Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix) and Cem Bölükbaşı (M2 Competition) shared the laurels in round three of the Formula Renault Esport Series. At the Circuit of The Americas, the Frenchman took the win in race one before his rival took revenge and the lead in the general classification ahead of the season finale at Suzuka ( 26 June). Fabrizio Donoso (Renault Vitality) completed the podium in both races contested Friday evening.
After a break last week, the Formula Renault Esport Series returned to action with more than 20 drivers entered for the Texas meeting. Several motor racing hopefuls made their debut, including Renault Sport Academy drivers Caio Collet and 2018 Formula Renault Eurocup title winner Max Fewtrell. Formula 4 was represented by Vladislav Lomko and Isack Hadjar as well as the Clio Cup with Marc De Fulgencio and Romain Boeckler.
Race 1: Martins in control
While Victor Martins led the way in practice, Cem Bölükbaşı took pole position with a lap of 1:49.761s, 0.014s ahead of the Frenchman. Fabrizio Donoso, Lorenzo Colombo (Bhaitech Racing) and Isack Hadjar (Team Esport Series) rounded out the top five in qualifying.
Cem Bölükbaşı held onto the lead at the start while Fabrizio Donoso moved up to second place before Victor Martins retook the spot a few corners later. Further back, Isack Hadjar, Grégoire Saucy (ART Grand Prix) and Lorenzo Colombo battled for position in a field shuffled by the spin of Nicolas Longuet (Renault Vitality).
Despite their intense duel that played out just until the finish, Cem Bölükbaşı and Victor Martins quickly pulled away from the rest of the field. On lap three, the Frenchman found an opening but his opponent wasn’t about to throw in the towel and stayed less than a second behind the leader. Despite several attempts from his chasing rival, Victor Martins held on to take his second success in the Formula Renault Esport Series.
The battle for third step on the podium was just as fierce. Fabrizio Donoso was overtaken by Isack Hadjar on lap four, but the Franco-Algerian driver pitted after he made his move. Four laps later, Lorenzo Colombo surprised Fabrizio Donoso, but the Italian driver fell victim to an accident on the penultimate lap of the race.
Fabrizio Donoso went on to finish third ahead of Grégoire Saucy and Isack Hadjar, who fought his way up the order following his penalty. Despite a spin on lap ten, Marc De Fulgencio (Team Esport Series) came home sixth ahead of Caio Collet (R-ace GP), Nicolas Longuet, Joey Alders (JD Motorsport) and Lorenzo Colombo.
Race 2: Bölükbaşı gets his revenge
With a best time of 1:49.465s and just 0.013s ahead of Victor Martins, Cem Bölükbaşı claimed his fifth consecutive pole position ahead of the Frenchman while the top five once again featured Fabrizio Donoso, Lorenzo Colombo and Isack Hadjar.
Fabrizio Donoso got the best start to take the lead ahead of Victor Martins and sixth on the grid, Nicolas Longuet. Meanwhile, Cem Bölükbaşı fell to sixth place after turn one, but the order quickly changed.
Victor Martins moved into the lead on the back straight. Nicolas Longuet also tried to move up a position under braking, but spun and collected Isack Hadjar in the process. Fabrizio Donoso held onto second place, but Cem Bölükbaşı got around him on lap two.
Once again, Victor Martins and Cem Bölükbaşı soon distanced themselves from the field where Lorenzo Colombo, William Alatalo (JD Motorsport) and Grégoire Saucy were in a skirmish for position while Isack Hadjar fought his way up the order.
The duel between the leaders came to a crescendo with several twists and turns. On lap eight, Victor Martins made an error that Cem Bölükbaşı took advantage of immediately to claim the lead, but the Frenchman answered back two laps later before the Turkish made his final attack that saw him take the lead just a few corners before the chequered flag waved.
Further back, Fabrizio Donoso took a second podium result in the wake of celebrating his 21st birthday. Once again in the top five, Isack Hadjar and Grégoire Saucy were followed by William Alatalo and Lorenzo Colombo, who received a drive-through penalty for contact with Fabrizio Donoso on lap seven. Paul Aron (ART Grand Prix) won his battle with Vladislav Lomko (Team Esport Series) and Mahaveer Raghunathan (Team Esport Series) for eighth place.
With his third win of the season, Cem Bölükbaşı takes the lead in the general classification while Victor Martins, Fabrizio Donoso, Lorenzo Colombo and Grégoire Saucy are still in title contention heading into the season finale at Suzuka on Friday June 26.
Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix): "The two races were fantastic with some intense battles. My start in race one wasn’t very good, but I attacked Fabrizio immediately, then passed Cem and from there I controlled my race all the way to the finish despite a couple of mistakes that didn’t make my job any easier against such a stiff competitor. I wasn’t quite as fast and had more trouble with the tyres in race two. I tried to be consistent, but it wasn’t enough. I am still very happy to have taken another win and two sets of Hankook tyres!"
Cem Bölükbaşı (M2 Competition): "It was very intense tonight with the battles for the win with Victor. Overtaking is difficult at Austin as we quickly hit the rev limiter with the DRS. Victor was more incisive than me to take the lead in race one. I decided to play it safe and give priority to the general classification and that may have prevented me from taking advantage of his mistakes. However, I got my revenge in race two. I used the DRS too much early in the race and I knew that my only chance was to wait for the last lap and to get a better exit out of the hairpin than him. I am already looking forward to Suzuka next week!"
|1. Cem Bölükbaşı (M2 Competition)||97|
|2. Victor Martins (ART Grand Prix)||90|
|3. Fabrizio Donoso (Renault Vitality)||73|
|4. Lorenzo Colombo (Bhaitech Racing)||70|
|5. Grégoire Saucy (ART Grand Prix)||58|