Vervisch bags $110K as title race takes another twist
In just his second Superleague Formula by Sonangol race weekend, Frederic Vervisch (Liverpool) claimed the $110,000 prize for winning the dash-for-cash Super Final after a superb standing-start and then a brilliant defensive display to hold off the charging John Martin (Beijing Guoan) and Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht).
Starting from fourth on the grid, the young Belgium made an incredible getaway to dive into the lead at turn 1 as pole man Robert Doornbos (Corinthians) made a slow start and was then touched into a spin by Tristan Gommendy (Olympique Lyonnais) which ended both drivers’ races.
For the remainder of the five-lap event, Vervisch, who, unlike his two adversaries was on old tires, fought desperately to hold off the Beijing and RSC Anderlecht drivers, using his superior pace out of the last corner to stay out of their reach on the start/finish straight, before they closed up to his tail again in the twisty sections of the circuit. He crossed the line with an advantage of just 0.471 seconds at the checkered flag for a memorable win.
Martin seemed destined for second place after passing Rigon early on, but he was adjudged to have made the move under yellow flags into turn 1 and opted to give the place back on the penultimate lap to avoid a penalty. Rigon felt his chances of challenging for the lead were spoilt by Martin’s illegal move, as he had no more push to pass opportunities remaining by the time he recovered second and couldn’t challenge Vervisch for the win.
Nevertheless, the Italian can be satisfied with a fine weekend which has seen him shoot to the top of the League Table by a 14-point margin, and take his total season’s winnings to an impressive €600,000, as his major rivals suffered a variety of problems.
Martin too has enjoyed a good weekend, but at the end of the race the Australian had to be helped from his car as the draining effects of the flu bug that has plagued him since Friday finally took its toll and left him physically exhausted and unable to attend either the podium celebrations of post-race press conference.
Earlier, in another incident-packed, reversed-grid race 2, Neel Jani (Olympiacos) celebrated his Superleague Formula debut with victory to keep the Greek club’s title hopes alive.
Jani was one of several drivers to make a stunning getaway at the rolling start and from fifth on the grid he was already into the lead by turn 1 as he dived down the inside of the front two rows.
From there he was peerless, using his new tires to good effect to build a 3.5-second lead in the first 15 minutes. After a good pit stop, he rejoined with an even bigger advantage and then simply pulled away from the rest of the field to cross the finish line 9.385 seconds clear after 45 minutes of racing.
Gommendy’s start was even more impressive as he ended the first lap in second place having started down in eighth. The Frenchman, who has transferred to Lyon from Galatasaray prior to this weekend, couldn’t match the pace of Jani, but he was comfortable in second place at the finish.
Doornbos completed the podium, and secured pole for the Super Final as top points scorer from the two feature races, while Wissel was fourth ahead of Andy Soucek (Galatasaray), Vervisch and Duncan Tappy (Flamengo). Hywel Lloyd (PSV Eindhoven) came home in eighth while Rigon fought from the back row to get ninth ahead of Julien Jousse (AS Roma).
There was more drama for the title contenders. Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hotspur) lost his front wing after hitting Lloyd in the first corner at the start. He pitted for a replacement but trailed was way down the field after rejoining and trailed in a disappointed 13th at the finish.
It was even worse for Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan) whose nightmare weekend continued. The Dutchman was up to third into turn 1 having started down in 9th, but then lost places when pole man Celso Miguez (Bordeaux) spun in front of him and he had to run off track to avoid contact.
After rejoining near the back of the field, Buurman had spectacularly fought his way back through the pack with several superb overtaking maneuvers when he lost drive and pulled off into retirement, his title hopes lying in tatters.
There was also frustration for home hero Alvaro Parente (FC Porto) who failed to finish when his left-rear wheel came off in the fast final corner.
With both Dolby’s and Buurman’s weekends being dogged by problems, Rigon has now jumped to the top of the League Table and holds a 14-point advantage over the Tottenham Hotspur driver as Superleague Formula heads to China. Wissel is up to third after two solid results in the main races, followed by fourth in the Super Final, while Buurman has slipped to fourth, 43 points adrift of the leader. Jani’s race 2 win means Olympiacos also remain in the hunt in fifth place.
Frédéric Vervisch (Liverpool FC): “I’m speechless. This is the best result of my career and more importantly the money I have won means that I can continue in Superleague Formula for the next rounds. I’m really, really happy because I knew I wouldn’t be the fastest in the Super Final and I didn’t expect to win because I had no new tires left. But I made a great start, tried to use the push-to-pass at the right moment and just hold on.”
Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht): “In the Super Final Beijing overtook me under yellow flags and I had to use my push-to-pass to get back ahead. Unfortunately that meant I had none left to try and pass Liverpool so it spoilt my race. However, second isn’t bad and it’s fantastic for me and the team to be leading the championship. We had some bad luck at the start of the season so to now be ahead is fantastic.”
John Martin (Beijing Guoan):“I’m definitely feeling a lot better now! Even when I was in the medical centre I was feeling the effects of the cold or fever or whatever it is. Normally I go really well in these conditions because it’s the same as at home. It was a bit unfortunate in the Super Final because I thought it was the last lap and backed off. I couldn’t believe it! With the yellow flags, I got a call from the pit but honestly believe that I was past Davide (Rigon) far enough back on the straight that it was my corner. I didn’t move back across to block him but took the normal line.”