Season Best Performance For De Jong On Paul Ricard Debut

Comtec Racing's Daniël De Jong enjoyed his best outing yet in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series at Paul Ricard in France over the weekend, 17th/18th September - the Dutch teenager starring with the eighth fastest time in a rain-affected second qualifying session before racing to a great top 12 result. Marking the 19-year-old's first experience at Le Castellet, the penultimate World Series by Renault event of the season underlined the level of improvement Daniël has been making during his debut campaign in the FIA Formula One World Championship feeder category. Gradually making steps forward as the season has progressed - one he's dovetailing with outings in Auto GP to gain as much experience as possible - the Westmaas driver has shown good pace and excellent racecraft but Sunday's FR 3.5 qualifying session and 23 lap race were the true highlights. Posting a best lap of 2m14.989 seconds to secure a place on the fourth row of the grid, just a second shy of the top three, Daniël's performance wasn't limited to the wet as in the dry conditions of the race itself he acquitted himself superbly. Moving up to seventh place on the opening lap, the Dutchman climbed as high as fifth by lap nine and only slipped outside the top 10 following his mandatory pit-stop. Holding 11th position well as the race headed towards its conclusion, the Karpack, Boix and De Jong ECOCUPS-backed driver was unfortunate to slip to 12th on the very last lap behind a recovering Nelson Panciatici. "Race two was great, I really had a good time and enjoyed being up near the front in with the quick experienced guys", said Daniël, "We're making good improvements, it's a very hard championship but I think on Sunday we showed we're starting to move forward more and more as we learn about the car and how to get the most from it." Saturday's dry qualifying session didn't reach the same heights as that of the second day at Paul Ricard for the FR 3.5 rookie, a best time of 1m53.113 seconds little more than 1.5 seconds off pole position but still meaning a back row start - proof of the competitiveness of the championship. By the midway point of the race Daniël was on the fringe of the top 20, having progressed from 25th place on the grid, but no further gains were possible after that and so he took the chequered flag in 21st position. Post-race though, runner-up Albert Costa was excluded so those behind moved up one place in the final classification. In terms of his pace in the dry opening encounter, the first year driver was highly impressive once again and his best time of 1m55.186 seconds was comparable to the sort of laps being produced by top 10 points scorers. Daniël's maiden season in Formula Renault 3.5 Series will come to a conclusion just under three weeks from now over the weekend 8th/9th October at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.