It was a successful weekend for Lilou Wadoux & Gosia Rdest, who both secured podium finishes and a solid amount of points at the second round of the Alpine Europa Cup in Magny-Cours. Wadoux impressed with a wild chase in race 1, as Rdest conquered her first podium in the series.
The second two of the Alpine Elf Europa Cup saw the 20-car field returning to the track after the season opener at Nogaro, five weeks ago.
Now at the former home of the French GP at Magny-Cours, the series held its second double-header, with its two female drivers in contention for positions at the top. And indeed, both of them left the French venue with silverware. Polish racing driver Gosia Rdest secured her first podium of the season this weekend, while Lilou Wadoux - who was third and second at Nogaro - put on a show in race 1 as she overtook half the field after avoiding a lap 1 incident.
Lilou Wadoux (Patrick Roger Autosport GP) had a great start of the weekend as she set the fastest lap in dry conditions in second practice. The first session was in fact contested in wet and tricky conditions for the drivers, and saw Wadoux finishing 3rd and Gosia Rdest (Chazel Technologie Course) 5th, in both sessions.
The qualifying session was interrupted by a red flag and subsequently was a traffic-management nightmare for a lot of the drivers. Lilou Wadoux qualified well to start race 1 from 3rd position; Gosia Rdest had to settle for the fourth row in eighth.
From the very beginning of the first race, it was chaos: Jean-Baptiste Mela (Autosport GP) started well from pole, but Laurent Hurgon (LSGroup Autosport GP) - who had started alongside him in second - was spun around by Simon Tirman (Autosport GP). The latter had made contact with Corentin Tierce (HERRERO RACING) and collided with Ugo de Wilde (HERRERO RACING).
Initially fourth off the line, Lilou Wadoux was already third when chaos broke loose at the hairpin, but was very reactive: she was able to avoid the crash by taking the outside line, but in doing so, she had to go off track, made a U-turn and rejoined at the back of the pack. It was a costly maneuver, but likely the only one that could have allowed her to rejoin with the car in one piece.
Meanwhile, Gosia Rdest was able to sneak up into third position after a great start and followed her teammate Bruce Jouanny (Chazel Technologie Course), who had gained the most places from the start.
As the green flag was waved once again, Mela pulled away ahead of Jouanny and Gosia Rdest - the Polish lady coming under pressure from Louis Méric (Race Cars Consulting). Lap after lap, Rdest defended superbly, but ultimately Méric was able to overtake the #3 Alpine A110-Cup on lap nine.
All the eyes were then on Lilou Wadoux, as the 20-year old began her charge up the field with commanding pace. The French driver was on fire and passed several competitors to make her way back into the top ten. After a brilliant drive and a series of outstanding passes, Lilou Wadoux was back into fifth place, right behind Gosia Rdest.
After a great performance by both drivers, the Polish lady was able to hold on to her position and crossed the finish line in 4th place overall - which granted her the podium, with guest-driver Jouanny being ineligible to score points. It was also Rdest's best result in the series so far.
Lilou was seemingly upset by the result after the race, having missed the chance to fight for the victory. But her recovery will surely remain as one of the highlights of the weekend.
Reigning champion Mela took victory with a significant gap of over six seconds, claiming his first win of the season ahead of Jouanny and Méric. Gosia Rdest was effectively third and preceded Lilou Wadoux - the latter also scoring a second place in the Junior class.
It was again Mela to set the fastest lap in the second qualifying on Sunday morning and to earn pole position for Race 2 ahead of Hurgon and de Wilde. The Belgian - among the top protagonists of Nogaro round - was then disqualified for not respecting the minimum weight requirements - which meant that Lilou Wadoux moved up to P3 on the starting grid. Gosia Rdest qualified her Bahco-sponsored Alpine in P9. Race 2 Mela remained in the lead after the lights went out, but the Safety Car was again called out when Henri Lombard (Race Cars Consulting) and Franck Labescat (Race Cars Consulting) made contact on the second lap, requiring the intervention of the marshalls. The order at the top wasn't shuffled at the restart; Méric was forced to retire due to technical issues, but the leading trio - composed by Mela, Hurgon and Lilou Wadoux - pulled away from the rest of the field. When they crossed the finish line after the 25-minute race, the podium finishers were unchanged, with Lilou Wadoux also claiming the Junior class category win on Sunday. "This podium means a lot of points for the championship." - she commented. "The difference was mostly in qualifying with the team's lockout of the top three. We avoided committing any mistakes between us." "The strategy we went for was tested by the intervention of the Safety Car early in the race. However, the pace was there, and the target will be to keep this momentum going at Spa", added the 20 year-old driver from France. Gosia Rdest wasn't able to repeat Saturday's result and finished in eighth place, also due to some issues found on her car. Nevertheless, she was happy about the weekend: "I am very pleased with this weekend. I managed to take advantage of the chaos in the first race to get into a podium place, which I am very happy about. In the second race we had some little problems at the start. There was a power cut-out, probably caused by a steering wheel breakdown." - explained the 28-year old former W Series driver. "Now, the team is looking for the reason why this happened, for sure it's going to be repaired. I am extremely happy to go back home with a trophy, that is the proof that it was worth it to start an adventure like the Alpine Europa Cup." "Big thanks to my partners, sponsors, my team and, importantly, to my family members and everyone who was keeping the fingers crossed." - Gosia said. "I got many messages and I am very, very grateful for every one of them." It was a successful weekend for both the female drivers, which certainly put great expectations on the next Alpine Elf Europa Cup round, where the fast ladies will hopefully again battle out for their first victory. Lilou Wadoux is now second in the overall championship standings and leads the Junior class. Gosia Rdest follows in P7 in the overall rankings. The next event will take place from 18th to 20th of June at the Ardennes rollercoaster - the world-renowned Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Additional reporting: Leandre Leber, GazetteSports.fr