Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship leader Oliver Rowland extended his advantage at the top of the driver standings to 17 points at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on Sunday, 21st July, after racing to a faultless lights-to-flag victory for Manor MP Motorsport during round eight of the season.After battling to a strong top five finish in round seven on Saturday, 20th July, the Briton didnt put a wheel wrong in the second of the weekends encounters to convert a dominant pole positionhis first in the championshipinto a thoroughly deserved third win and fifth podium of the year.Qualifying was fantastic and the car was incredible, said the Manor MP racer, Id say it was one of the toughest races of my career. The other drivers were right behind me all the time, pushing me to the limit. I was very happy to see the chequered flag!While the opening day of race action in Austria didnt go quite as well as planned for Rowland and the Dutch squad, the 20-year-old fought his way through impressively from an uncharacteristic ninth on the grid into the top five and, very importantly, finished ahead of chief title rival Pierre Gasly.Manor MP Motorsport team-mate Javier Merlo, meanwhile, produced a fantastic drive through the order from 30th on the 34-car grid to carve his way toward the fringe of the coveted top 20. Gaining four positions on the opening lap alone, the Argentinian rookie made consistently strong progress thereafter to an eventual finish of 21st place.In qualifying for round eight, Rowland was in a class of his own and scorched to pole position with a stunning lap of 1m29.496 seconds (174.0 km/h). Merlo, meanwhile, had to settle for a row 16 start, after posting the 31st best time.Making a good getaway to Sunday afternoons encounter, Rowland led from Gasly and the chasing pack and the Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver remained out front for the 18-lap duration. Although coming under pressure from the Frenchman, the Manor MP racer was never realistically threatened and took the win by 0.6 seconds.Merlo once again delivered an excellent race performance, scything his way through the order and usurping a number of more experienced European competitors. Putting together a strong first lap, the South American rapidly made gains and was in 21st place by lap six. Climbing as high as 17th at two thirds distance, Merlo then had to settle for 18th positioncapping an impressive weekend.Oli has done another incredible job all weekend, to leave Austria with a lead of nearly 20 points in the championship is absolutely fantastic, said Manor MP Motorsports Tony Shaw, Qualifying for race one didnt go according to plan but Oli worked hard in the race and fifth was a strong result. In second qualifying he was outstanding and the win was very well deserveda great weekend.Javier is continuing to impress us with his racecraft and both of his race performances at the Red Bull Ring were incredibly strong. Theres still work to do in qualifying, but the ability is definitely there and were certain hell only get stronger as the season progresses.Following a lengthy eight-week sojourn, the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season will resume on 14th/15th September at the Hungaroring, near Budapest in Hungary.
Provisional 2013 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Standings (after Rd8):1st Oliver Rowland, 119pts; Javier MerloNo ScoreProvisional 2013 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Team Standings (after Rd8):3rd Manor MP Motorsport, 119pts