On his debut at the World Series by Renault, Kiwi driver Chris van der Drift claimed third place
The 23-year-old driver competed in Barcelona for the Spanish race team Epsilon Euskadi in front of a crowd of 90,000 spectators and in the Sunday feature race claimed a third placed podium. Through his efforts over the two days the 2008 International Formula Master champion now sits in third place in the 2009 championship.
Van der Drift had tested at various circuits over the last two months on invitation from the Spanish based team, and having demonstrated his ability the team offered the New Zealander a race seat. His team mate is the experienced Spaniard Adrian Valles, who finished as runner-up in the 2005 World Series by Renault championship behind Robert Kubica, also acting as test driver for the former Spyker F1 team.
The Kiwi began the first race from grid 11, after the super pole qualifying session of the quickest 12 drivers was cut short by a red flag, leaving him with a time not as quick as he wished. Despite that Van der Drift looked forward to his first race that afternoon. As in the past, Van der Drift had an excellent start and shot forward to seventh position holding that until the finish flag 45 minutes later. “It was quite a boring race”, recalled Van der Drift. “My start was very good, but from seventh position it was difficult to attack as when you get close to the car in front you loose downforce.”
The second race which included a mandatory pit-stop was far more exciting. Again Van der Drift had a great start, but in turn three was hit from behind. The New Zealander kept the car moving and returned to the track in 21st position. Fortunately for him, the weather interceded about half way through the race affecting all the team strategies. “We decided that I should stay on track for as long as possible and that worked. My pit-stop was made at the perfect moment when it was very wet, particularly in the last sector. In addition a safety car phase happened at the right moment”, said Van der Drift. At that time he lay in fifth position, immediately in front of his team-mate.
With 11 minutes to go, the field was released for the re-start. Some sections of the circuit were very wet, and some drivers learnt at their cost that some hasty moves resulted in mistakes. Van der Drift moved into third place and was able to stay with second placed Sten Pentus. However, through pushing hard on the treacherous circuit, Van der Drift touched a painted white line after which he had to fight to keep the 475hp race-car off the wall. Shortly afterward the race was red-flagged as a car had crashed on the front straight, and in going back to the last completed lap, Van der Drift claimed third position.
“This was a great weekend with a nice podium finish to complete it”, said Van der Drift after the race. “This is really good for the team and to be in third place in the championship after the first weekend is fantastic. We need to find a little speed still but I have no doubt that will happen. I would like to thank the team enormously for the perfect strategy and the work they have done on the car for me.”
The third and fourth rounds of the World Series by Renault will be held on the Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend of 1-3 May, where van der Drift will again race for the Spanish team.
1 Marcos Martinez (ESP), Pons Racing 29 laps in 48:05.443
2 Bertrand Baguette (BEL), International Draco Racing, +1.443
3 Adrian Valles (ESP), Epsilon Euskadi, +1.707
7 Chris van der Drift (NZL), Epsilon Euskadi, +8.829
1 Marcos Martinez (ESP), Pons Racing, 22 laps in 41:20.462
2 Sten Pentus (EST), Mofaz Fortec Motorsport, +1.819
3 Chris van der Drift (NZL), Epsilon Euskadi, +2.908
Championship Overall : Renault World Series (after two races):
1 Marcos Martinez (ESP), Pons Racing, 27 points
2 Adrian Valles (ESP), Epsilon Euskadi, 16 points
3 Chris van der Drift (NZL), Epsilon Euskadi, 14 points