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Formula Renault 3.5

Alexander Rossi (Fortec Motorsports) came out on top in the weekend’s second FR 3.5 Series race at the Paul Ricard HTTT, taking the flag ahead of Daniel Ricciardo (ISR). Third-placed Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) also had every reason to be cheerful, the Frenchman collecting 15 points to cut Robert Wickens’ (Carlin) championship lead to just two points after the Canadian suffered a blowout, leaving the title race wide open ahead of the season finale in Barcelona in October.

The teeming rain and two spins did not prevent Vergne from taking pole position in morning qualifying ahead of Rossi. Thankfully the forecast was brighter for the start of the race, prompting the whole field to opt for slicks.

Producing the perfect start, Rossi made an instant attempt to snatch the lead from Vergne only for the Frenchman to hold his line on the inside of turn one and retain his position. The safety car was soon out, however, when Jan Charouz (Gravity-Charouz), Daniel McKenzie (Comtec Racing), Nelson Panciatici (KMP Racing) and Daniil Move (P1 Motorsport) were all involved in a shunt at the first chicane.

Vergne held onto his lead on the restart, followed by Rossi, Ricciardo, Wickens and Jake Rosenzweig (Mofaz Racing), the Frenchman posting a succession of fastest laps in the run-up to the obligatory pit stop. Rossi kept pace with the leader, while Ricciardo was the first of the frontrunners to make his stop, pitting right at the start of the window. Meanwhile, a mistake by Wickens allowed Rosenzweig to leapfrog him into third.

In a repeat of his Silverstone mishap, a troublesome rear wheel cost Vergne valuable time on his compulsory stop, which ended with him behind Ricciardo. Putting in some fast times while everyone else headed for the pits, Rossi ended the window in front of Ricciardo and Vergne, with Rosenzweig and Wickens completing the top five.

His tactics having worked to perfection, the American was on course for victory, with little to choose between the four men behind him and Spain’s Sergio Canamasas (BVM Target) also moving into contention. Under pressure, the Canadian went wide round a corner and punctured, forcing him into the pits once more and down to 19th place, well out of the points.

Encountering no such problems, Rossi held on to his lead to complete his second win of the season. Competing in his last race in the series, Ricciardo, who will be driving at the Japanese Grand Prix on the same weekend as the FR 3.5 Series finale in Barcelona, took second ahead of Vergne. The Frenchman’s third place completed a near-perfect weekend for him, as he now lies just two points behind Wickens in the overall standings with two more races to come at Catalunya.

Official Renault Sport Press Release.

Posted: 18 September 2011
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