PEPE MARTI AND JAMIE DAY SCORE MAIDEN WINS AS F4UAE TITLE FIGHT NARROWS TO THREE
Spaniard Pepe Marti and UAE based-Jamie Day have claimed their maiden openwheeler race victories at the penultimate round of the FIA F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth at Yas Marina Circuit, as the title fight narrowed to just three drivers.
Having started his 2021 campaign with a crash last month, Marti (#13) made the most of his speed by charging to victory in Race 2. While rookie racer Day (#24) took a hard-fought Race 4 victory despite finishing third on track; the two drivers ahead both penalised for exceeding track limits which handed the win to the kart champion.
Championship leader Dilano Van't Hoff failed to win a race this round - the first winless weekend for the Dutch racer this season - but holds onto a points lead ahead of CRAM Durango's Enzo Trulli (#34) and Xcel Motorsport's Kirill Smal (#7), with all three the only drivers in contention for the title at the final round next week at the Dubai Autodrome.
Trulli was another race winner at Round 4 in Abu Dhabi, along with Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema's Hamda Al Qubaisi (#88).
“This season has really put on some spectacular competition and there is not a race that goes by without multiple-car battles not just at the front but all throughout the pack which is really exciting to watch," said F4UAE technical delegate Craig Thompson.
“Holding five rounds in five weeks has been a mammoth task for all involved, and it's a lot of racing for our young drivers, especially with most of them being rookies. So we're very happy to see how hard they've been competing and we're really looking forward to the top drivers fighting for the championship crown next week in Dubai."
Two qualifying sessions on Friday morning saw another whitewash by Van’t Hoff (#17) who for the fourth weekend topped the times outright in both sessions. The Dutch racer clocked a fastest time in Q1 and Q2 of 1m56.911s and 1m56.609s respectively, to earn pole position for Races 1 and 3.
The front row saw Van't Hoff and Al Qubaisi starting from P1 and P2, with title contender Trulli back in fourth. The Italian Trulli lost a place to Smal while Van’t Hoff fended off Al Qubaisi into turn one, but Trulli soon moved from fifth to second to fight for the lead. Al Qubaisi and Van't Hoff came together a lap later with the former crashing out, as Trulli passed Van’t Hoff around the outside to move in front as the Safety Car came out. Trulli sprinted away on the restart with Smal following, while Van’t Hoff made up track position from sixth to third. Another safety car period came out for a dualling Oleksandr Partyshev (#23) and Jonas Ried (#77) which didn't dampen Trulli and Smal in P1 and P2 respectively, however cost Van’t Hoff third place to Marti at the chequered flag.
Marti claimed the Race 2 pole with Trulli alongside on the front row, but it was the Spaniard who raced to a lights-to-flag victory for Xcel Motorsport; his first career open-wheeler win. Teammate Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak (#14) spun in the latter stages of the race to bring out the Safety Car, with the race finishing under yellow except for a dash to the chequered flag on the last lap. Trulli finished second ahead of Van’t Hoff and Al Qubaisi who both tussled for places most of the race.
The front row saw Van't Hoff and Al Qubaisi starting from P1 and P2 with the female pocket rocket taking the lead into turn one. Lap one was marred by them battling side-by-side at the end of the back straight with the Emirati cutting the track and maintaining her lead. Admitting that she was aware that a five-second penalty would be applied, Al Qubaisi charged ahead to gain enough lead time over her rivals to null the penalty, ending up 10.8s in the lead by race's end. A further penalty was also applied for exceeding track limits, bringing her lead down to just 0.8seconds; enough to take the win. With the UAE starlett out front, Van’t Hoff was left to fight with Trulli and Smal. The Italian beat Van’t Hoff in their fight for second place.
The grid for Race 4 was made up of the top-eight finishers of Race 3 reversed, however with penalties applied the front row saw the BWT Mücke Motorsport driver Jonas Ried line up on pole alongside Enzo Scionti (#29). Ried took the lead however the American stalled on the grid, and drama ensued as Trulli made contact with Marti at the end of the back straight, leaving the Race 2 winner stranded. As the field settled, Ried lead Smal and Jamie Day (#24) as the Safety car was called to help recover Marti's stranded #13 Tatuus but track limit penalties were soon applied to the two frontrunners, relegating them down the order and giving Day his maiden victory. Van’t Hoff was disqualified for technical issues.
After four rounds, Van’t Hoff leads the provisional standings ahead of Trulli second and Smal third with just the grand finale left in 2021. Round 5 of the F4UAE Championship heads back to Dubai Autodrome next week (February 11-13).