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Formula Renault 3.5

A French first for the FR 3.5 Series

The last racing event to attract over 100,000 fans to the Paul Ricard HTTT was the final round of the Renault championship in 1998. Current Formula Renault 3.5 Series leader Robert Wickens was 9 at the time, second-placed Jean-Eric Vergne was 8, and Kevin Korjus (Tech 1 Racing) the youngest of man in the field, was a mere 5. Thirteen years on those stars of the future will be taking centre-stage at the famous French track as the FR 3.5 Series makes its ever first stop there. To mark this special occasion, the legendary Alain Prost will be at the wheel of the Renault F1 car he drove to victory at this very circuit in 1983, with his son Nicolas sharing the track with him in a Lotus Renault GP.

There will be plenty else to keep the fans entertained as well, especially on the track, where the tension is sure to rise as the Formula Renault 3.5 Series season nears its denouement. Though there are six drivers still in with a mathematical chance of glory, the title has almost certainly come down to a straight fight between Carlin stable-mates Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne. Driving in the Marussia Virgin Racing colours, the Canadian notched a crucial one-two at Silverstone to storm back to the top of the standings, some 34 points clear of the Red Bull Junior Team driver.

The Frenchman will have home advantage at the Paul Ricard HTTT, however, and a passionate crowd on his side, although Wickens will not be lacking in confidence after recording the fastest times in two days of collecting testing at the Provence track in March. With Carlin having already clinched the team title, the duo are free to fight it out for the illustrious drivers’ crown.

Among the other drivers hoping to make an impact in the south of France is Daniel Ricciardo, who will be making his final Formula Renault 3.5 Series appearance of the season. The HRT Formula One man will miss the Barcelona meeting as it clashes with the Japanese Grand Prix, and is hoping to sign off in the best possible style from the discipline that opened the doors to F1 for him. Currently lying third, the Australian needs to put more points on the board to protect his podium place from the chasing Albert Costa (Epic Racing), Kevin Korjus and Alexander Rossi (Fortec Motorsports), who complete the top six.

Rookies Korjus and Rossi have shone this season. The Estonian, a Gravity Academy apprentice, has three race wins to his name, while the American, a member of the Air Asia Team Lotus Driver Development Program, has taken the chequered flag once. Fourth-placed Costa, meanwhile, has been a model of consistency, only failing to collect points in two of 13 races so far this season. The young Spaniard is still without a win, however, and has four races to set that record straight.

The French trio of Nelson Panciatici (KMP Racing), Nathanaël Berthon (ISR) and Arthur Pic (Tech 1 Racing) will also be determined to make an impression. With one podium finish apiece, Panciatici and Berthon have proved they have what it takes. The ISR man also knows what it means to succeed in front of his fans, having won at Magny-Cours last season. For his part, Pic is improving with every race and has every chance of impressing at the Paul Ricard HTTT, while local boy Stéphane Richelmi (International Draco Racing), who hails from Monaco, should feel right at home at the Provence track.

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 10 September 2011
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