Aspiring FIA Formula One World Championship racer Daniël De Jong wrapped-up his four-event 2012 programme in the supporting GP2 Series with a pair of impressive drives at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend, 1st/2nd September – just missing out on the top 10 during Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Dovetailing selected outings in GP2 with his commitments in AUTO GP this year, the 20-year-old from The Netherlands has been making big improvements in both championships throughout the course of their respective seasons.
Climbing his way through the order superbly from 21st on the grid into 13th position in the first of the weekend’s races on Saturday afternoon, the Rapax Team driver went on to deliver an excellent 11th place finish in race two at the famous Belgian track – gaining two positions over the course of the final couple of laps to conclude his last GP2 race of the year with a real flourish.
“It’s been a really positive weekend for sure, I learned a lot and we had really good pace in race two”, said Daniël, “I would have liked a top 10 and I think that was possible, others were struggling with their tyres but ours were good. We did lose time at the start avoiding a crash, and I was hitting the limiter on the straights, but even so it was a good race and a good way to finish the weekend.”
Lining up 13th on the grid for Sunday morning’s race as per his finishing position from the day before, the Karpack, Boix Europe and ECOCUPS-backed driver had to take avoiding action at the beginning due to the collision ahead, and lost a couple of places, but fought back strongly with a mature drive.
Battling back into 13th place, Daniël mounted a determined challenge on the experienced Rodolfo Gonzalez and was able to pass the Venezuelan on the penultimate lap before then taking 11th as well from Fabio Onidi on the final tour; finishing just five seconds shy of the coveted top 10.
“We really worked hard on the car on Saturday night and made the right decision with the set-up and what we should do”, he explained, “I think without losing the positions at the start, and then the long fight with [Rodolfo] Gonzalez, we showed we had the pace to be in the top 10.”
Saturday’s encounter was red-flagged after just eight laps, five of which were behind the Safety Car, due to extensive barrier repairs which were required at Eau Rouge following an accident involving Nigel Melker.
Beginning the race on the soft compound Pirelli tyres, which marked Daniël’s first experience of Spa in the dry in a GP2 car as practice and qualifying were affected by rain, he unfortunately slipped back a few positions at the La Source hairpin on lap one but from there put together an excellent race.
Prior to the emergence of the Safety Car, due to Melker’s excursion, Daniël had moved inside the top 20 and before the race stoppage was called he was one of a number of drivers to take their mandatory pit-stop while the Safety Car was on track – moving up to 17th before the red flags flew.
Having made some changes to his set-up before the re-start some time later, the Dutchman fought his way up the order impressively into a competitive 13th position, even though he had to cope with unexpected understeer which limited his potential pace.
“We had a difficult start to the weekend in the wet on Friday”, explained Daniël, “I had a problem with the throttle sticking in practice so the car went into the wall and there was quite a bit of damage. The team did a great job to get the car ready for qualifying though and it felt good, so I was surprised to be 21st on the grid as I thought our pace was better.
“Anyway, I’d never driven Spa in GP2 in the dry so race one was quite difficult. I lost a lot of places at the first corner but after that it was going OK and then I was just behind Nigel [Melker] when he went in the wall. We were able to change the set-up before the re-start but we had a lot of understeer afterwards so it wasn’t so good unfortunately.”
He added: “Overall though it was a good weekend, race two was good and I’ve definitely improved in the GP2 car. It would have been nice to be in the points but we were quite close anyway. I’m quite happy with how everything has gone.”
With his GP2 commitments now completed, Daniël’s next competitive action will come during the final two rounds of the AUTO GP season at Infineon Raceway in the United States of America over the weekend 22nd/23rd September.
Source: Rapax Team