Bittersweet weekend for Lilou Wadoux and Gosia Rdest in Alpine Europa Cup
At the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the two female drivers of Alpine Europa Cup Lilou Wadoux and Gosia Rdest scored solid points for the championship- with the Frenchwoman just missing out on her first victory in both days.
The Alpine Elf Europa Cup - now reaching the half-way point of its 2021 calendar - contested the first race of its season outside of the French borders, as the one-make series headed to the legendary circuit of Spa Francorchamps, in the Belgian Ardennes.
Two women have been racing in the series since 2020: Polish racing star Gosia Rdest and young up-and-coming-talent Lilou Wadoux.
Rdest, 28, was among the 18 entries in the inaugural W Series season in 2019 and had already made international headlines by finishing third in 2017 at the Hankook 24H of Dubai.
In last year's championship, Gosia was 8th after her rookie season in the Alpine A-110 Cup car. This season, she had scored two eight places in Nogaro, and then went on to claim her first podium in the series at Magny Cours with a P3.
20-year old Lilou Wadoux is also competing in the junior category in the Alpine Europa Cup. Just like for Rdest, thi is Wadoux's second season in the championship; she had previously raced in national touring car series like the Renault Clio Cup. In 2021, she clinched two podiums at the Nogaro season opener, then adding a fifth and a third place at Magny Cours.
The Polish driver was very excited to be racing on such an iconic track: "I've been waiting for this weekend for years. I can't wait to race at Spa Francorchamps - it will be a tough round because I have less experience on this track compared to my rivals." - she said.
"Nevertheless, I'm in good shape, the last few weeks have been amazing for me. I hope I can keep momentum in Belgium", she added.
Lilou Wadoux, second in the standings prior to the Belgian weekend, wants to "take things race after race" and not overthink about her championship ambitions. But it's impossible not to consider her as one of the potential contenders. Her performance has been solid throughout, to say the least.
"To be second overall at one-third of the season is good, but the goal is the classification at the end of the year", says the French woman.
She returns to the venue where she had a monumental crash in touring cars - luckily with no serious consequences. But it's something that she understandably wants to put behind her and move on.
Rdest lined up ninth on the grid of the first race, while Wadoux started from the second row.
During the start, reigning champion Jean-Baptiste Mela put his four wheels on the grass but he managed to control the car. Lilou Wadoux kept her third place, as Gosia Rdest moved up to P7, but had to defend from the attacks of Tierce.
Hurgon led but the runner up spot changed again when De Wilde was overtaken by the #44 car of Lilou Wadoux. Former GP2 racer and F1 test driver Dani Clos - this weekend in the guest entry - made contact with another car and went widem losing some positions.
The top-six driver steadily built a gap from the rest of the field, with Gosia Rdest leading the second group of three cars, with Tierce and Tirman right in her rearview mirrors.
Not satisfied with her second place, Lilou Wadoux was glued to the rear-bumper of Hurgon: the French lady finally found the right move - which looked fantastic: Wadoux took the lead and began building a gap. Unfortunately, a communication by the race direction shattered her race winning ambitions: the leader received a 5-second time penalty for a track limits violation.
Behind her, it was chaos when Romano spun, Clos and Mela made contact at Malmedy and the reigning champion went off. Clos rejoined, but Hurgon continued to follow Wadoux closely, as half of the grid received more track-limits warnings and penalties.
Gosia Rdest - who was safely in seventh and had managed to keep Tierce and Tirman at bay -was unfortunately one of the drivers to be handed penalties. Then, a brake failure further dropped her to P13 in the closing minutes. Nevertheless, she could still gain a few places.
Meric and Clos had more skirmishes, which resulted in a penalty. At the same time, Wadoux was giving it all to extend her lead and remain on the podium once the penalty would be applied. At the chequered flag, she missed her first victory but was initially classified third. A further 5-second penalty for track limits would drop her to fourth. Championship leader Ugo De Wilde took victory; Gosia Rdest was 12th.
After a delayed second qualifying session on Sunday - due to an overnight storm that had caused electrical issues - Wadoux qualified on the front row, in second place. Rdest was tenth.
The lights went out and a few cars locked up into turn 1. Wadoux went wide at Eau Rouge but remained close to Di Wilde, with Mela close behind. Gosia Rdest gained one position, moving up to P9.
The battle for the lead reached its apex and the top-two went side-by-side at the Kemmel straight: Wadoux went deep and cut the chicane - but was quick to immediately hand back her position to De Wilde, as she masterfully avoided to let Mela past as well. Their battle would be interrupted by a Safety Car when Mela hit Hurgon - who caused Dani Clos to spin and collect Meric along. The Spaniard, though, managed to rejoin the race. During the neutralization, Tirman was given a penalty.
With less than eight minutes to go, the Safety Car was brought back in and the green flag was back waving: Lilou Wandoux made an excellent move on De Wilde and took the lead - but it was a short-lived one, as her rival went off the track and rejoined cutting the corner. Crucially, he didn't give his position back.
Angered by the situation, Wadoux launched another attack but it all played in favour of Jean-Baptiste Mela, who made an opportunistic move stick and moved ahead of Lilou Wadoux. Dani Clos was also there, ready to pick up the pieces: the experienced racer made contact with the #44 Alpine and forced his way past Wadoux as well, just as De Wilde received his - inevitably - time penalty for cutting the track and gaining an advantage.
After another extremely fought race, Clos took home the win, with Mela second and Wadoux third. The guest driver status of the winner resulted in the female racer scoring points for second - albeit a bit disappointed.
"It was a very intense race and I managed to finish P2 and P1 in the junior category", she commented.
"A win would have been possible this week-end but I still managed to score big points for the championship where I am P2 overall and P1 Junior"
Gosia Rdest had a very good second race and was classified fifth, with a couple of drivers receiving penalties for track limits just in front of her.
"Knowing my lack of experience at this track, I would take those results 'blindly'." - said Gosia. "Shame about Saturday's race, there would have been more points in the bag, but otherwise, I am smiling all the time - amazing weekend. Next intensive weekends are to come so keep your fingers crossed for me!"
The next round of the Alpine Europa Cup will be after the summer break, with drivers returning to the track at Barcelona on September 2-4th.
Gosia Rdest, though, will make her single-seater return in a few days, as she enters the first two rounds of the 2021 W Series season at Red Bull Ring.
Additional reporting: Leandre Leber, Vincent Delorme / GazetteSports.fr