Alex Gill Formula Renault 2 0 NEC Budapest review

FIRST TOP SIX FINISH OF YEAR FOR GILL AND SEASON-BEST TOP 15 FOR ROOKIE HUTCHISON AT HUNGARORING

British racer Alex Gill secured his first top six finish of the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup season at the Hungaroring near Budapest over the weekend, 18th/19th June – the rapid driver impressing with a great drive from 11th on the grid in round five for Mark Burdett Motorsport.

Team-mate Finlay Hutchison, in his first season of single-seater car racing, also raced very well on his first visit to Hungary and achieved a career-best top 15 finish in round six on Sunday afternoon with a strong performance.

It wasn’t an entirely straightforward weekend for the Lincolnshire team with an unfortunate excursion for Gill in the second free practice session, which caused significant damage to his FR 2.0 car. Thanks to a magnificent effort from the Mark Burdett mechanics, the team rebuilt the Doncaster driver’s chassis with just moments to spare ahead of the all-important qualifying session.

Gill’s misfortune, though, continued in the grid-determining run for race one when his two fastest laps of the session were removed due to perceived track limits infringements – had the laps stood he would have started the opening contest on the front row rather than the sixth.

“We’ve been very happy with the race pace Alex and Finlay showed this weekend”, said team principal Mark Burdett, “Obviously, we would have liked to be a bit further up the order but season best results for both of them are as much as we could ask to be honest.

“The team did an incredible job to rebuild Alex’s car in time for qualifying and although the sessions didn’t go entirely to plan, and left a lot of work to do, we’re impressed with the way he raced through the order and very happy with the continued progress Finlay is showing.”

Gill began round five on Sunday morning from 11th on the grid with Hutchison lining-up in 19th position. At the start of race one, Gill got away well and climbed into the top 10 before then taking ninth on lap three as a result of a drive-through penalty for Sacha Fenestraz.

Running tight behind Jehan Daruvala, Gill got ahead of his rival on the fourth tour and punched in lap times faster than the pack ahead. Then, on lap seven, a tangle resulted in the deployment of the Safety Car for three laps with Gill assuming sixth place. At the resumption, he fended off Daruvala and maintained sixth to the finish to cap a very strong first ever race in Hungary.

Hutchison encountered an unfortunate clutch issue before the beginning of race one, which led to a pit-lane start for the Scotsman, and after ending lap one in 21st place overall, eighth in the Rookie class, he worked his way back up the order.

Into 18th place by the start of lap five, the youngster then moved into 17th overall when the Safety Car appeared. Enabling some front-runners, who served early drive-through penalties, to catch the tail of the field, at the resumption Hutchison was edged back to 19th place but took 18th in the end due to a 30 second penalty for a rival.

Beginning round six from an uncharacteristic 15th place on the grid, Gill gained two places on the first lap and continued his impressive rise up the order by taking 12th position on lap two and then 11th on lap four prior to the emergence of the Safety Car.

Hutchison, starting 20th on the grid, climbed into 18th place by lap two and although edged back to 19th spot he moved back into 18th place as a result of the incident which triggered the deployment of the Safety Car.

Racing resumed on lap seven but a tangle with Will Palmer, as they battled over 10th position, resulted in a visit to the pits for Gill and after rejoining the race he eventually ended the contest in 17th position.

Hutchison moved up into the top 16 after his team-mate’s dramas and fended off major pressure from Julien Falchero until lap 11 when he was edged back to 17th place. The NEC rookie managed to break back ahead of Falchero though before the finish and, with Bruno Baptista retiring, Hutchison claimed a well-deserved top 15 result – sixth best Rookie.

Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is next on the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC calendar with rounds seven and eight of the season scheduled to take place on Friday, 29th July, and Saturday, 30th July, as support to the world-renowned Total 24 Hours of Spa.

2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Driver Standings (after Rd6):8th Alex Gill, 71pts; 21st Finlay Hutchison, 22pts

2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Team Standings (after Rd6):5th Mark Burdett Motorsport, 73pts