After testing on Thursday was cancelled because of persistent fog, the four drivers in the Toulouse-based team took to the track on Friday. Alexander Smolyar was among the front-runners in both the day’s sessions, while Thomas Neubauer also set a promising top-10 time closely followed by Neil Verhagen and Frank Bird.
On Saturday, Q1 confirmed this hierarchy as Smolyar and Neubauer broke into the top 5 in their group. Smolyar made a great start and drove a very intelligent race rewarded by fifth place. Neubauer took the flag in eighth place, but was judged responsible for a collision and received a penalty reducing his efforts to naught. Verhagen gained seven places and finished 13th while Bird had to retire with engine failure.
The next day Neubauer and Smolyar put on a repeat performance in Q2 with the Parisian in front of the Russian. Like the previous day the latter made another stunning getaway and clinched eight place. Neubauer was tagged on the opening lap, but fought on to score the final point two places in front of Verhagen who started 20th on the grid. Bird’s hopes were quickly shattered by a drive-through penalty due to speeding in the pit lane when the race was suspended.
After the first leg in Germany, Tech 1 Racing has moved up to fifth in the overall classification. In the drivers’ ratings, Smolyar has closed the gap to the top 10 to only five points.
“Overall, it was a positive weekend despite R-ace GP’s domination who we would like to congratulate on their title,” summed up Olivier Maernhout, the Tech 1 Racing team manager. “Alexander continues his move up the championship classification thanks to his good performances. Even if he could have done better in Q2, he was steady and aggressive in the opening laps and drove an intelligent race after that. His two finishes in the points are the result of a lot of work we’ve done with him, his engineers and SMP Racing during recent weeks. We’re delighted about this and we think he can progress even further if he manages to get everything out of his package as soon as he takes to the track.
“About Neil, the overall balance of his car was good throughout the weekend but it didn’t help him to give his best and exploit all his potential. He really has to get the monkey off his back in qualifying as his speed in the race helps him to make great comebacks. We have two events left to do this and we won’t give up. We’re going to do everything in our power to help him fight his way up to the top of the time sheets.
“Thomas had his best all-round weekend since the beginning of the season, indeed since the start of our adventure together that began last year. Even if he was caught out by the first-lap frenzy and lost the benefit of his good result in Q1, he was able to fight back and progress both in terms of performance and driving skills. In fact, he got very close to the top 3 in Q2. His clean, intelligent race helped him score a point on his own merit on a very technical track. We’re really happy about this and we hope he’ll continue this momentum till the end of the year.
“Frank had a difficult weekend. He didn’t manage to find that little extra that got him into the top ten in the previous events. Even if he was happy with his car’s behaviour the results didn’t follow although he never gave up trying. He was also unlucky with engine failure on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean we should forget his overall improvement. We’re convinced that he’ll soon be back where he belongs in the top 10.”
At the end of this week Tech 1 Racing will compete in the second-last round of the season on the Hockenheim circuit (21-23 September).
“We’re satisfied with our cars’ level of performance on a track on which Lady Luck hasn’t smiled on us in the last few years,” concluded Maernhout. “We scored points in both races with two cars in the top ten on Sunday. This has helped us get back into fifth place in the championship. We’ll do everything to consolidate this position and help Alex and Neil to break into the top ten in the overall classification.”
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