Winner – Daniele Vidimari (Team RSI) 32 laps 40:05.473
Fastest Lap – Michal Nizio (Rapid Racing) 1:13.452
Pole Position – Luis Moreno (ANBU Racing) 1:12.179
Daniele Vidimari of Team RSI has clearly laid out his intentions with an exceptional win from seventh on the grid in the inaugural RF2 Asia Formula Renault 3.5 All-Japan Series at Okayama. Has another action-packed race now established yet another ANBU racing driver as a direct rival to Vidimari? Luis Moreno produced a terrifyingly quick qualifying time of 1:12.179 to tale pole position, but battles with Autohouse Racing’s Greg Olson and Vidimari led to a spectacular finish at the front of the field.
By Vidimari’s own admission he made the win tough for himself; he was late to qualifying and could only manage 7th place. However, he stated after the race that his start was “good and clean” gaining positions across the initial laps. With a great start he took advantage of issues suffered by Michal Nizio, causing his retirement as well as lapped traffic slowing the lead cars. He pushed and eventually overtook the battling Luis Moreno and Greg Olsen and held on for the win. Following the race Moreno expressed his displeasure at issues in the race between himself and Olsen, but these were likely to have been net-code related. Olsen was gentlemanly enough to give a position back to Moreno, despite his losing another place to the charging Vidimari. All three must now have identified each other as clear competition in the series. Olsen stated afterwards that he took advantage of the setup kindly shared by Vidimari earlier in the week and, whilst not quite putting a perfect lap together, was happy with P3. The Autohouse Racing driver said he experienced high tyre wear across his front tyres, but the extra rubber on the track helped him preserve them. A mistake and further net-code issue allowed Moreno to repass him and he held on to the final podium position.
Akira Iwata finished a creditable fourth after a bad start to the race. His pace was too much for Audie Devanugraha and Chris Shire, although Shire was unsettled by a late and misjudged move to try and take fourth position from him up the inside of the hairpin on lap 15. The collision initially allowed Devanugraha through, but Iwata gave chase and eventually won the position. Devanugraha was perhaps lucky to finish the race given several spotting that his car was regularly smoking as it went around the track. With the Safety 2nd and Need Happiness drivers disappearing down the road, Shire settled in for sixth place. This was no easy task, however, given the pace of Mark Robinson in the second half of the race. As Shire battled a damaged car and destroyed front tyres, Robinson began to close at around a second a lap. With just a lap to go, Robinson had reduced a 13 second gap to just under two seconds. A mistake coming out of the final turn on the penultimate lap helped Shire hang on and Robinson had to settle for seventh. Robinson remained bullish about his performance after the race and noted that he had a disappointing qualifying session and had been tagged by several cars in the race. He was the final car not to be lapped by the frontrunners.
Finishing in a lonely eighth was the TTR racing entrant of Chris Osley. After getting a great start he was battling with the Hong Kong Sim Racing car of Edmund Wong, but the cars collided, and Wong was left with no front wing. Wong’s woes continued as he was handed a 10 second Stop and Go penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Unfortunately, a collision with Pol Fastino caused the HKSR driver to need yet another front wing. In many ways Wong was lucky to see the end of the race and finished just one position of his HKSR team mate Kelvin. Indeed, after the race Kelvin Wong explained his happiness at scoring some points in spite of a poor qualifying and struggling to get to grips with this Formula Renault car which he found too floaty in the slow corners.
Just outside the points was the outstanding finish of Alexandr Meshkov who stressed he tried to drive as carefully as he possibly could to make it to the finish. Meshkov admitted he struggled for pace and had to fight the car in Okayama’s tricky low speed corners. Despite qualifying 18th, he made up several places in the opening laps and was rewarded for his clean driving with an eleventh-place finish. These final finishers were Lukas Lichten of Madness Racing, Pol Faustino of Team Garou Philippines and Denis Hawkins of Hydra Racing. Lichten had a good race and was another beneficiary of Vidimari’s shared setup, although lost time through having to pit twice. Faustino, coming off the back of an exceptional drive in the recent Dubai endurance race, was disappointingly off the pace and was involved in a few minor incidents, as was Denis Hawkins.
Six retirements were suffered in the race, initially by Konstantin Back who elected to not start the race. It was a tough day for Tri-Continental Racing as Fahad Gaffoor and Chris Payne both retired, with Gaffoor being tagged in a turn one incident that caught out many drivers. Michal Nizio also retired after a mistake with a curb put him into the wall on lap 8. Jason Back was unhappy with the grip levels on the track and retired on lap 11.
The race was an action-packed opener to the series throughout the field and all participants are to be commended on taking part in an ultra-tough and competitive track and car combination. RF2 Asia would like to note the camaraderie and professionalism of drivers during and after the race and we are so excited to have you as part of this series. The next race will be at the Fuji International Speedway; a track which has little in common with the twists and undulations of Okayama. The power of the Formula Renault 3.5 will surely lead to a high speed, high action race for all competitors!
Full results and standings can be found through the menu bar above.
Round 2 of the RF2 Asia 2018 FR3.5 All-Japan series at Fuji International Speedway will start at 10:00 UTC+0 on 19th August 2018.
Entries for the series are still possible. If you are not registered and wish to take part we would love to accommodate you! See the links in the title bar for details, or click here for series sign up!