CONSISTENTLY STRONG DEBUT FOR PAPANASTASIOU IN FORMULA RENAULT
Hillspeed’s Dimitris Papanastasiou put together a highly competitive debut in the 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship at Rockingham in Northamptonshire over the weekend, 5th/6th April, with a best result of eighth place during the last of the event’s three races.
Arriving in the ultra-competitive category for his first ever full season of motor racing action, having previously only contested part campaigns in Formula Palmer Audi and last year’s Winter Series in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship, the Greek 31-year-old made big strides on his Formula Renault bow.
Impressing during his maiden qualifying session on Saturday morning, securing a top 10 start for his first race, just 0.6 seconds outside the top six, the London-based driver posted an improved ninth best time for round two. In session two, he bagged another top 10 start for round three.
Getting away from the line cleanly at the start of Saturday afternoon’s opening round, the Hillspeed driver unfortunately lost his front wing as the tightly bunched mid-pack negotiated Deene Hairpin so he had to make an unscheduled pit-stop at the end of the first lap.
Although going a lap down on the leaders, Papanastasiou was back into the race very quickly thanks to great work from the team to replace the nose box. He eventually finished in 12th place, notably posting a fastest lap time equaling the top five pace of 2013 Autumn Cup Champion Ben Barnicoat.
For round two on Sunday, Papanastasiou concluded the opening lap in 10th position and began to pressure American racer Travis Jordan Fischer. Running as part of a very tightly bunched train of five cars Papanastasiou looked set for an impressive result, but an unfortunate excursion on lap six on the run towards Gracelands dropped him out of the top 10. He eventually finished in 13th place.
Round three, the final race of the weekend, was certainly the best for the Hillspeed racer in terms of the end result and also his competitiveness. Producing a best lap time only 0.2 seconds shy of the top four pace of Pietro Fittipaldi, Papanastasiou held 10th position during the early going and once again got involved in a tight battle with Fischer.
At Tarzan on lap nine, Papanastasiou served up a fantastic pass on the American to grab ninth place and he closed to within roughly half a second of Wolfgang Reip. As the Belgian defended, Fischer was able to close back in and the three diced in very close quarters. Then, on lap nine, a tangle involving Reip and Fischer enabled Papanastasiou to claim eighth position which he held to the flag.
“All in all, Dimitris had a very good weekend”, reflected team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “There were a couple of small mistakes which compromised race one and two, but he’s learnt a lot and has done a great job after only two days in the car during the pre-season.
“Dimitris’ pace is there, we’re showing a good pace on all of the race times we just need to do a bit more work on new tyre runs in qualifying to maximise that. He likes the Renault, he’s thoroughly enjoyed everything up to now and we’re confident he’ll be even more competitive at Donington.”
There is now an eight week break in the Protyre Formula Renault Championship calendar with rounds four, five and six of the season taking place over the weekend 31st May/1st June at Donington Park National Circuit. Before then, Hillspeed will be in action at the East Midlands track on Easter weekend, 19th/20th April, with its Ginetta Junior squad for rounds three and four of its season.