The 2007 World Series by Renault is set to reach its climax in Catalonia, on the Montmelo race track. Whilst Brendon Hartley has already wrapped up the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title, the winners of the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 and ...
The 2007 World Series by Renault is set to reach its climax in Catalonia, on the Montmelo race track. Whilst Brendon Hartley has already wrapped up the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title, the winners of the World Series Formula Renault 3.5 and Eurocup Megane Trophy titles remain to be decided. Both championships are currently led by Tech 1 Racing's Portuguese drivers: Alvaro Parente and Pedro Petiz.
The grand finale
Just as in 2006, the season is set to draw to a close in Barcelona. Whilst the teams apply the finishing touches in their preparation of the cars, the drivers themselves prepare to play out the final act of a season that has so far been full of incident. And there may be more to come! Of the seven available international titles, only one was decided in Estoril. Thanks once again to his unfailing consistency, Brendon Hartley (Epsilon Red Bull) wrapped up the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title. The fight for the runner-up spot still promises to be exciting, given the variety of potential outcomes. For the moment, the advantage is with Jon Lancaster and Charles Pic (SG Formula), but the gaps remain slim.
Obviously, the highlight will be the final round of the World Series Formula Renault 3.5. Admittedly, Alvaro Parente comes to Catalonia with a solid 22-point lead, which is seven more than before the Estoril weekend. Consistent more often than not, the Portuguese ace showed however that he is not infallible. Ben Hanley (Prema Powerteam), who has had his fair share of misfortune this season, will be ready to take advantage of the slightest error. For this final meeting, dare we dream of a real head-to-head fight between these two talented drivers? So far, the contest between the two drivers has been at arm's length. The duo has yet to have the chance to go head-to-head on the track for a race win. In concentrating on his fight with Parente, Hanley must not, however, forget about Milos Pavlovic (Draco Racing), the "Sunday man", who is only a few points adrift.
In Eurocup Megane Trophy, the title race is between the two Tech 1 Racing drivers: Pedro Petiz and Dimitri Enjalbert. The former has a clear lead in the championship standings, but the latter vows to continue to attack for as long as he has a chance! In the race for third-place, all eyes will focus on the fight between Maxime Martin (Boutsen Energy Racing) and Ralph Meichtry (Race Performance).
Two national categories round off the weekend's sporting programme. Ahead of the final round at Jerez at the start of December, the Spanish Clio Cup will feature on the Catalan race track for the second time this season. Armed with a comfortable lead, having won three out of the five races so far, Fernando Navarrete looks on course to take the title. This season's other race winners, Martin Bozal and Nacho Gabari, will be hoping to stop Fernando in his tracks. The top two in the French Formula Renault 2.0 Championship are already known: Jules Bianchi and Mathieu Arzeno. It's now just a question of seeing who will join them on the final podium...
In the headlines: Maxime Martin
Fourth in last year's Belgian Formula Renault 1.6, Maxime Martin has given new impetus to his career since he joined Eurocup Megane Trophy. Despite being quick, both in qualifying (seven front row starts) and in the races (three fastest race laps), he has often missed out on race wins due to time lost in the pits. Which is particularly frustrating, considering that he is the driver that has spent the most time in the lead in this season's races: 298km (28%), way ahead of Dimitri Enjalbert (167km)! In Estoril, the Boutsen Energy Racing driver put things right by winning the Sunday race. He now lies third in the Eurocup and he fully intends to stay there!
Third podium spot up for grabs
Coming ahead of the launch of the Formula Renault 2.0 West European Cup, the final round of the 2007 French Championship will be held at the Barcelona track. As Jules Bianchi (SG Formula) and Mathieu Arzeno (Epsilon Sport) are already sure of finishing in the top two positions, the focus of this final meeting will be on the fight for the third spot on the podium. There are no fewer than six drivers still in the running!
A four-time winner this season, Bianchi is now the only driver to have finished in the points in every race so far. He secured the title in the second race at Magny-Cours by combining a fifth place finish with the point awarded for the fastest race lap. Meanwhile, Mathieu Arzeno took the points for fourth, thus ensuring he would finish as runner-up. At Barcelona, the two men will nonetheless be determined to finish their season in style. They will no doubt play a key role in deciding which of the six to eight drivers still in contention will grab the final podium spot.
Third position has been held by Alexandre Marsoin (SG Formula) since Magny-Cours. The man from Deux-Sevres in Western France moved ahead of Tristan Vautier (Graff Racing), who hasn't finished in the top three since Dijon, way back in May! Back in the thick of things at Magny-Cours, Charles Pic (SG Formula) moved into the top 5 at the expense of Pierre Combot (Cram Competition). All of these drivers could however be outdone by the Englishman Jon Lancaster, who is the man in form as the season draws to a close. The SG Formula driver has picked up four race wins since September: three in the Eurocup (at Donington & Estoril) and one in the French Championship (Magny-Cours). Like Tristan Vautier, Nelson Lukes (Epsilon Sport) has been off the pace in recent races. The rookie remains in with a chance, however, of finishing on the final podium.
Once again, the British teams will be out in force. Alexander Sims will be racing for Manor Motorsport, whilst Fortec Motorsport is entering three cars for Alex Morgan, Riki Christodoulou and Paul Rees respectively. Last but not least, Double M Racing will make its French Championship debut with Aaron Steele.
A new championship in 2008
Created in 1971, the French Formula Renault Championship is set to undergo a major change in 2008. Just as the German Championship has become the North European Cup, the French series is to acquire a more international dimension and will be known as the West European Cup. Born of the combined expertise of Signature and RPM, this championship will feature eight two-race meetings: four held in France (Nogaro, Dijon, Magny-Cours and/or Le Mans), two in Spain (Valencia, Barcelona), one in Portugal (Estoril) and one in Belgium (Spa). Clearly, the basic principles stay the same and ensure that sporting equity and limited season costs will be maintained: limited number of private tests and tyres, sealed engines with single preparation engineer, presence of spare parts warehouse, etc.
In pursuit of Navarrete
The Spanish Clio Cup competitors will line up in Barcelona for the sixth of the seven events on this year's race schedule. With three pole positions and race wins this year (Barcelona, Valencia and Jarama), Fernando Navarrete looks to be on course to succeed Luis Calleja as champion. Should he manage another pole position/race win combination, the Team Elias driver would wrap up the title this weekend! It would appear that one-time winners Aleix Bozal (Cartagena) and Nacho Gabari (Albacete) are more likely to be fighting it out for second place. But both men should keep a close eye on Daniel Mesalles and Javier Mingorance (Junior standings leader), who are only a few points behind! The excellent performances of Marta Suria are also well worth a mention: the top female driver currently lies 12th overall.