Ledenon, France (April 28, 2002) - The second round of the FFSA French National Formula Renault Championship took place on the very challenging a newly resurfaced track near Nimes under ideal conditions. After the problems experienced by ...
Ledenon, France (April 28, 2002) - The second round of the FFSA French National Formula Renault Championship took place on the very challenging a newly resurfaced track near Nimes under ideal conditions. After the problems experienced by Dan McMullen and the HEXIS Racing Team in his first professional race in Nogaro at the end of March, where electrical problems hindered his efforts, Dan was extremely focused on the task at hand going into this weekend's event. His goal was to move up on the starting grid and earn some valuable championship points.
Friday's practice session went well and Dan was only 0.20 seconds behind teammate Philippe Dumas, pole sitter and runner-up at the first round in the championship. All was looking well going into Saturday's qualifying but a problem with the setup became readily apparent early on in the session. Somehow the alignment of the front wheels changed overnight and Dan had to suffer with the left front tire toeing out quite a bit more than it should and made the car difficult to handle. Dan pitted at one point to have the tire pressures checked in the hopes of correcting the ill handling car but because of several factors, his crew did not see him enter the pit lane and as a result, he returned to the track to do the best that he could. In the end Dan finished up a credible 20th on the grid but with a very worn left front tire. Following the session the damaged tire was taken to the technicians at Michelin for inspection, under the watchful eyes of the FFSA Officials, and it was determined that the tire would be okay for the race. It was decided to switch the front tires side to side to minimize the effects of driving on it with the suspension misaligned. Under the rules for the series you cannot change a tire without incurring a penalty unless the tire is damaged so as to be a safety risk. Unfortunately this was not the case.
Come race day the car had been gone over by the HEXIS Racing technicians and everything was double checked to ensure that the car would be right for the race. On the warm-up lap Dan found the car to be much better and he was confident in having a good race. As the lights changed to green he made a phenomenal start and was passed the two cars ahead of him before they could even get away from their grid spots. As all of the drivers approached corner one there was a coming together between third place starter Alexandre Premat and fifth place Nicolas Lapierre. As many drivers took evasive action Dan was able to capitalize on the situation and gained a further two positions. Now up to sixteenth he put his head down and charged off after those in front of him. His car was much better than it had been all weekend and he was able to pick off five more cars before the end of the race, setting his fastest time of the weekend in doing so. Where almost all of the other competitors were a half to a full second slower in the race compared to qualifying, Dan was a few tenths faster in the race. At the checkered flag, Dan crossed the line in eleventh position, just one place form earning his first points of the season. There was great deal of disappointment but this would not last long as team manager Xavier Combet told Dan that a driver ahead of him had been black flagged for a jumped start and disobeyed the order, subsequently being disqualified from the race. This elevated Dan to the final points paying position which was well deserved considering all he had to contend with.
Next up is the street race at the famous Pau Grand Prix on May 18-20. Last year while contesting the Elf Renault Formula Campus Championship, Dan was very fast on the tight circuit through the picturesque town in the south of France and had high hopes for a podium finish before making a slight error on one of the many bumps around the circuit. As a result, he took off one corner, but because of a rule in the Elf la Filiere program, any incident that damages ten or more pieces on the car forces the driver sitting out that race. No such problems like that this year though!