Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0

 Merhi back with a bang - Le Mans – Race 1

It looks like the summer break has done Roberto Merhi (Epsilon Euskadi) a world of good! The 17-year Spaniard picked up his second race win of the season at Le Mans today, while, for the fifth time this year, Andrea Caldarelli (SG Formula) took second place. With Daniel Ricciardo forced to withdraw from today's race, Caldarelli now lies just seven points behind his SG Formula teammate in the championship standings.

The day began with the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 qualifying race, won by Italian driver Sergio Campana (Prema Powerteam), who thus earned twenty-fifth place on the starting grid for the race proper, with Roberto Merhi in pole position. Marcelo Conchado (Amiter Galuppo Sport), Himar Acosta (Iquick), Dino Butorac (RB Racing Team), Stéphane Richelmi (Epsilon Sport) and Richard Campollo (Epsilon Euskadi) were the six drivers who failed to qualify.

There was drama before the race as Daniel Ricciardo was forced to withdraw. The SG Formula had had to replace the engine of his Formula Renault 2.0 (number 12) this morning, and the Australian driver was unable to line up on the starting grid. Not without difficulty, Roberto Merhi was still clinging on to the lead at the first bend, where Albert Costa (Epsilon Euskadi), Ramez Azzam (SG Formula), Juan Pablo Garcia (Team Motopark), Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (BVM Minardi Team) and Mathieu Arzeno (Epsilon Sport) were all involved in a spectacular collision. Out came the safety car, ahead of Merhi, Valtteri Bottas, Cesar Ramos (BVM Minardi Team) and Andrea Caldarelli.

When the safety car left the track, Merhi was still out in front, with Bottas coming under pressure from Ramos and Andrea Caldarelli. The Finn eventually fell back from second to fourth, while his teammate Tobias Hegewald (Motopark Academy) moved in the opposite direction, overtaking Alexander Sims (SG Formula) to climb to fifth place.

With Roberto Merhi opening up an unassailable lead, Andrea Caldarelli tried to find a way past Cesar Ramos. Further back, meanwhile, Daniel Zampieri (BVM Minardi Team) and Bastien Borget (Epsilon Sport) collided and were forced to abandon.

On lap 10, first Caldarelli and then Valtteri Bottas moved past Cesar Ramos, but neither man stood a realistic chance of catching Mehri, who had by this stage extended his advantage to five seconds.

There was no further change before the end of the race, Roberto Merhi winning his second race of the season by a sizeable margin, with Andrea Caldarelli notching up his fifth second-place finish of the year, and Valtteri Bottas in third.

Roberto Merhi: «The start was a bit tricky. I skidded a little bit, so it wasn't easy holding off Andrea Caldarelli and Valtteri Bottas. Once the safety car left the track, I focused on putting together a string of fast laps to try and open up a gap. I'm happy to have won today, because after qualifying in the rain, we managed to get the car in good shape for a race in dry conditions today.»

Andrea Caldarelli: «I dropped two places at the start! It's a pity, because I think I was the fastest driver today. I lost too much time behind Ramos. I'm disappointed, as I really needed to win this race!»

Valtteri Bottas: «I got stuck after the restart. Ramos went past, and Caldarelli took advantage. But then I lifted myself and stayed behind Andrea for the rest of the race. I'm confident for tomorrow, when I'll be starting from pole.»

Pos Number Driver  Team  Laps Time GapFirst KPH 

1 8 Roberto MERHI EPSILON EUSKADI 2 14 25:47.269 - 155.3   2 14 Andrea CALDARELLI SG FORMULA 14 25:52.724 +5.455 154.9   3 11 Valtteri BOTTAS MOTOPARK ACADEMY 14 25:53.618 +6.349 154.9   4 25 Cesar RAMOS BVM MINARDI TEAM 14 25:55.625 +8.356 154.7   5 10 Tobias HEGEWALD MOTOPARK ACADEMY 14 25:56.253 +8.984 154.6   6 15 Alexander SIMS SG FORMULA 14 26:00.725 +13.456 153.9   7 6 Jean Eric VERGNE SG DRIVERS PROJECT 14 26:09.803 +22.534 154.3   8 38 Luciano BACHETA HITECH JUNIOR RACING 14 26:12.206 +24.937 153.1   9 18 Patrick REITERER PREMA POWERTEAM 14 26:13.946 +26.677 153.2   10 1 Jake ROSENZWEIG EPSILON EUSKADI 1 14 26:14.896 +27.627 153.1   11 19 Adam KOUT KRENEK MOTORSPORT 14 26:16.853 +29.584 152.9   12 36 Richard SINGLETON HITECH JUNIOR TEAM 14 26:17.378 +30.109 153.0   13 27 Michele FACCIN JENZER MOTORSPORT 14 26:18.211 +30.942 154.0   14 28 Pal VARHAUG JENZER MOTORSPORT 14 26:18.639 +31.370 153.9   15 43 Gabriel DIAS FORTEC COMPETITION 14 26:21.726 +34.457 152.8   16 37 Miki MONRAS HITECH JUNIOR TEAM 14 26:22.019 +34.750 153.0   17 21 Nathanaël BERTHON BOUTSEN ENERGY RACING 14 26:24.378 +37.109 152.8   18 45 Nicolas MARROC TCS RACING 14 26:24.848 +37.579 153.2   19 9 Carlos MUÑOZ EPSILON EUSKADI 2 14 26:31.846 +44.577 153.1   20 42 Daniel MCKENZIE FORTEC MOTORSPORT 14 26:46.546 +59.277 151.1   21 16 Sergio CAMPANA PREMA POWERTEAM 14 26:51.255 +1:03.986 152.7   22 44 Alex MORGAN FORTEC COMPETITION 12 26:25.558 2 Laps 153.1     5  Anton NEBILITSKYI SG DRIVERS PROJECT 10 19:49.030   152.2     2 Pablo MONTILLA EPSILON EUSKADI 1 10 19:49.665   150.6     22 Kuba GIERMAZIAK TEAM MOTOPARK 10 19:50.801   149.9     30 Miguel OTEGUI IQUICK 10 20:01.478   151.4     33 Bastien BORGET EPSILON SPORT 8 16:42.911   150.6     24 Daniel ZAMPIERI BVM MINARDI TEAM 7 14:43.369   150.8     17 Vasiliauskas KAZIMIERAS PREMA POWERTEAM 2 5:00.780         4 Ramez AZZAM SG DRIVERS PROJECT 0           7 Albert COSTA EPSILON EUSKADI 2 0           12 Daniel RICCIARDO SG FORMULA 0           23 Juan Pablo GARCÍA TEAM MOTOPARK 0           26 Adrian QUAIFE-HOBBS BVM MINARDI TEAM 0           34 Mathieu ARZENO EPSILON SPORT 0           41 Dean SMITH FORTEC MOTORSPORT 0