ARAGON, SPAIN, April 18, 2016 (Newswire.com) - Raoul Owens endured a weekend of frustration despite quick pace during Round 1 of the 2016 Renault Sport Trophy (RS01), finishing P4 overall in Saturday’s Endurance Race followed by an unpreventable retirement on Lap 1 of Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Raoul’s weekend got off to a positive start as he went fourth fastest during Friday’s Free Practice sessions. Benefitting from data gained during the collective tests at the Spanish circuit, Raoul’s technical feedback allowed a series of camber, tow and swing adjustments to improve the front balance of the car and eradicate understeer qualms.
On Saturday morning, Raoul set his mark on the RS01 grid by qualifying P4 and just +0.02s shy of his teammate, Kevin Korjus, in the sister #3 R-ace GP car. Pole was secured by former Red Bull Junior Team driver, Lewis Williamson, who was joined on the front row by P2 man, Pieter Schothorst.
With a number of drivers launching their debut race in RS01 on Saturday, the rolling start played a large role in shaking up the morning’s qualifying order. A frantic rush into the first corner resulted in both Raoul and his teammate being pushed out wide at Turn 1 and losing 2 places in the opening lap. However, an early safety car bunched up the pack before the race charge resumed once more. Raoul made his way back through the field and pitted at half distance from P5, handing over the driving seat to Toni Forné for the final stint of the race, which concluded with a P4 finish for the #2 car. An overall podium finish was close, but not close enough, as Forné finished +3s behind the new Strakka Racing entry. The race was concluded with a fastest time set by Williamson and a second fastest time by Raoul – an impressive feat from what was an action-packed race in the midfield and where an advantage of clean air could not be found.
On Sunday, Raoul’s Sprint Race sadly became one to forget. As the cars accelerated on the green signal of the opening lap, Raoul’s front brakes locked up into Turn 1 due to an ABS technical failure, resulting in an unavoidable shunt with Schothorst who was traveling along a wider line through the same corner. The British driver’s race subsequently ended at the end of the lap as he retired in the pit lane.
Commenting about a weekend filled with learning experience for the team and its drivers, Raoul said:
“It’s been a frustrating weekend for us. There were some good signs and I felt I drove well, but we just didn’t get much luck.
We had some great data to work with from Free Practice on Friday and we made some big changes to the car to improve the front end. We carried those changes over to Qualifying and they seemed to work.
I hit the rev-limiter a bit at the start [of the Endurance Race] and lost out at the first bend. Kevin had a similar issue which left us running P5 and P6 and enjoying some close racing. Geerts managed to get past me on the restart [following the safety car], but I worked out where he was weak on the track and got back past at Turn 7 a few laps later. I managed to catch back up with Kevin before the pit stops which was very encouraging for us.
We lost a bit of time in the pits and I think that’s what lost us a podium finish. Toni did a great job though and a P2 + P4 finish for the team is great.”
Reflecting on the buzzkill start of Sunday’s Sprint Race, Raoul said:
“Toni [Forné] had suffered some damage in his Sprint Race earlier on Sunday and it had affected the electronics on the car. I had no ABS, which I only found out at the first corner. These cars are heavy and the braking zones at Motorland are massive, so the only thing I could do was retire the car.”
Nonetheless, despite his troubles in Aragon, Raoul is confident both he and the team can make amends in Imola – a track that Raoul enjoyed to test with the RS01 in both dry and wet conditions in February:
“We’ve tested there [Imola] and our pace this weekend has been good enough for the podium, so we’ve got to be feeling positive. Before then I’ll be going to the team factory to go over some more data to make sure we have a strong strategy in place for the next race weekend.”
Source: Driver Club Management