Owens Caught in Lap 1 Crash at Red Bull Ring

Raoul Owens endured a punishing third round of the 2016 Renault Sport Trophy (RS01) as the Briton’s weekend was marred by engine deficiency and an unavoidable first lap crash during the final race at the Red Bull Ring.

A race meeting which should have gone so well is the feeling that most onlookers would describe of Raoul’s weekend in the Austrian Alps. Raoul and the R-ace GP squad had tested here over two days in mid-June and Raoul was the only RS01 driver to consistently lap in the Top 3 out of all three of Friday’s free practice sessions. Coincidentally, no team contested the track on new tyres on Friday, which meant competitive lap times on fresh rubber would not be discovered until qualifying on Saturday morning.

On such a short track that flows through many connecting corner sections, Red Bull Ring is a challenging track to qualify well for drivers of all motorsport series and disciplines. In the case of this year’s RS01 Pro grid, the Top 10 qualified within +0.757s of each other and the gap between pole and P2 just +0.019s. Therefore, all drivers know they must handle their nerve and put together the perfect lap to start up front on race day. For the Pro drivers of both R-ace GP cars (#2 Raoul Owens, #3 Kevin Korjus), qualifying would not end as planned. Both drivers complained of a lack of straight-line speed, which had not been obvious or apparent the day before and ultimately led to a P9 start position for Raoul and P7 for his teammate. Perhaps their best lap times were also representative of front and rear tyres not reaching their peak simultaneously, but outright speed was the most pressing cause for concern.

Sunny weather was constant throughout much of the weekend and did not disrupt proceedings for event organisers or the competitors, becoming the first round of the year which has not been rain soaked at some stage of the event. On Saturday afternoon, Raoul started the RS01 Endurance Race from P9 and “made an OK start” according to his point of view. “I capitalised on a couple of positions thanks to the errors of some other drivers, but nothing actually happened during my part of the race. I was stuck behind Pastorelli until he was black flagged after 20 minutes or so. That allowed me through and I then reeled in my gap to Kevin from 3 seconds down to a few tenths.” With missing horsepower, both R-ace GP cars would lose ground to their rivals on the straights, resulting in a largely processional race after the opening laps. Raoul’s new teammate in the Amateur category, Jean-Marc Merlin, completed the final leg of the Endurance Race in P8.

On Sunday, Raoul described the Pro Race as “a bit of a disaster. I went into Turn 1 trying to get through the middle of everybody. When the crash happened, I had no idea what was happening. I wasn’t hurt; I was more annoyed because I couldn’t have done anything about it.” The first lap incident occurred as the tail pack accelerated four-wide down the straight towards Turn 2 and Duncan Huisman commenced a pincer movement which caused a shunt with Raoul and two other cars. With damage to the front left of his #2 car, Raoul had to end a troubled weekend with a retired car on the inside of the track.

Looking back on the weekend, Raoul found room for some optimism. “Friday was good – very good actually. It was the best test day I’ve had this year. I could do the lap times in whichever condition the tyres were in. Coming in to Saturday, nobody had run new tyres yet, but in qualifying we did struggle and didn’t produce the result that we thought we would. I don’t think the engine issue helped us all weekend. We were never quick in Sector 1 [which forms much of the straight section of Red Bull Ring]. Starting from ninth was always going to be tricky and the track is not an easy place to overtake.”

The RS01 championship is now on summer break and will head to the French Riviera for Round 4 at Paul Ricard during the final weekend in August. Valuable points were lost for Raoul in Austria, but the team will work on fixing performance issues with the cars in the coming weeks, while Raoul will turn his attention to the very fast layout of Paul Ricard and hope for better racing in France.

Source: Driver Club Management

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