Maiden Auto GP Win For Manor MP and Van Der Drift

Chris van der Drift made history for Manor MP Motorsport at Marrakech street circuit in Morocco on Sunday, 15th April, by securing the team’s maiden Auto GP race victory and, poignantly, his first win in any category since a career-threatening accident back in 2010 in Superleague Formula.Electing to begin the second race of the weekend, round six, with a full set of new soft compound tyres, the 26-year-old Kiwi-Dutch dual national ran in third place initially and made a conscious effort to look after his Kumho rubber during the early stages.Moving up to second on lap one, van der Drift ran around 4.5 seconds behind race leader Sergey Sirotkin prior to the Russian’s mandatory pit-stop on lap 12. Upping his pace as soon as Sirotkin made his stop, that – combined with a superbly quick tyre change from the Manor MP crew four laps later – enabled van der Drift to rejoin the race in the lead.Sirotkin did close the black and yellow Manor MP Motorsport car down during the last couple of laps but van der Drift had enough in hand to claim a memorable and richly deserved victory – moving him into a clear fourth place in the driver’s championship and consolidating second in the team standings for Manor MP.“Being in Auto GP and getting a win is a great feeling, it means I haven’t lost it!”, commented van der Drift, “I want to say thanks to the Manor MP guys for giving me such a chance. We’re still learning how to make the most of the Kumho tyres and in this race we had a super-soft spec that we never tried before, so it wasn’t easy. I preserved the tyres though and the guys did a really quick pit stop.”Round five of the season on Saturday, 14th April, began with van der Drift fourth on the grid and team-mate Daniël De Jong in 10th place after a qualifying session which was interrupted by two red flag stoppages during the final 10 minutes.As Sirotkin stalled at the front of the grid when racing got underway, van der Drift momentarily edged through to third place but was bundled back to fifth through the first turn. De Jong, meanwhile, made an excellent getaway and rocketed into seventh from the fifth row.Running close behind Facu Regalia in a tight, three-car train, the Manor MP cars soon came under attack from the recovering Sirotkin. De Jong was demoted by the Russian to seventh on lap two but the determined 19-year-old fought back and re-passed brilliantly into the last corner before slipping back again to eighth on lap three.Van der Drift took his pit-stop early, at the end of lap four, and De Jong followed suit the next time around. When the order settled back down with about six laps to go, van der Drift was fourth with De Jong in seventh and they remained in those positions to the flag on lap 19.De Jong’s hopes of an improved result in Sunday’s race weren’t fulfilled unfortunately when an early tangle with Antonio Spavone at the end of lap two resulted in retirement. Even so, the Dutchman retains a top five placing in the championship standings.Having started 2012 strongly with two podiums at Monza in Italy back in March, one for van der Drift and one for team-mate De Jong, Manor MP Motorsport has since become a true title threat in Auto GP in only its second season and is aiming to build on that further during the next round in May.“It’s been an amazing weekend”, said team principal Sander Dorsman, “Chris did a fantastic job in race two, so did the guys in the pit crew and the engineers on the strategy – it’s so great to win our first race in Auto GP and we’re all really happy for Chris to be back on the top step of a podium. He really deserved this result, as did the whole team, everyone has been working so hard since the start of the season.“It’s a shame Daniël retired early in that race as he had a chance of a podium but in the first one he did drive well and is still in the top five in the championship. We’ve shown what we can do in Auto GP so now we’re aiming for more big results during the next round in Hungary.”There is now a three week gap in the Auto GP calendar with rounds seven and eight set to take place over the weekend 5th/6th May at the Hungaroring in Hungary. Before then, Manor MP Motorsport will be in action with its Formula Renault team for the opening two rounds of the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup at Hockenheim in Germany next weekend, 21st/22nd April.2012 Auto GP Team Standings (after Rd6):2nd Manor MP Motorsport, 121pts2012 Auto GP Driver Standings (after Rd6):4th Chris van der Drift, 69pts; 5th Daniël De Jong, 43pts2012 Auto GP Under-21 Driver Standings (after Rd6):5th Daniël De Jong, 49pts