WSR: Baguette takes title as P1 comes back fighting from blaze
By Andy Darley
Monday, September 21st, 2009
Bertrand Baguette won the World Series by Renault championship at the NÃ¼rburgring with two races to spare, while Norfolk’s P1 Motorsport bounced back from a devastating factory fire with strong performances by Daniil Move and James Walker.
The Belgian driver all-but sealed the championship by winning the first race and then made sure of it by finishing fifth in the second race of the weekend. Charles Pic, winner of the second race, is currently second in the standings, ahead of Walker and Jaime Alguersuari.
P1’s Walker and Move, driving cars built from scratch since the fire by Renault Sport Technologies, both made it into the 12-car SuperPole session alongside Baguette, Britons Jon Lancaster and Oliver Turvey, Pic and his Tech 1 Racing team-mate Brendon Hartley, Alguersuari and Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy.
Move was eighth, giving him pole in the reverse-grid first race at the price of a fourth-row start in the second. Hartley set the fastest time, securing him the opposite starting positions. Turvey, Walker and Lancaster were third, fifth and sixth.
Race one lasted a lap before the safety car came out for a crash deep in the field, Move hanging onto the lead at the start from a charging Lancaster. On the restart Move again survived, but only as far as lap nine when Baguette got past.
Fauzy worked his way up to challenge Lancaster as the pair both passed Move, but the Englishman was demoted from second at the flag to ninth thanks to a 10-second penalty for dangerous driving when defending against Turvey earlier in the race. Fauzy, Move and Turvey were classified as second, third and fourth as a result.
Walker, who was fastest in practice and was second in the championship before the weekend began, was keeping pace behind them when he suffered an overheating engine and retired.
In the second race Pic got a better start than team-mate Hartley, effectivley winning the race there and then as his team had decided whoever was leading would take the more advantageous second pitstop.
Baguette, seventh on the grid, lost places at the start thanks to a problem changing gears, but was able to battle back to take fifth and the championship. Lancaster had looked good for third, but his car expired on lap 18 – two laps after Turvey had also come to halt from a points-paying position.
Walker, by contrast, recovered from his race one problems to finish fourth, close behind third-placed Fauzy.
He said: “I was disappointed with the first day’s result but I set myself a target of beating Jaime Alguersuari in race two and I did that. Our race pace was good so I hope we can continue that into the final round and finish the season on a high.
“It was already an achievement just being here – the team has worked unbelievably hard since the fire. Topping testing, and our qualifying result, were great motivators considering that we were using our cars for the first time.”
P1’s Roly Vincini said: “We had a few tough hours, we were in big trouble. We moved to a new workshop in the brand new Hethel Engineering Centre, five miles away, and rebuilt the team in ten days or so.
“It’s like the whole small world of motor sport helped us enormously. In the UK, to begin with, they helped us find all the gear we needed. Then we got lots of support from Renault Sport Technologies – we spent six full days in the Alpine factory in Dieppe building the two new cars. Everybody worked without counting the hours, everyone put their heart and soul into it.
“One saving grace is we still have all our data, because we had a triple backup all in different places. Believe me, when I arrived to find our factory in cinders, I really didn’t think we’d be going to the NÃ¼rburgring. It was a genuine victory for us just to be taking part in the race.”
Champion Baguette said: “It’s been a tough weekend, with a lot of pressure. At the start, I had trouble finding the pace. I lost a few places, but I decided not to give it too much thought and just get stuck in. It’s my first international title, which is great. We’re working on entering F1 next season. That’s my goal.”
The season finishes on the weekend of October 24/25 at Motorland Aragon in Spain.