Strong start to Formula Renault NEC for Mark Burdett Motorsport

AT ULTRA-FAST MONZA

British single-seater motor racing team Mark Burdett Motorsport made a consistently strong start to the 2016 Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup season at Monza in Italy over the weekend, 23rd/24th April, with Alex Gill securing a brace of top 10 finishes – including a best result of eighth.

Producing pace a match for podium performance, the Doncaster driver was as high as fifth in round one on Saturday before ultimately finishing in ninth position. In round two on Sunday, Gill again raced in the lead group and ended the contest inside the top eight to conclude the opening event of the season ninth in the title race.

Rookie team-mate Finlay Hutchison, making his first competitive appearance in the championship, impressed with some strong driving to take 16th place overall in the first contest, sixth in class, and went on to add 18th position, seventh of the Rookies, in round two.

“It’s been a good, solid start to the season – Alex and Finlay both did a good job”, said team principal Mark Burdett, “Things didn’t go quite to plan in qualifying for Alex but he raced very well, his starts were fantastic and there was a chance there to be on the podium in the first race.

“We were all really impressed with Finlay. He has had some track time in other things pre-season, just to get the signatures he needed for his racing licence, but this weekend was his first racing the Renault. In a championship as competitive as this, it’s as strong as Eurocup [Formula Renault 2.0] this year, he did a very impressive job. We’re all looking to move forward at Silverstone.”

Lining-up 10th on the grid for the opening race of the new season Gill produced a sensational start to instantly move up the order and, after positioning himself well into the first chicane, he emerged in the top six before then taking fifth into the Variante della Roggia.

Although edged back to seventh before the end of the lap, he quickly hit-back and was into the top six again midway through the second tour. Gill impressively took fifth position through the Curva Grande on lap four and then set about closing down the 1.6 second gap to the lead quartet.

Light rain started halfway through the race and, although not becoming overly troubling, it did make some parts of the circuit slightly slippery – particularly in the braking zones. By lap eight, Gill was in a position to challenge Lando Norris for fourth but into Variante della Roggia he had to take to the escape road after badly locking up his front wheels, eventually leading to a ninth place finish.

“There was nothing Alex could do after he locked the brakes, the tyres were down to the canvas”, explained Burdett, “If he’d pulled off that move, he had the pace for the podium but it just didn’t quite work out.”

Formula Renault 2.0 NEC newcomer Hutchison also raced strongly in the team’s second car and battled back well after he was edged back to the tail of the top 20 on the first lap – having started the race in 18th position.

Into 19th place on lap two, the Scotsman smartly picked his way through a mutli-car tangle just ahead at the Rettifilio chicane on lap six to climb into 16th position and he then moved into the top 15 soon after when Max Defourny dropped out.

Maintaining the place over the next few laps, Hutchison did slip to 16th spot on lap 10 but remained there to the conclusion on lap 14 to also secure sixth in the Rookie classification on his debut after a strong drive.

Gill again started on the fifth row for round two on Sunday morning and, in similar fashion to race one, made a very good start to climb into seventh place. Running in close quarters to the leading group, Gill was edged back to eighth at the start of lap three but on the exit was partially delayed by a slower car.

As a consequence, he fell into the clutches of the cars behind and slipped to ninth but then moved back into the top eight at the first chicane on lap five – where he remained to the conclusion of the race on lap 14. Notably his best lap of the race was just 0.2 seconds shy of the winner’s best.

Hutchison began round two from 19th overall and eighth in the Rookie class and again mounted a good recovery after slipping to 22nd place on the opening lap. Trading 21st position during the first half of the contest, Hutchison broke into the top 20 on lap eight and with three laps to go he moved into 19th place before taking 18th into the final lap – ending the race as the seventh highest Rookie.

Mark Burdett Motorsport now heads directly to the Hungaroring near Budapest for testing before returning to the UK for the second event of the season, at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, over the weekend 14th/15th May.

2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Driver Standings (after Rd2):9th Alex Gill, 25pts; 18th Finlay Hutchison, 8pts

2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Team Standings (after Rd2):5th Mark Burdett Motorsport, 25pts