The event, organised as a curtain-raiser to the Spa 24 Hours, began on Wednesday with the opening practice sessions. After Thomas Neubauer had to withdraw because of a physical problem, Neil Verhagen, Alexander Smolyar and Frank Bird found their marks on the redoubtable Belgian track finishing just outside the top 10.
In the first qualifying session on Thursday Bird confirmed his promise by finishing just outside the top 5. His team-mates both saw the chequered flag in 10th place in their respective groups. But on Friday morning in Q2 the British driver failed to repeat his performance, while Smolyar proved to be the quickest of the Tech 1 Racing drivers with the seventh-best time.
All three went for bust in the first race. On the Spa circuit on which slipstreaming facilitates overtaking only for the driver to be often repassed by rivals using the same technique, Smolyar gained three places and finished just shy of the points. Verhagen improved even more as the Red Bull Junior team driver overtook seven rivals and saw the flag in 14th place. Bird, though, was unable to extricate himself from the mid-field pack.
On Saturday, the scenario was more or less the same. Bird was locked in battle for tenth for a long time, but finally gave ground and came home in 11th place, five in front of Smolyar who was in 19th spot on the grid. Verhagen was hit with a penalty that stymied all his chances of making a comeback.
It’s the first time since Tech 1 Racing’s arrival in the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2010 that its drivers have come away from a meeting empty-handed. Despite this, Simon Abadie’s men are still in fifth place in the teams’ classification.
“We’ve just experienced the most frustrating weekend in our history,” said Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager. “Neil’s weekend was a real nightmare right from the moment he took to the track. He was quick in the second sector, but lost a second on the straights. We changed everything on the car without solving the problem. We’re soon going to have a day’s testing to help put him in the best possible conditions at the forthcoming events.
“Alexander is going through a bad patch at the moment that prevents him from expressing his talent. We know how quick he is, but he has to avoid making the small mistakes he does in the middle of the field. It proves very costly for him both in the overall results and in the stewards’ office. We’re going to use the summer hiatus to work with him to help him make the most of his potential and do better than his current results.
“Frank’s proved to be a pleasant surprise. Despite his overall lack of experience he continues to progress quietly and he again came very close to scoring points. His progress is encouraging and from now on he must be more incisive to become a regular top-10 contender. Indeed, his aim will be to break into the top 10 in each of the remaining races this season.”
It looks like the holidays are going to be very busy for Tech 1 Racing before the team returns to the track between 31st August and 2nd September at the Hungaroring
“We now have a month’s break to go over the disappointing first part of this season with a fine tooth comb,” summed up Abadie. “I’m expecting a strong reaction on the part of my whole team - engineers, mechanics and drivers. We have to raise the bar. I hope that our efforts will help us to make a big step forward and fight our way back to the front when the championship gets under way again.”
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