Will Stevens took fifth place in the first Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship race at the picturesque Paul Ricard HTTT circuit in France on Saturday, to keep his bid for the championship runner-up spot firmly on track.Qualifying for the opening race at the penultimate rounds of the series took place early this morning in which Stevens, from Oxshott, claimed the second fastest time in his group. The format of the series dictates that the fastest qualifying group takes the pole position side, putting the 20 year-old on the outside of row two for the race.Stevens got away well to hold fourth place, however on lap three lost the position to the championship leader Robert Frijns, relegating Stevens to fifth. Over the course of the 13-lap race, the former international karting champion suffered with tyre degradation, preventing him from recovering his superb qualifying form, but fifth place still keeps the BRDC Rising Star within reach of the vice-champion spot, with 75 points still available.Already a series race winner, Stevens has also had his share of bad luck. He was leading the opening race in Spain when a fuel pressure problem prevented him from taking double victory, and a clutch failure on the grid ended his hopes in Germany. Despite that, the Briton will head into Sunday’s qualifying looking for another strong performance to end his debut season in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship on a high, and take victory in the penultimate rounds.Stevens commented; “We had a solid test here earlier in the season and felt that running less downforce today would give us an advantage. It worked well in qualifying, and I was very happy with second, but in the race it wasn’t necessarily the best way to go. Naturally we gained speed on the straights but the cornering was obviously compromised as a result.“In the race I made a good start and was able to hold position for the first three laps but lost out to (Robert) Frijns at the last corner. I had hoped to stick with him and get a tow to catch the cars in front, but the pack was so evenly matched it was hard to repass. Towards the end of the race I had a lot of tyre degradation too, which prevented me from making any inroads into moving back up the field. “We’ll now take a look at the data and decide which way to go for tomorrow, I think we’ll probably go back to high downforce for the race but as for qualifying, we’ll make that decision tomorrow and see what happens. I want to finish my debut season in Eurocup Formula Renault on a high and will do everything possible tomorrow to repeat the performance from this morning, and as always, I’ll give it everything I’ve got.“I said before the race that although I still had a mathematical chance of winning the title, I had to be realistic and aim for second place. There are still 75 points up for grabs and in motor racing anything can happen.”Currently lying fourth in the fiercely competitive single-seater championship, Stevens scored his fourth series podium of the season at Silverstone last time out, and remains determined to add to his tally, with a return to the top step once again in the second race at Castellet on the Côte d’Azur Sunday.
Qualifying gets underway at 09.00 with the race scheduled to start at 15:40.