The 2012 European F3 Open Series got off to something of grey and miserable start in the Algarve, although the weather would be the only downer on display.
Indeed, there was some pleasant surprise when the series revealed a packed field of 26 cars for the season, with the possibility of further entries during the year.
The grid has been filled with fourteen brand new Dallara F312 chassis’, while twelve competitors have opted to run in the Copa Class with the previous generation’s cars, the F308 – also a Dallara product, albeit one with several years of development.
Of the pack, Mans Grenhagen showed his worth in the opening round, taking a win and a 2nd place to lead the standings with 45 points, some 15 up on Canadian racer Gianmarco Raimondo.
Mexico’s Juan Carlos Sistos took the opening race, but a difficult second event saw him drop to 3rd in the championship, some 17 points shy of Grenhagen.
Kevin Giovesi took the opening Copa Class victories, finishing 5th overall in both races, earning 20 points and an 8-point lead over next placed runner Alexandre Cougnaud.
There is a four-week gap to the next event, this time at the classic Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit, before the series heads off to Spa-Francorchamps, Brands Hatch and Paul Ricard during the summer months.
Ending the season will be three Autumn rounds at the Hungaroring, Monza and Barcelona.
European F3 Open Round of the Algarve (Rd 1, Race 1, Portimao, 17 laps)
Juan Carlos Sistos took the opening race of the 2012 season thanks to a smart drive in his EmiliodeVillota Motorsport Dallara. The Spaniard led off the line, only to be taken by Gianmarco Raimondo come the start of the second tour. Raimondo held the lead for six laps before succumbing to persistent pressure, with Sistos forcing the issue on the approach into turn one.
Raimondo would soon fall backwards with first Mans Grenhagen making a move for 2nd on lap 11 and then Sam Dejonghe taking 3rd four tours later, dropping Raimondo to 4th. It marked impressive drives from Grenhagen who started 5th, while Dejonghe fought his way back from 7th after a bad start.
Kevin Giovesi took 5th and the Copa Class win, ahead of early challenger Facu Regalia (6th). Matteo Beretta and Noel Jammal sailed to 7th and 8th respectively while Matteo Davenia took 9th after starting last.
Two safety-car periods closed the gaps through the field – the first to retrieve Tatiana Calderon’s stranded Dallara following an engine blow up on lap 13. The race was green for only a few corners when it was neutralized once again, this time to clear a four car entanglement in turn one. The race finished under yellows.
Result: Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Juan Carlos Sistos EmiliodeVillota Motorsport 36:10.196s 2. Mans Grenhagen EmiliodeVillota Motorsport +0.202s 3. Sam Dejonghe Team West-Tec F3 +1.283s Full results (coming shortly).
European F3 Open Round of the Algarve (Rd 1, Race 2, Portimao, 17 laps)
In contrast, race two started under safety car conditions due to heavy rain at the Portimao circuit, giving poleman Grenhagen a secure lead when the race got going on lap four. The Spaniard spent the remaining laps stretching his legs, winning by 5.8 seconds come the chequered flag.
Grenhagen spent much of the running untroubled from behind, as Raimondo and Niccolo Schiro fought amongst themselves for the runner-up spot – a battle eventually won by Raimondo, although Schiro appeared to back off in the final tours.
Regalia was the first to lose out having been passed for 3rd by Schiro as the race turned green; however the Campos racer enjoyed a twenty second gap over 5th place Giovesi, who secured his second Copa Class win of the weekend.
It was a tight battle for 5th in the latter half of the race with Giovesi swapping places with Beretta on numerous occasions, but once Giovesi had made the decisive move three laps from the end, Beretta had no answer.
Manuel Bejarano assumed a lonely 7th ahead of Jammal (who started 15th), while Sistos and Calderon rounded out the top ten.
Result: Pos Driver Team Time / Gap 1. Mans Grenhagen EmiliodeVillota Motorsport 35:33.516s 2. Gianmarci Raimondo RP Motorsport +5.872s 3. Niccolo Schiro RP Motorsport +7.143s Full results (coming shortly).
European F3 Open Championship Standings (Rd 1) Drivers’ classification Pos Driver Points 1. Mans Grenhagen 45 2. Gianmarco Raimondo 30 3. Juan Carlos Sistos 28 4. Facu Regalia 20 5. Kevin Giovesi 20 Teams’ classification Pos Driver Points 1. EmiliodeVillota Motorsport 20 2. RP Motorsport 12 3. DAV Racing 6 Copa Class classification Pos Team Points 1. Kevin Giovesi 20 2. Alexandre Cougnaud 12 3. Cristian Serrada 8