05 Sep Alfonso Celis Jr. steps onto the podium in front of home crowd!
Tuesday 5th September – The British team packed their Dallara T12 cars and flew 5,532 miles to the other side of the world for the most anticipated round of the 2017 calendar. #TeamFortec became #TeamMexico as they arrived in the densely populated capital of Mexico City to join their hometown heroes Diego Menchaca and Alfonso Celis Jr.
The crowds arrived in their thousands proudly waving red, white and green flags Saturday morning for qualifying. After a strong test performance in mixed weather conditions the previous day with Celis Jr. setting the fastest and 2ndquickest time in each session while Menchaca set the fifth and eight fastest time. Both Mexicans seemed confident around the 4.304km track.
Celis Jr. was the fastest of the teammates as he lit up the timing boards setting purple middle sectors, but unfortunately unable to put his ideal lap together having to settle for P4 with a time of 1:31:947. Menchaca was pushing his V8 engine to the limit and crossed the line three tenths behind his Mexican teammate in P7. Q2 was an improvement by both drivers with Alfonso starting race 2 on the second row of the grid in P3 with Menchaca in P6 respectively.
With both qualifying sessions complete and no time to taste the Mexican cuisine the Daventry based crew were back on track for race 1 to complete the hectic Saturday at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. As the lights went out Celis Jr. made a steady getaway and tucked into the slipstream approaching turn 1. Menchaca had a nightmare start suffering from clutch issues and dropped to the back of the pack. As all cars felt the tow effects of the long straight, Russian SMP backed driver Egor Orudzhev out braked himself and went straight on into turn 1 narrowly avoiding the pack. As the cars in front braked sharply, Celis Jr. made contact losing a couple of places and damaging his nose tip and left endplate, which would affect his downforce throughout the race. This didn’t faze the young Mexican driver as he pushed on to make a stunningly brave move around the outside of Lotus’s Binder to take P5 to the crowd’s delight, putting a gap of 1.3 seconds between the pair after just one lap. Menchaca was also inspired by the crowd’s encouragement and worked his way up the field to then be forced onto the grass by RP Motorsport’s Nissany who made a mistake at turn 1 and dangerously reentered the track. It was a bold last lap lunge into turn 13 which saw Menchaca promoted to P8 while his teammate maintained P5 to score valuable championship points.
Sunday morning produced mixed fortunes for the Fortec squad with Menchaca not able to take his 6th position on the grid having to start from the pit lane due to a mysterious electrical glitch. Lights out and Celis Jr. made a good initial launch out of his box but was forced backwards to P6. The safety car was deployed soon after as Orudzhev and Palou collided promoting Alfonso to fourth and allowing Diego Menchaca to catch the leading pack. With mandatory pit stops in mind the drivers pushed hard to get the remaining life out of the degrading tyres. Menchaca had fought his way up to seventh before pitting but frustratingly stalled when released, resulting in him tumbling back to ninth position. Celis Jr. however received the fastest pit stop of the race and was able to jump to P2 after an issue with Rene Binder forced the Lotus car to retire. A last lap incident involving Nissany and Isaakyan saw the race finish behind the safety car with Alfonso taking the chequered flag in second and Diego following in fifth.
Alfonso Celis Jr.
“In general it was a positive weekend, the first goal was to finish both races and score valuable points which we achieved. It was always going to be hard as we didn’t know the track and didn’t have much data to work with. Now we can move forward to Austin, a track I know and really like, so we will push hard for a good weekend. I think the track suits me really well and Im aiming for some victories.”
2017 World Series V8 3.5 Championship Standings with 2 rounds remaining:
P4 / Alfonso Celis Jr. – 178 points
P9 / Diego Menchaca – 67 points