Strous Seals Formula Renault Winter Invitational Championship with Homestead Victory

Junior Strous crossed the finish line a scant  .013-seconds ahead of Dan McMullen to win the final round of the Formula Renault Winter Invitational Series at Homestead Miami Speedway today. Gustavo Sondermann finished in third, with EuroInternational driver Juan Ponte taking fourth ahead of teammate Ricardo Imery.

Strous’  win secured the championship for the Netherlands native after five rounds of competition, and was his third of the season, taking the season opener at Sebring International Raceway in January before winning round three at Homestead on Saturday in advance of his final triumph today.

Tuesday’s race was a fantastic demonstration of the skill of the Formula Renault Winter Invitational field, as the full 2.3-mile infield road course, which utilized the newly reconfigured high banking of the ovals turn three and four, and provided some very close racing with battles raging throughout the twenty-three lap event. Qualifying for the race also revealed once again extreme parity of the Formula Renault platform, with the top ten drivers qualifying within one second of the pole time.

Polesitter Strous led the field from the standing start, with the front runners flaring four wide into the first corner, and then funneled down to two abreast through the tight two-three-four section, as everyone left room for each other and the race got off to a fast start.  The excitement continued as the pack entered the high banks of the Homestead oval, again running as many as four wide as drivers scrambled for positions.

Strous built up an early lead, while drivers behind him scrapped for position, but he was forced to reestablish his lead twice during the race on restarts, with the third time proving to be the most challenging, as the white and green flag waved to set the stage for a final one-lap shoot out, with Strous leading McMullen, Sondermann, Ponte, and Imery to the green.

Strous held onto the lead, but McMullen made a strong bid on the outside of the very fast first corner, but couldn’t complete the pass.  Strous held onto the inside line into turn two, which became the outside line for turn three, and then again the inside line in turn four. The two were side by side, with one driver holding the lead at the entry of the corner only to see the other take it at the exit. This mammoth battle continued all the way around the track.

As the two headed into the banking on the oval, it was anyone’s guess as to who would emerge with the advantage, as McMullen tucked into Strous’ draft at the exit of the corner and made a last-second bid for the lead again on the front stretch, and came up just about a foot short at the line, a thrilling finish to a fantastic championship.

Strous was overjoyed at the win and the championship as he is currently weighing his options for the summer season, hoping to return to North America this summer or race in Europe. 

“This was so important to me and the team to come over here and do well, I am just completely excited about it! The battle with Dan was very close when we were in the infield section but when we got into the oval, he was right behind me but I couldn’t see him and I was thinking he was gone, but then the next thing I see is him going for the lead at the end! I was glad to hold him off and to get to do some donuts afterward.”

Strous will take advantage of the winnings, as he will be strapping into the Formula Renault V6 for test laps as part of the comprehensive prize package for the Formula Renault Winter Invitational.

The second place finish moved McMullen into fourth in the championship, which is particularly impressive given that he had to sit out the first round after he car encountered problems just before the start of the race.

“It was really exciting out there,” said the Aim Autosport driver. “We were two wide all the way around the track, and we both gave each other racing room, so it was really a great experience. I hate to come so close to that first win, but racing like that is some really great experience for me. I’m looking to get that first win soon, though for sure!”

Gustavo Sondermann secured third in the championship in his Gelles Racing machine, and also couldn’t wipe the smile off his face after the race.

“There were so many battles I was having out there, too many to count, really, and then last lap was really crazy! It was great to run on the oval and get that experience, since you never know, I could do more oval racing in the future. I am really happy to take third in the championship, it’s a big deal for me and for my sponsors back in Brazil to do well against these teams and the drivers, so its very satisfying for me and the team.”

Gustavo’s father, Sergio, was on hand for the race and thought is was the most memorable of the many Formula Renault races he’d ever seen, in Europe and Brazil.

“It was without question the best Formula Renault race I have ever seen,” declared Sondermann. “There was a compromise between the speed of the oval section, and the technical aspect of the road course, and it created some very good racing, with beautiful battles all over. The race weekend was also superbly organized and the cars showed today how equal they are.”Race Team Promotions FR 2000 Homestead Miami Speedway   2.3 miles February 17, 2004

Tuesday Race Round 5

Pos - Start Pos. - No. - Name - Laps Diff - Best Tm - Reasons Out  - Hometown -Country -  Sponsor - Team

1 1 26 Junior Strous 23 1:18.621  Wassenaar, The Netherlands HOL Mr.Glow/Pin & Go Mr. Glow Motorsports 2 6 1 Dan McMullen 23 0.013 1:18.806  Gormley, ONT CAN ATI Tech/Disc Car Rental/MYE Aim Autosports 3 5 4 Gustavo Sondermann 23 0.941 1:19.377  Sao Paulo, Brazil BZL Corduroy Gelles Racing 4 2 50 Juan Martin Ponte 23 1.517 1:18.963  Concordia, Argentina ARG IPS/Grapeking Euro International 5 10 7 Ricardo Imery 23 1.870 1:18.997 Caracas, Venezuela VZL Cavenas EuroInternational SRL 6 14 55 Homero Richards del Rio 23 1.920 1:19.345  Mexico City, Mexico MEX Herdez Herdez Competetion 7 7 47 Yelmer Buurman 23 2.032 1:18.871  Ubbergen, The Netherlands NET Roma Invest/Airprt Niederrhein Team A K A 8 8 34 Mark Wilkins 23 2.473 1:19.339  Toronto, Ont. CAN Trizec Canada Aim Autosports 9 15 6 Michael Giessen 23 2.512 1:20.292  Deer Park, NY USA Deer Park Ready Mix Powerslide Motorsports 10 21 46 James Jakes 23 2.533 1:20.017  Cullingworth, England ENG LEMAC/Acorn Stairlifts Team aka 11 17 18 Formfor Jr (Francisco Miguel) Reinhardt 23 5.032 1:21.110  El Salvador ELS La Prensa Grafica-Motor El Salvador Racing Team 12 20 30 Pablo Cervantes 21 --2 Laps-- 1:22.126  Mexico MEX tba GTI Motorsports 13 9 22 Pascal Kochem 19 --4 Laps-- 1:19.176 contact Schwalbach, West Germany GDR First Air Team First Air 14 19 27 Basil Shaaban 18 --5 Laps-- 1:22.175 mechanical Beirut, Lebanon LEB BRICC C T Motorsports 15 11 11 Antoine Bessette 16 --7 Laps-- 1:19.277 mechanical St. Bruno, QUE CAN Renntech/Castrol Autotecnica 16 16 56 Nick Bussell 16 6.773 1:19.859 off course Ionia, Michigan USA Herdez Herdez Competetion 17 3 24 Sean McIntosh 15 --8 Laps-- 1:19.571 mechanical Coquitlam, BC CAN Lordco/FirstAir/Kimac Team First Air 18 13 2 Marc-Antoine Camirand 14 --9 Laps-- 1:21.044 mechanical Trois Riveres, Que CAN Priests for Life/USA Today Gelles Racing 19 18 3 Michael Yager 6 --17 Laps-- 1:21.799 contact Effingham, IL USA Mid-America Motorworks Gelles Racing 20 4 10 German Quiroga 4 --19 Laps-- 1:19.730 contact Mexico MEX Roshfrans GTI Motorsports 21 12 20 Antonio Perez 3 --20 Laps-- 1:20.075 contact Mexico MEX Telmex GTI Motorsports