PAPANASTASIOU LEAPS INTO CHAMPIONSHIP TOP EIGHT AT DONINGTON
Impressive single-seater driver Dimitris Papanastasiou put together a season-best series of performances at Donington Park National Circuit over the weekend, 31st May/1st June, to move into the top eight of the Protyre Formula Renault Championship standings for Hillspeed.
Delivering a best finish of sixth place in round five, the Greek category rookie went on to record a similarly competitive seventh place result in round six. Added to eighth position from the opening encounter on Saturday, Papanastasiou enjoyed his strongest run yet in the category.
All of that came off the back of an excellent showing in qualifying, particularly the opening session where the 31-year-old London-based driver produced the fifth fastest time, just 0.1 seconds shy of the second row of the grid.
“We’ve had a wonderful weekend with Dimitris”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “We made huge steps from the first weekend at Rockingham, he has thoroughly enjoyed his driving here at Donington and did everything we asked of him. Dimitris’ pace was fantastic, he drove very tidily and he didn’t put a mark on the car all weekend.
“Dimitris had never driven around Donington in the dry before qualifying on Saturday, so fifth in the first session was fantastic – and it could have even been top three as he did lose a bit of time with a gear change at one of the corners. From here we can continue to build, we’re all really looking forward to the remaining rounds.”
Making a superb start to round four on Saturday afternoon at the Hathersage team’s ‘home’ track, Papanastasiou instantly climbed into fourth place on the run into Redgate but was unfortunately elbowed back to ninth as the pack headed down through Hollywood and the Craner Curves.
On lap four, the Hillspeed driver was able to pick up eighth position at the expense of Canadian racer Patrick Dussault and he then set about trying to recover more ground by challenging Indian driver Tarun Reddy. Doing everything he could, Papanastasiou ultimately had to settle for eighth position within just 0.1 seconds of Reddy at the flag.
In round five on Sunday morning, several cars appeared to creep on the line prior to the lights going out but Papanastasiou wasn’t flustered and he climbed from eighth into seventh place before then taking sixth position on the second tour.
Determined to try and make even bigger progress, the Hillspeed driver was in the thick of a superbly close battle featuring half a dozen cars all dicing over the final rostrum placing. In the end he had to settle for a nonetheless excellent career-best finish of sixth and, notably, his best lap of the race was just 0.2 seconds shy of podium-finishing pace.
Lining-up on the fourth row of the grid for round six, Papanastasiou expertly climbed into the coveted top six but was nudged back to seventh on lap two by pole-starter Piers Hickin, the latter recovering through the order after stalling at the start.
Running in a tight pack once again, as the race evolved Papanastasiou tried everything possible to get ahead of Dussault who defended sixth place heavily and at the finish on lap 15 the Greek racer was just 0.5 seconds behind the Canadian.
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent, Papanastasiou’s ‘home’ track, will host rounds seven and eight of the Protyre Formula Renault Championship over the weekend 26th/27th July. Hillspeed, meanwhile, will be back in action in the Ginetta Junior Championship next weekend, 7th/8th June, at Oulton Park in Cheshire.
Provisional 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship Standings (after Rd6):
8th Dimitris Papanastasiou, 79pts