Alpine Europa Cup: big steps forward for Margaux Verza, claims class podium at Nogaro
"We showed good pace, a lot of improvement and a lot more confidence in the car" - Margaux Verza made significant steps forward and, at the first round of the 2023 Alpine Europa Cup, claimed her first class podium; despite an unfortunate end to race 2, the Frenchwoman is steadily moving up the field in the competitive one-make series.
At her return to the Alpine Elf Europa Cup for her second season in the series, Margaux Verza immediately showed big improvements and proved that she will be a contender in the Challenger class as well as for the overall top ten.
The French racer, who is also a motorsport engineer, returned with Autosport GP in the #71 entry and, at the Nogaro round which traditionally kicks off the championship on the Easter weekend, made her way up the order in both races, eventually equalling her best result from 2022 despite a couple of unfortunate circumstances that prevented her from capitalising on her pace.
With steady progression through her rookie season, Verza first broke in the top-20 at Magny Cours in her second race weekend in 2022, quickly progressing through the midfield until Monza and Paul Ricard towards the end of the season. She is now picking up where she had left off, as she noticeably looks more at ease in the highly competitive one-make series.
At Nogaro, Verza was P13 in qualifying, securing pole position in the Challenger class.
When the lights went out for Race 1, a contact on the leading group cost Ethan Bernard a five second penalty, as Louis Maurice sslotted ahead of Mateo Herrero and Romain Favre.
Margaux Verza had a good getaway and moved up to P12 overall, as she had pace to further climb the order. The leading duo tried to break away from Lorens Lecertua - who had settled in third after the second lap, and Romain Favre and Enzo Geraci who were battling out for fourth place.
Maurice and Herrero engaged in a close duel for the lead which ended up in a high speed contact at Turn 1, with Maurice spinning out into the gravel. After a further incident, Herrero went off one lap later and ended his race in the grass.
Margaux Verza moved up to P11 with 15 minutes to go, as she kept closing in on her first top 10 in the series.
Making the most out of the chaos at the top, Lecertua grabbed the lead and preceded Favre, Geraci and Alexis Garcin, also catching the group of the front runners. While Lecertua opened a safe gap, a five-car group swapped places for the runner up spot, sparing no contacts.
Unfortunately, a spin dropped Verza down to P19 overall, but the young Frenchwoman put up a great recovery drive in the final 12 minutes of racing: she managed to gain six more places to finish P13 overall. The spectacular charge gained the only female driver on the grid third place in the Challenger category - her first class podium.
"The first race was quite eventful, the pace was good until I made a small mistake under pressure from behind", Verza explained. "I still finished on the third step of the podium in the Challenger category and I am very happy to offer this first podium to my team, the first of many I hope!"
Tim Merieux had secured pole position on Monday morning, edging Enzo Geraci and Lukas Papin. With P16 overall, Margaux Verza was second in class in Q2, aiming to make even more progress after an already positive first race.
With a great pass after the back straight, Merieux was back on top after Geraci had found a way past at the start, in a hectic first lap that saw many position changes in the midfield. Margaux Verza was up to P15, battling with Jules Gougeon; she gained one more place after a mistake for Romain Brun. With solid pace, Verza moved ahead of Bernardi and grabbed third in class on lap 3, when she started to hunt down Adrien Catelin.
Ahead, Merieux and Geraci pulled away, as Favre had to keep race 1 winner Lecertua at bay, over 5 seconds adrift the leaders.
On lap 8, Margaux Verza was unfortunately hit and spun by Fournier - and then collected by Bernardi, which brought an end to her otherwise positive race for the driver of the #71 Alpine A110 Cup.
The race went back to green after a safety car with 7 minutes to go; Geraci pushed hard but Merieaux was unchallenged and took his first win in the championship. With a remarkable recovery, Alexis Garcin climbed the order up to fourth place. Romain Favre completed the podium in third place - after a red flag interrupted the race on the final lap following the accident of Alain Jacono.
Despite the unlucky second day of racing, Verza is showing important steps forward compared to her 2022 rookie season; from a significant improved qualifying, to a good race pace and more confidence in the race battles, Verza is surely set to further climb a very competitive grid in the French one-make series this year.
"We showed good pace, a lot of improvement and a lot more confidence in the car!", Margaux told us after the first round. "We did a great job with my team, there is still some work to do but I am really looking forward to continuing this momentum and to participate in the next race!"
The former home of the French GP at Magny Cours will host the second race meeting on 5-7 May.