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Alpine Europa Cup: Top-15 for Margaux Verza at Spa Francorchamps

An unfortunate pre-event accident hampered Margaux Verza's chances for a strong finish at Spa Francorchamps, third round of the Alpine Europa Cup. Having missed practice, Verza had to learn the track in qualifying - but she still came home with a top-15 in race 2, as she now focuses on the next round at Dijon.

Photo credits: Alpine Elf Europa Cup

Margaux Verza is contesting her second season in the competitive Alpine Elf Europa Cup - the French manufacturer's one make series that has a proven record of developing young talents up the ranks of international sports car racing. The series has often featured highly promising female racing drivers - with Gosia Rdest and Lilou Wadoux among the others. Verza, a young driver and engineer, had a learning-oriented first season at the wheel of the Alpine A110 Cup, showing consistent improvements in the second half of the year, where she progressively got closer to the top 10 and got more comfortable in the wheel-to-wheel battles. At the start of her second season at Nogaro, Verza made huge steps forward, claiming a class podium in the challenger class. With a lot more confidence in the car, it would be clear that Margaux would be eyeing overall top ten finishes in 2023. At Magny Cours, Verza was once again in the top three in among the Challenger entries in the first race, completed in a promising P13 after gaining two positions. Only one race was contested, after a technical issue on some of the cars was found and the race 2 postponed on safety grounds. An unfortunate third round, though, has prevented Margaux from fully showing her potential at Spa Francorchamps. A crash in a pre-event test ended up hampering her whole weekend, as the French driver was forced to miss free practice as the team fixed the car. The missed track time was particularly unfortunate, being her first ever time at the track. Having driven around the 7.004 km circuit in the Ardennes only on the simulator before, it was a monumental task for Margaux to learn its secrets straight into qualifying. "Spa clearly won’t be my best memory of the season", Verza told us. "I was discovering the circuit for the first time after having driven it on a simulator. Unfortunately, a crash in private testing on Thursday morning prevented me from taking part in free practices in the afternoon." "We worked a lot mentally and on confidence in the car to get back into it straight away, even if it was straight into qualifying the next day. After the expectedly challenging qualifying, Verza would take the start of race 1 from P20, fifth in the Challenger class - which would force the French driver to make up positions in the races. In Saturday's first race, Enzo Geraci took the early lead from Lorens Lecertua and Alexis Garcin - but a big crash in the mid pack brought out the safety car, after multiple cars were involved in an accident on the run down towards Eau Rouge; Papin spun at the exit of La Source and was collected by Richard - who retired with significant damage - as well as Fournier who made it to the pits but eventually couldn't continue. Margaux Verza was caught in the melee and was hit by another car, but she could rejoin. The race was back underway on lap 3, with Geraci managing the restart from the battling Lecertua and Garcin. A further contact at Pouhon took out Maurice, while Jacono continued; there was again no luck for Verza, who was hit again and had to pit on lap 3, eventually pulling out of the first race. "My first race wasn’t great, though, as I got hit twice at the start and at the safety car restart, so I had to retire", Margaux summed up. Lecertua managed to snatch victory after a further safety car, with Garcin and Jousset rounding out the podium.

Photo credits: Alpine Elf Europa Cup

Romain Favre lined up on pole position for race 2 on a sunny Sunday morning, alongside Alexis Garcin and with Enzo Geraci and Tim Merieux on the second row. From 20th on the grid - and fifth in the Challenger class - Margaux Verza was eyeing a recovery to make up for the unfortunate first race on Saturday.

A contact at the start sent Meriaux into the inside wall on the main straight, but was luckily avoided by the incoming cars; Margaux Verza successfully navigated the first lap to gain several positions, slotting into P17 and battled with Catelin and Fournier. Favre, Garcin and Lecertua tried to open a gap on the rest of the pack - but their close battle allowed Geraci, Jousset and Brun also to remain at striking distance.

Despite some bodywork damage, Geraci attacked Lecertua at the Bus Stop chicane - but the latter fought back at La Source. The position changes ended up with Favre pulling away.

Margaux Verza had good battles in the midfield and moved up to 16th and fourth in class after she passed Figuiere.

In the final two minutes, race 1 winner Enzo Geraci made contact with Lecertua at Blanchimont and went off in the gravel at high speed. The safety car was deployed - effectively ending the race. Favre took victory in race 2, ahead of Garcin and Lecertua. Margaux Verza had a solid race and finished 15th, fourth in the Challenger class - in an overall positive day after the difficult start of the weekend.

Having gained a few spots and held her own in some close battles, Margaux secured a top-15. While Verza has proven to belong further up the order, she will regroup and start anew at the next round.

"The aim of the second race was to finish and above all to enjoy myself", Margaux commented. "The performances weren’t necessarily there, but once again I’ve learnt to work on the rest, on managing my emotions and my mental state, and that’s the big positive point to remember. Now let’s focus on Dijon!"

The Dijon-Prenois circuit - home of the memorable battle between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux at the 1979 French GP - will host the fourth round of the 2023 Alpine Europa Cup on 16-18 June, as the calendar reaches its half-way point.

Photo credits: Alpine Elf Europa Cup



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