Fabrizio Donoso (Renault Vitality) and Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix) shared the spoils in the first-ever Formula Renault Esport Series event at Interlagos’ Autódromo José Carlos Pace. While the Chilean took top honours in his native continent, the Frenchman got payback in demonstrating the exceptional ability of the Formula Renault Eurocup drivers against the bests from the Esport universe.
Friday evening, more than 20 drivers took part in the opening round of the Formula Renault Esport Series launched in the prelude to the season that will kick-off at Monza (July 9-11). The grid was a mix of 2020 season entrants with former Formula Renault drivers and headliners from the Esport world.
Race 1: Fabrizio Donoso, first and foremost
Cem Bolukbasi (M2 Competition) was quickest in free practice but Fabrizio Donoso led the way in an epic qualifying session with a lap of 1:20.484s, 0.016s better than the driver from Turkey and 0.035s ahead of Victor Martins.
Fabrizio Donoso held onto the lead at the start while Victor Martins got the better of Cem Bolukbasi and the field rattled by the accident involving Richard Arnaud (Renault Vitality), Ugo de Wilde (Arden Motorsport), Laszlo Toth (Bhaitech Racing) and Thomas Maxwell (Team Esport Series).
In the leading trio, Victor Martins overtook Fabrizio Donoso with an outside overtaking move at turn one on lap five. The Chilean driver tried to respond, but his efforts worked in favour of Cem Bolukbasi who slotted in between the two.
On lap nine, Victor Martins got caught out at the exit of Senna corner. Cem Bolukbasi inherited the lead and began to pull away before his hope for victory vanished when he ran into the lapped, slowing Tommy Smith (JD Motorsport) five laps later.
Back at the sharp end of the order, Fabrizio Donoso didn’t waver as the attacks came from Victor Martins and won with a 0.3s advantage over the Frenchman. Grégoire Saucy (ART Grand Prix) completed the podium ahead of Lorenzo Colombo, who started 11th on the grid, and a trio of Dutch drivers composed of Bent Viscaal (MP Motorsport), Beitske Visser (M2 Competition) and Joey Alders (JD Motorsport). Cem Bolukbasi finished eighth while Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport) and Mahaveer Raghunathan (Team Esport Series) rounded out the top ten.
Race 2: Cunning revenge for Victor Martins
Cem Bolukbasi took the pole in the second qualifying session with a lap of 1:20.128s, but the Turkish driver had a problem on the grid, leaving Fabrizio Donoso and Victor Martins to battle for the lead. Further back, Bent Viscaal went from sixth place to third before he made a faux-pas that Lorenzo Colombo exploited to reclaim his starting position.
On the attack from the start, Fabrizio Donoso pulled away from those behind before Lorenzo Colombo made his way past Victor Martins on lap five to chase him down. The Italian pushed hard and made the most from an error from the race leader while further back in the field Ugo de Wilde, Richard Verschoor and William Alatalo (JD Motorsport) fought it out for fourth place.
On lap 12, Lorenzo Colombo pulled alongside Fabrizio Donoso and stayed there for several corners but couldn’t make his way past the Chilean. Events took a turn for the worse, however, when the Italian collided with Fabrizio Donoso two laps from the chequers. Moving into the lead, the Italian fended off the return of Victor Martins late in the race before receiving a five-second penalty for his part in the incident.
Victor Martins inherited the win ahead of Fabrizio Donoso and Lorenzo Colombo. From ninth on the grid, Richard Verschoor finished just off the podium ahead of Grégoire Saucy, Ugo de Wilde and William Alatalo. Beitske Visser, Richard Verschoor and Xavier Lloveras (Global Racing Service) picked up the final points on offer.
In the general classification, Fabrizio Donoso and Victor Martins sit atop the standings with a 16-point lead from Lorenzo Colombo heading into the second meeting of the Formula Renault Esport Series that will take place next Friday at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve de Montréal.
Fabrizio Donoso (Renault Vitality): "These two races were very intense; I was never able to catch my breath! I had to fight a lot in the first race. Victor used his DRS very early and I wanted to calm things down. It didn’t go according to plan as Cem took advantage to take the lead following Victor’s mistake and I was a bit lucky with his incident with a backmarker to take the win. In race two, I got myself into trouble when I made a small mistake that allowed Lorenzo to come back before this incident for which he immediately apologised. There was some bad luck, but I’m still quite proud of my results tonight. The level of competition is very high but I had a smile on my face as I battled at the wheel of this Formula Renault, which is perhaps one of the toughest to drive on iRacing! "
Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix): "It was a pretty good evening and I would like to thank Renault Sport Racing for giving us a chance to compete and work under pressure before the start of the real season. I also noticed that I was sweating more on my simulator than in my real car! Following an excellent qualifying session against the Esport professionals, I took the lead by being aggressive from the start and using my experience. However, it’s difficult to be consistent with such a sensible car and I made a few mistakes that cost me the win. I put in another good start in race two, but it wasn’t enough to take the lead. After I locked up the wheels and Lorenzo got past me, I focused on scoring big points, but the incident ahead of me worked in my way and I just had to stay behind Lorenzo as soon as I knew about his penalty. It is a nice maiden win with ART Grand Prix. We finished twice first among the Formula Renault Eurocup contingent and I am very pleased to have won two sets of Hankook tyres that we will put to good use when we return to the track in July."
|1. Fabrizio Donoso (Renault Vitality)||43|
|2. Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix)||43|
|3. Lorenzo Colombo (Bhaitech Racing)||27|
|4. Grégoire Saucy (ART Grand Prix)||25|
|5. Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport)||14|
*results subject to confirmation following sporting checks.