Friday evening, the Suzuka round will crown the winner of the inaugural Formula Renault Esport Series season. On a grid bringing together motor racing’s young guns and the Esport stars, three competitors from the Formula Renault Eurocup and two experienced sim racers will battle for the title two weeks before the first race of the year at Monza (July 6-11).
While more than 20 drivers will be in action on the legendary Suzuka Circuit for the Formula Renault Esport Series finale, attention will be focused on the five men in contention to become the first driver to be crowned in the new category initiated by Renault Sport Racing.
The war of the worlds
Among the five contenders, Cem Bölükbaşı (M2 Competition) and Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix) are the favourites after their epic duels last Friday in Austin.
With a string of five consecutive pole positions and three wins, Cem Bölükbaşı sits atop the general classification and hopes to capitalize on his extensive sim racing experience to clinch the title in the opening race. The Turkish driver, who made his Formula Renault Eurocup debut last year at Hockenheim, cannot afford to make any mistakes as he has just a seven-point lead from Victor Martins.
The Frenchman made an impressive transition from the real to the virtual world by running up front right from the word go to win at Interlagos and Austin. Always committed behind the wheel, he will aim for no less than a pair of wins that would guarantee him the crown and a big confidence boost before the opening round of the Formula Renault Eurocup.
Both, however, will have to beware of Fabrizio Donoso (Renault Vitality). Third with a 24-point deficit, the Chilean driver, who represented the Renault DP World F1 Team in the Formula 1 Virtual Grands Prix Exhibition Races, has never finished outside the top three and will give it his all to create a surprise.
Slightly further back, Lorenzo Colombo (Bhaitech Racing) and Grégoire Saucy (ART Grand Prix) will have the same target as both will seek every opportunity to beat the odds.
For each of them, the stakes will be all the higher as the eventual champion will give his team (under its current name) a first Formula Renault title!
Will the field get revenge?
While the fight up front promises to be exciting, several protagonists will want to shine like Isack Hadjar (M2 Competition) did when he fell just short of a top-three result in his debut in Austin.
The Franco-Algerian driver will not be alone as the Renault Sport Academy driver Caio Collet (R-ace GP) and Renault Vitality driver in the F1 Esport Series Nicolas Longuet (Renault Vitality) would also like to convert their speed into a solid result.
Podium finishers in Montreal, William Alatalo (JD Motorsport) and László Tóth (Bhaitech Racing) will look to repeat their performances on the Japanese track before heading to Monza to begin their first season in the Formula Renault Eurocup.
Also entered in the Formula Renault Eurocup, Paul Aron (ART Grand Prix), Xavier Lloveras (Global Racing Service) and Nicola Marinangeli (Bhaitech Racing) will aim for a first podium result, as will Clio Cup competitors Marc De Fulgencio and Romain Boeckler (Team Esport Series).
The Dutch quartet of Tijmen van der Helm (FA Racing), Bent Viscaal (MP Motorsport), Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport) and Formula Renault Asia and Formula 3 Asia champion Joey Alders (JD Motorsport) should once again provide quite a show in the heart of the field as will Mahaveer Raghunathan (Team Esport Series), Vladislav Lomko (Team Esport Series) and Callan O’Keeffe (M2 Competition).
Castrol and B.R.M. in the spotlight
Renault Sport Racing customer racing partner Castrol and Formula Renault Eurocup and Clio Cup France partner B.R.M. will each enter one driver for this outstanding finale in Japan.
While B.R.M. has chosen Charles Milesi, who won the Formula Renault Eurocup race held as the curtain raiser for the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix and now races in Super Formula, Castrol will rely on one of the most promising up-and-coming drivers in the FIA World Rally Championship, Oliver Solberg.
Oliver’s presence will echo that of his father Petter, the three-time world champion in rally and rallycross, at the Dutch Virtual Grand Prix with the Renault DP World F1 Team coulours alongside 2018 Formula Renault Eurocup best rookie Christian Lundgaard, who will also make his debut at Suzuka.
Friday, June 26
19:15-19:25 Qualifying 1
19:28-19:55 Race 1
20:10-20:20 Qualifying 2
20:23-20:50 Race 2