with P4 and P5 in rain hit Formula Renault NEC at Spa
Finlay Hutchison races to fifth in Rookie class during rain-hit Rd7 Strong outing for Mark Burdett Motorsport as FR 2.0 NEC resumes
Mark Burdett Motorsport driver Alex Gill delivered his strongest results of the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup campaign in mixed conditions at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend, the Briton claiming a season-best top four result in a rain-affected round seven on Friday, 29th July.
Backing the finish up with a consistently competitive fifth place in the dry during round eight at the Belgian track on Saturday, 30th July, the second year NEC racer concluded the event an improved fifth in the championship, up from eighth position, and maintained his 100% points scoring record.
Rookie team-mate Finlay Hutchison, resuming his Formula Renault 2.0 NEC campaign after making a strong debut in the blue riband Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 category with MBM at the Red Bull Ring in Austria a couple of weeks ago, took a best finish of fifth in class in Friday’s contest.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend overall, Alex did a great job to finish fourth and fifth”, said team principal Mark Burdett, “We were actually aiming for a couple of podiums and we had the pace, if it had been possible to get past some cars a bit earlier I think Alex could have been third in race two.
“Finlay has progressed again this weekend, we had a bigger grid for Spa but he was in the mid pack throughout. It’s always difficult with the changing weather Spa is notorious for, but he did a very good job again. We’re all really looking forward to being back in action next weekend now at Assen.”
Gill was consistently quick from the outset in free practice, lapping in the top six in session one and then posting the fourth fastest lap during the second run. Qualifying on Friday, 29th July, took place in very wet conditions and both sessions were interrupted by a number of incidents and red flags.
Even so, both Mark Burdett Motorsport drivers were able to produce good performances in the opening run with Gill securing sixth on the grid for round seven and Hutchison qualifying an extremely strong 16th fastest, from the expanded 30 car grid, and the sixth best Rookie.
Race one of the weekend on Friday afternoon also took place on a wet track, albeit with only light rain at the beginning, and Gill made an excellent start to launch himself into the top five around the outside at La Source before then enjoying a fantastic run through Eau Rouge to move into the top four and challenge for third along Kemmel Straight.
Following an early Safety Car period, the action resumed on lap three and despite a late challenge on the brakes by Henrique Chaves into La Source, Gill managed to see off the attack before spending the remainder of the race in fourth for his best result of the year.
Hutchison, meanwhile, was edged back just outside the top 20 at the start after a car ahead stalled but he still maintained sixth in the Rookie class. Moving up from 21st place into 17th position overall on the first lap back at racing speed following the Safety Car, he also broke into the top five of the Rookie class. Shuffled back again a lap later, he finished the contest in 19th overall and fifth in class.
Round eight on Saturday, 30th July, began with Gill seventh on the grid – in the second qualifying session he only had one true clear lap – but Hutchison had much more to do from 26th overall on the grid after difficulties in the wet second session, which was impacted by red flags.
From the third row of the grid, Gill made a good start and despite a challenge at La Source he emerged from the corner maintaining position. Before any progress could be made though, the Safety Car was deployed after Will Palmer and Jehan Daruvala ended their respective races in the barriers at Les Combes. At that point, Hutchison held 24th place and ninth in the Rookie class.
Racing restarted on lap four with Gill all over the back of James Allen’s car and along Kemmel Straight he challenged the Australian driver but had to tuck back in to fifth. In the middle of Les Combes, though, Allen made a mistake and so Gill duly swept past into the top four.
Closing up behind Sacha Fenestraz in the battle for the podium, Gill was only 0.3 seconds adrift into lap six and for the next couple of tours they continued to circulate nose-to-tail. On lap eight, though, a resurgent Allen managed to move back into fourth into Les Combes and Gill remained in fifth to the finish on lap 10.
Hutchison raced hard in a very packed group of cars after the re-start and moved into 23rd overall before being shuffled back again at the beginning of lap seven. The next time around, though, the Scotsman climbed into 22nd place and seventh in the Rookie class, positions he held to the flag.
Mark Burdett Motorsport now heads directly to Assen in The Netherlands for the always popular Gamma Racing Day event which will take place next weekend, 6th/7th August.
2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Driver Standings (after Rd8):5th Alex Gill, 104pts; 22nd Finlay Hutchison, 24pts
2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Team Standings (after Rd8):5th Mark Burdett Motorsport, 106pts