to win the championship and to have added the Masters victory as well was the icing on the cake really.
"We're still unsure where we'll be racing in 2007, no decisions have been made just yet, but we are working hard with Mercedes to give me the best possible opportunity to succeed in whichever championship the company feels is right for me at this stage of my career. Obviously GP2 or the DTM would be amazing - we have to wait and see."
With three podiums from the opening four races of the season, Paul immediately established himself as a true favourite for the F3 Euroseries crown and during the fifth round of the year at Oschersleben, he converted second on the grid into his first victory of the campaign.
After the first three race meetings, which all took place in Germany, the F3 Euroseries faced a lengthy six-week break ahead of the championship's maiden visit to the UK and the seventh and eighth rounds of the season at Brands Hatch in Kent.
As near to a 'at-home' event as Paul would experience all year, the weekend started brilliantly for the Scot who not only secured pole position for the opening race but also went on to enjoy a superb victory and post the race's fastest lap.
Under the rules of the F3 Euroseries, the grid for the second race of any given weekend is determined by reversing the top eight finishers from the opening encounter so, with that in mind, Paul started the second Brands Hatch race from eighth on the grid and went on to finish a highly creditable fifth on the tight and twisty Indy configuration.
The championship returned to German soil at the end of July for rounds nine and 10 at the Norisring and Paul immediately re-appeared on the top step of the podium with his third win of the season during the first of the weekend's races.
Faultless BP Ultimate Masters Victory
Although there was a four-week break in the actual F3 Euroseries Championship calendar, the series competitors returned to the track in early August alongside the cream of F3 drivers from national championships across the globe during the annual BP Ultimate Masters race at Zandvoort - formerly known as the Marlboro Masters.
Disappointed to miss out on pole position, Paul made a superb start to the race and dealt admirably with intense pressure from ASM team-mate Giedo van der Garde throughout to take an outstanding and memorable victory after 25 hard-fought laps.
"Like the F3 Euroseries title, victory at the Masters was a goal at the start of the year so for us to win such an important and historic race really was a dream come true", said Paul, "It certainly wasn't an easy win, Giedo put me under a lot of pressure, but my laps were consistently smooth and fast and that was what I needed to do."
The F3 Euroseries campaign resumed at the famous Nurburgring in Germany two weeks after the Masters event and having recorded yet another podium with second position during round 11, what would have been Paul's fourth championship win of the season was stripped away in highly controversial fashion.
An attempted overtaking manoeuvre on team-mate van der Garde ended up with both cars touching and the Dutchman spinning as he tried to block the move. Without doubt a result of the wet track and certainly not down to any wrong-doing on Paul's part, the championship officials nonetheless served him with a 30 second penalty.
Harsh by anyone's standards, the decision didn't affect Paul's placing at the head of the driver standings though and for the return to Zandvoort for rounds 13 and 14, the ASM sensation hit-back instantly with pole position and victory during the first race.
Paul's last win of the season came during the 17th round of the championship at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit in France, an excellent result from fifth on the grid, and the title was then secured during the season finale at Hockenheim in Germany.
"To win the championship in my second season of Formula 3 racing is an achievement I am very proud of", commented Paul, "It's been an amazing year competing with ASM and I want to thank the team for bringing me on so much as a driver. Hopefully 2007 will be another successful year, I'm looking forward now to a fresh challenge."
Having tested in GP2, the final single-seater rung on the ladder to Formula One, and also DTM in recent weeks, the world's premier touring car series, Paul must now wait to see where Mercedes-Benz will place him in 2007.