IN FORMULA FINALESilverstone-based Hitech secured a podium spot in the opening race of Superleague Formula at Jerez this weekend. Tristan Gommendy took the FC Porto car to second place in front of 34,000 excited spectators. Spaniard Adrian Valles in the Liverpool FC car led from the start but the 21 year-old was robbed of a certain victory after an electrical problem on the very last lap cost him the win. Going into the penultimate rounds Valles and the Liverpool squad were 62 points behind championship leader Beijing Guoan with Valles needing victory in both races and Beijing finishing lower than ninth to clinch the title.
They got off to a great start, Valles putting the Liverpool car on pole with Gommendy, on only his second appearance for the team, just behind on row two. At the lights Valles rocketed away into the lead, ahead of AS Roma with Beijing down the order.
When the teams pitted for the compulsory tyre-change pit stop, Valles resumed the lead with Gommendy slotting into fourth behind Corinthians and AC Milan. After stretching his advantage to more than 11 seconds, the Spanish crowd look set to have something to celebrate, however with just one lap left to run disaster struck as the Liverpool car slowed dramatically leaving Valles to coast to the flag in seventh.
For the FC Porto driver, a superb run allowed him to keep in the battle for victory, the Frenchman within sight of the two-way battle for second between AC Milan and Corinthians. As the race neared the two thirds point, it looked certain that Corinthians would be penalised for an earlier pit lane infringement, putting Gommendy effectively into third and the final podium spot. Ironically it was the demise of his teamster Valles, that moved him into the runner-up spot to take his second podium finish in three races with Hitech.
Between the races the team got to work on trying to establish the cause of Valles’ problem which was initially thought to be a fuel system failure. It was later found to be a faulty loom but with the limited gap between the races, there was insufficient time to change it before the final race.
In race two, a determined effort by Hitech and Adrian to get up into ninth place unfortunately came to a premature finish with the Liverpool FC car pitting on lap 15, its race over. For FC Porto and Gommendy, another sterling effort by the Frenchman netted 12th at the flag after starting from the back of the grid.
“It was a day of mixed emotions for all of us,” said team owner David Hayle. “Tristan drove a remarkable race one to take another podium finish, his second in succession, in only his second weekend with us. For Adrian, well we were all gutted for him as he pretty much dominated the weekend up until then, posting pole and leading right to the last lap.
“Unfortunately there was just no time between the two races to change the wiring loom on the Liverpool car and so we knew it was only a matter of time until it failed completely, we just didn’t know when. Tristan drove superbly and like Liverpool FC, it’s great to have been able to give FC Porto a win and a second place, two podiums from four races for them is a great result.”