Ricciardo maintains his stranglehold

Daniel Ricciardo (SG Formula), who dominated his rivals on the Valencia circuit in Spain, maintained his stranglehold on the Formula Renault 2.0 WEC despite being excluded from the second race. The weekend also saw Benjamin Lariche (Pole Services) score his first victory.

Race 1

For the fourth time this season Daniel Ricciardo was on pole ahead of his team-mate Andrea Caldarelli. Daniel made a perfect start while Andrea had to fight off Roberto Merhi (Epsilon Euskadi) who drew level with him under braking for the first corner. The Italian emerged in second place and promptly made a mistake allowing Merhi to pass.

The order at the end of lap 1 was: Daniel Ricciardo, Roberto Merhi, Andrea Caldarelli, Jean-Eric Vergne (SG Formula), Anton Nebilitsky (SG Formula), Richard Campollo (Epsilon Euskadi), Gabriel Dias (Fortec Motorsport), Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi), Richard Singleton (Hitech Junior) and Julien Abelli (TCS Racing). Ricciardo pushed really hard in the opening stages and opened up a decisive gap over his pursuers.

After a poor qualifying session Albert Costa fought his way up through the field. He sliced past Dias and Campollo to take sixth place and then caught Anton Nebilitsky. Despite launching attack after attack he was unable to find a way past the SG Formula driver.

Race 2

After the second qualifying session Roberto Merhi thought he had pole sewn up for the first time this season. But the Spaniard’s three quickest times were cancelled after a protest by SG Formula, as he had failed to respect the track limits. This dropped him down to twenty-seventh place on the grid and gave Daniel Ricciardo his fifth pole of the year.

When the lights went out Ricciardo shot to the front just ahead of Benjamin Lariche who made a lightning getaway from the second row. They finished the first lap in that order ahead of Andrea Caldarelli, Jean-Eric Vergne, Albert Costa, Himar Acosta (I Quick), Mathieu Arzeno (Epsilon Sport), Miki Monras (Hitech Junior) Gabriel Dias and Anton Nebilitsky.

Ricciardo opened up a gap in his usual style and pulled away from Lariche at around a second per lap. On lap 5, Costa snatched fourth place from Jean-Eric Vergne. While this was going on Roberto Merhi was making a spectacular comeback and was up in eighth place after 11 laps!

The closing stages of the race were enlivened by a battle between Acosta, Monras and Merhi. Monras took sixth spot on the third from last lap and Merhi also shot past Acosta. The ultimate twist came in the final corners when Caldarelli took advantage of an error by Lariche to snatch second!

After the race Epilson Euskadi protested three SG Formula cars (Daniel Ricciardo, Andrea Caldarelli and Jean-Eric Vergne) for an illegal rear wing pillar. The Stewards upheld the protest and excluded the three drivers from the result of the race. Provisional victory went to Bernard Lariche as SG Formula appealed against the decision of the Stewards, so the final result depends on the RFDA Court of Appeal’s decision.