Simon Pagenaud won a dramatic and eventful wet final race of the season at Donington Park in which championship leader Loic Duval finished fourth to comfortably win the title. A sudden change in weather as the cars assembled on the grid forced ...
Simon Pagenaud won a dramatic and eventful wet final race of the season at Donington Park in which championship leader Loic Duval finished fourth to comfortably win the title. A sudden change in weather as the cars assembled on the grid forced everyone to change to wet tyres and the damp track provided plenty of entertainment as cars twitched, spun and swerved into each other all through the 20 laps around the National circuit.
"It was very hard", said Pagenaud. "It was difficult to stay on the track because of the rain and you have to be very careful in the conditions. I am very happy to win today because it was very difficult for me."
There was light drizzle as the cars lined up on the grid and grey clouds loomed just beyond the first corner. The rain became stronger as the start approached prompting the race to be declared a wet race and all the leading drivers to change to wet tyres. There was frantic activity the mechanics ran back onto the grid to change and readjust the tyres but after an extra five minutes the grid was ready. The conditions were very slippery as the drivers toured around on the warm-up lap and Julien Falcini Joulian and suffered a quick spin before rejoining to start at the back.
Pagenaud got a good solid start as did Emmanuel Piget who was alongside him on the grid. Pagenaud pulled over to the inside of the track to ensure that he maintained his lead. Duval, meanwhile, did not get a great start and was relatively slow away from the line - this allowed both Guillaume Moreau and Julien Falcini Joulian to close right up and pass through the first corner. There was drama just behind as Bruce Lorgere Roux, who was second in the championship, stalled on the line dropped right down the field to nineteenth place. Antoine Leclerc also stalled on the grid and had to be push-started, but his race was short-lived as he spun off the circuit after half a lap.
Pagenaud was quickly building up a noticeable lead leaving a long queue of cars behind to battle for second place. Piget made a mistake and allowed both Moreau and Pilet to pass. Matthieu Lahaye and Duval nearly touched at the final chicane and ran along the pit straight noise to tail. Pierre Alain Bournot had a big moment at the Old Hairpin as he spun at high speed but fortunately caught the car and was able to continue, loosing just five seconds.
On lap four Pagenaud was leading with Moreau about 1.5 seconds behind in second place. Pilet had moved up to third with Piget strongly defending fourth place from Johan Boris Scheier who got past at the first corner on the next lap.
There was a fierce battle further down the field between Falcini Joulian and Ludovic Badley. After running several corners side-by-side the cars inevitably touched sending Badley into the gravel trap and Falcini Joulian to limp round to the pitlane.
The top three were running nose-to-tail and Pilet was piling on the pressure. His car was quicker that Pagenaud's exiting the slower corners but slower through the faster corners. He tried to use this advantage out of the final chicane on lap eight to go round the outside of Pagenaud at Redgate but Pagenaud strongly defended his position. Further round the lap Pilet got a great line out of the slow Coppice corner and got a good run down the back straight approaching the final chicane. Both drivers braked as late as they dared and squeezed each other as much as possible, allowing Moreau to close up too. Then all three drove along the pit straight side-by-side but Pilet was bravest and held on to put his nose in front into Redgate.
Pilet and Moreau now started to pull away from the third placed Pagenaud who was rapidly falling back towards Duval who had moved up to fourth. The positions were maintained for the next few laps until the Pilet made a mistake on lap thirteen and spun at the exit of the Old Hairpin. Moreau had to brake heavily and swerve to avoid his spinning team-mate but he kept going and took over the lead. Pilet rejoined in third place and the whole incident allowed Duval to close up by a couple of seconds.
Incredibly on the next lap Moreau made exactly the same mistake as Pilet had done and spun at the exit of the Old Hairpin, again losing a couple of seconds and places. Pagenaud was now back in the lead with two recovering drivers very close behind him.
The last few laps were extremely close as Pagenaud and Pilet battled intensely. Pilet got a great run out of the last corner with a couple of laps to go and tried to pull alongside Pagenaud on the pit straight but Pagenaud pulled directly across Pilet's path to block him. This loss of momentum allowed Moreau to close up and challenge Pilet who in turn was forced to defend his position aggressively for half a lap.
The top three continued to brake late and challenge each other all round the circuit but no-one was able to pass and Pagenaud eventually crossed the line to win by under 0.2 seconds from Pilet. Moreau held on to third place with a rapidly closing Duval finishing fourth to win the championship with 196 points ahead of Pilet with 178 Lorgere Roux's bad start cost him dearly as, despite working his way up to fifth with an incredible recovery, he fell down to third in the championship with 168 points.