Northern European Cup gets off to a promising start

The maiden round of the Northern European Championship got off to a progressive start at Monza, with Callan O’Keeffe gaining eight places, starting on the grid in thirteenth to finish in fifth. Daruvala progressed from tenth to eighth while Alex Gill gained an impressive twelve places during the race finally having climbed to sixteenth position.

The first race of the season got off to a delayed start after a stall at the front of the grid, meaning an extra formation lap was added. During the first lap, Daruvala was quick to increase his position to eighth while O’Keeffe gained two places into tenth. Gill charged through the pack, moving up to twentieth. Habsburg and Chudleigh were not so fortunate in their first lap, with Habsburg falling from nineteenth to twenty-eighth and Chudleigh from seventeenth to twenty-ninth.

By lap four, Fortec drivers O’Keeffe, Daruvala and Claman de Melo had progressed to the positions of eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. With fourteen minutes left on the clock, Olsen was able to take tenth position from Claman de Melo, but Claman was was soon on the attack on Olsen. After race leader Deletraz pitted half way through the race due to a penalty, O’Keeffe moved up to seventh, Daruvala up to eighth and Claman progressed to tenth.

Two-thirds of the way through the race saw a battle for 10th emerge between Noble and Claman de Melo. After racing side by side, Claman had the inside line approaching the first chicane, but Noble continued to defend up into the second chicane whereby Claman de Melo had to quickly slot in behind Noble. The final moments of the race saw O’Keeffe make a last minute progression to fifth. Claman de Melo finished in eleventh while Luke Chudleigh finished in twenty-sixth.

The second race in Italy presented itself with many a battle. O’Keefe shot out from third on the grid to get right up alongside Sasahara who then moved across on him. In order to avoid the wall, O’Keeffe had to lift to slot back behind, before going into the first chicane where he was pushed into forth. While Daruvala lost fifth position to Jorg, Gill was able to climb three positions, pushing him to seventh, directly behind teammate Daruvala.

Chudleigh was also able to gain a track position during the first lap, gaining him eleventh place. Four minutes into the race and a battle for ninth was brewing down towards the first chicane. After fighting for position amongst Hansson, Defourny and Sorenson, Chudleigh remained in twelfth.

With twenty minutes left on the clock, Habsburg rejoined the race from the pits after involvement in the chaos during the first lap in the first chicane. After continuous pressure from Jorg, O’Keeffe was pushed down to fifth but continued to chase Jorg. With seventeen minutes to go, Fortec drivers Daruvala and Gill were closing the gap to each other in the fight for seventh. After some tense wheel to wheel action, Daruvala got ahead. Chudleigh was also narrowing the gap with them in ninth.

With fourteen minutes remaining, the battle for third commenced. O’Keeffe charged towards Hasse-Clot and Jorg while Oslen remained quick on his tail, closing the gap down the straight towards the chicane. The gap continued to close over several laps until, while attacking Jorg in the last eight minutes, Olsen took fifth position from O’Keeffe.

The battle was not over and with just two laps to go, O’Keeffe took the outside line into the first chicane, only to make contact which pushed him all the way down into twenty-first. Daruvala finished in an impressive forth, while Gill crossed the finish line in a close fifth. Both Chudleigh and Claman de Melo progressed during the race with Chudleigh finishing tenth and Claman de Melo in twelfth. Habsburg failed to finish the race, after starting from eighth on the grid.

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