Bertrand Baguette tasted victory in both World Series by Renault races at Le Mans as the British charge faltered following a strong start to the weekend.
The Belgian now has a 19 point lead in the championship over his closest rivals, Marco Martinez and the British drivers James Walker and Oliver Turvey.
Testing and qualifying
The weekend began dramatically for the British contingent, with Jon Lancaster running fastest in collective testing and Walker ending up in hospital under bizarre circumstances.
He explained: “At dinner last night I got some food stuck in my throat. I had to undergo surgery, so I couldn’t drive this morning. This afternoon it was going well near the start of the session, but I came in as it had started raining and I wasn’t feeling too good. I’m hoping that with a good night’s sleep things will be better tomorrow.”
Walker was well enough to qualify with the rest of the field the next day, and he joined Lancaster and Turvey in a British 1-2-3. WSR rules reverse the top eight qualifiers for the first race of the weekend, so the trio were due to start sixth, seventh and eight in the first race, and at the top in the second.
Polesitter Lancaster, referring to a penalty he was carrying forward from the previous round in Silverstone, said: “I’ve been really on the pace this weekend, and it was important to confirm that with this first pole position. I’ve got a four-position penalty for race one, so I’ll be starting from behind. For race two, on the other hand, I’ll be on pole and I’ll do everything I can to take a win.”
Walker added: “Yesterday, after being ill, we didn’t know if I’d be able to race today. I’m okay and this result is spurring me on. Without having driven in testing, this result is a good sign. It’s the fifth time I’ve qualified in second place.”
Baguette grabbed the lead of the first race at the start, nipping past Pasquale diSabatino and Marco Barba as they squabbled for position ahead of him, then held it at a restart following a safety car period.
Behind him, Turvey triumphed in a three way battle with Jaime Alguersuari and diSabatino for what became second place following a post-race penalty to Barba for cutting the Dunlop chicane.
He said: “With the reverse grid, starting from sixth, we were hoping for a podium. That goal has been attained, and it’s my third podium on the trot. Even if this is my first year in Formula Renault 3.5 Series, we’re getting points on the board and – little by little – we’re getting in a position to contend for the championship.”
Walker, who needed a win to take the series lead, failed to complete the race while Lancaster took eighth place, regaining the places lost to his grid penalty.
Lancaster was unable to capitalise on his pole in the second race, dropping to fourth at the start behind Walker, Baguette and Charles Pic, while Turvey also faded to sixth.
The two leaders pulled away while Lancaster harried Pic, until the latter pitted with a puncture. Walker pitted earlier than most of the other front-runners but lost time during his stop, allowing Baguette, Lancaster and Turvey to stay out in a battle of wills to see who could gain the most from a late stop.
The answer turned out to be Baguette, who found himself leading from Miguel Molina and Alguersuari, who had made the earliest stops of all. Lancaster and Walker were next but Turvey dropped right out of contention – and a spin by Walker dropped him down the order too.
Finally, Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy took Lancaster for fourth on the final lap, to round out a weekend that had promised much for the British contingent but delivered very little in the end.