February 27, 2014
Published on tags: Formula Challenge

 

Ben Hackeson reviews all the action from Round 1 of the 2014 Formula Challenge season from Albert Park, Melbourne.

THR and Tanskanen both scored 1-2s in an entertaining opening round at Melbourne, also being the only teams to take to the podium despite a strong fight from Scott Berrisford. It was a day for consistent driving on the new RFE plug-in as an impressive twelve drivers scored double points finishes and a general consensous driving standards had improved.

Pre-season practice times indicated that Tanskanen drivers James Johnson and Jonathan Holmes were the drivers to beat with Jesper Taulborg, Lewis Travis, Roy Verzijl and THR duo Robert Wiesenmueller and David Jundt also looking like they are in championship contention. Holmes, Wiesenmueller, Verzijl, John Munro, Johnson and Thomas Pfadler topped the official free practice session before qualifying.

A messy qualifying session saw many drivers lose their cool under pressure and crash out, causing other drivers to be well off their own pace avoiding the carnage. Jesper Taulborg set an early 1:35.910 as the time to beat and ultimately no driver was able to beat it. Holmes managed a last gasp 1:36.032 to take second, only after escaping to pit lane, which is a penalisable offence, with Travis, Jundt and Johnson rounding out the top 5. Championship contenders Wiesenmueller and Verzijl qualified seventh and tenth respectively.

After last years opening round 'Harlem shake' at the start it was good to see all drivers making it round the first corner, but that didnt last long as pole sitter Taulborg spun at turn 3, quickly followed by David Jundt. This left Holmes leading teammate Johnson, Wiesenmueller, Travis and Enterprise's Scott Berrisford forming the leading pack, who had quickly pulled away from the rest of the field. After a small mistake from Wiesenmuller, Travis and Berrisford attempted to take advantage and after a lap or two battling, Travis pushed too hard out of the fast turns 11 and 12 catching the barrier on the outside and spinning across the track, putting him to the back of the field with heavy damage. Near the end of the fifth lap Verzijl, who was chasing Munro and the leading pack, spun out of turn 14 and into the barrier, forcing him to pit from seventh. This let Matt Richards, leading a large train of drivers into seventh, with the top 6 staying at fairly stable gaps. It stayed that way until lap 7 where Holmes inexplicably half spun into turn 3, allowing Johnson to take over the lead, with a gap of around a second to Holmes. Meanwhile, after spinning to near the back of the field David Jundt was having an outstanding race catching on the back of the battling pack of Jack Nicholls, Santiago Niza, Teemu Toikka, Tommi Ojala and Ben Warren who were fighting for 7th after Richards spun out of points contention a few laps earlier. It all went wrong for Jundt after forcing his way into the top 10, he was collected by a spinning Niza on the penultimate lap, although both escaped damage, Jundt dropped down to 13th, where he would stay until the end. After the 15 laps, James Johnson took the first win of 2014, with Holmes and Wiesenmueller on the podium, followed by the impressive Berrisford, a solid Pfadler on debut, Munro, Paul Joseph, Niza also on debut, Nicholls, Ojala, Warren, Toikka, Jundt, Ben Hackeson and stand-in debutant Pedro Gomes took the final point.

For race 2 the top 16 were reversed meaning Mike Schroten took pole ahead of Gomes, Hackeson and race favourite David Jundt. Wiesenmuller started 14th, Holmes 15th, Johnson 16th, Taulborg 21st, Verzijl 27th and Travis 38th after crashing out and with the top 16 all capable of being within a second and a half of the pace, fighting through the pack would not be easy. As the lights went out, the leading cars all made it through turn 1 safely but then Toikka span out of 5th at the third corner and the THRs making good starts, Jundt making it past Hackeson and Wiesenmueller making it up to 6th by the end of lap 2. Eventually Jundt made it back through on Hackeson, who also dropped behind Nicholls, and then Jundt passed Gomes before Hackeson hit the back of Gomes on exit of turn 9, causing the Englishman to spin out of 5th. At turn 3 on lap 5 THR perform a double overtake, Jundt gets past Schroten for the lead and then Wiesenmueller slips past Nicholls for 3rd with Johnson catching in 5th and Gomes, Munro and Berrisford all battling for 6th. Schroten then makes it a THR 1-2 by spinning from 2nd, dropping to 5th in the process, whilst Nicholls and Johnson duel for 3rd with the Tanskanen driver eventually getting through, but not without an attempted switcheroo from Jack. On lap 8 the battle for the lower half of the top ten was brought to the boil as Berrisford and Munro (who lost a few positions in the process) made contact, allowing a charging Matt Richards to go past both of them, only to go wide and into the barriers at the chicane from suspension damage, spinning back onto the track taking out Travis, who had gained at incredible 27 positions at this point, and almost his Viking teammate, Hackeson. This had left the top 4 as before, Schroten in 5th being caught and then passed by Ojala, Berrisford alone in 7th and then Gomes, Munro, Joseph and Taulborg fighting hard for 8th position. Schroten was now the target for Berrisford, but Scott lost the back end putting pressure on Schroten, dropping down to 10th, before Munro got around the outside of Schroten on the penultimate lap before Taulborg also got through, only to be hit in turns 11-12 by the Racing Team Schroten driver on the final lap. Meanwhile David Jundt took his second ever GPVWC win, only a few weeks after his first, followed home by Wiesenmueller, Johnson, Nicholls, an impressive 5th for Ojala, Munro, Joseph, Berrisford, Schroten, 10th for Gomes, Mark Wicks, Warren, the recovering Taulborg, Hackeson and Teemu Toikka.

Championship standings:

1. Johnson = 41
2. Wiesenmueller = 36
3. Jundt = 28
4. Holmes = 20
5. Berrisford = 20
6. Munro = 20
7. Nicholls = 19
8. Joseph = 18
9. Ojala = 17
10. Pfadler = 11

Constructors:

1. THR = 64
2. Tanskanen = 61
3. Enterprise GP = 20
4. Smile = 20
5. Airastream = 20
6. JRT = 19
7. Royal Blue = 18
8. RTS = 16
9. Proline = 11
10. Bastvik = 8

We now look forward to round 2 at Sepang, Malaysia, where Jonathan Holmes and David Jundt are likely to have grid penalties next round just to spice up the action even more!

Ben Hackeson



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