Double Top 10 for Gosia Rdest in Alpine Europa Cup
Gosia Rdest continues her Top-10 streak in Alpine Europa Cup: with another very solid weekend at Monza – in her first ever race at the Italian venue – the Polish racer fought her way up to P10 and P9 in mixed weather conditions.
Two weeks after the Barcelona round, Alpine Europa Cup made its return to the track at the famous Temple of Speed – one of the most iconic places in the history of motor racing: Autodromo di Monza.
Built in 1922, Monza remains one of the fastest circuits in the world and both a fan and drivers' favourites for its unique challenges: with not many corners and predominantly flat, Monza has plenty of other peculiarities that makes it hard to master.
And with adverse weather, those challenges are even bigger; that's what the drivers of the spectacular Alpine Europa Cup had to tackle during the fifth round of the French one-make series, with intense rain throughout Saturday's qualifying and Race 1.
Coming off a strong race meeting at Barcelona, Polish racing star Gosia Rdest (Chazel Technologie Course) returned to the series after missing the Zandvoort race by claiming two top-10 finishes.
Despite important experiences in single seaters as well as touring cars and GT racing, interestingly, it was Gosia Rdest's first ever race at the popular track – which made the discovery process even more special for the Polish star.
After learning the track on Friday in dry conditions, the rain came on Saturday, which turned the tables quite significantly. In a very wet Q1, Gosia Rdest set the 14th fastest time.
Rain showed no sign of decreasing throughout race 1. A brilliant battle for the lead saw Louis Meric taking first place from poleman Lucas Frayssinet, who dropped to third; at Ascari, though, it would be Alexis Garcin to clinch the lead on the first lap, in what was a highly spectacular first lap. Gosia Rdest had a strong start and gained one position on lap 1, then continued to battle hard in the midfield until she could climb one more spot on lap 4. When the VIP car of De Groodt psun at La Roggia chicane, the Pole would slot into eleventh pace, as she found her rhythm and started to gain on her competitors. Meanwhile, Frayssinet was closing in on Meric; the two battled hard, including a light contact at the second chicane and some trips to the run offs as they tried to out-break each other - but Frayssinet eventually got ahead, reclaiming second. Having cleared Meric, Lucas Frayssinet was the fastest driver on track and pulled away, trying to catch up with Garcin - who had opened a 3 second gap. He continued to gain, but Garcin always managed the gap throughout the second half of the race. Rdest set very competitive lap times as well and was faster than the cars ahead; she passed Merieaux - who had put a wheel on the gravel, making a small mistake - and grabbed the top ten. On the final lap, Stéphane De Groodt had a big shunt at the exit of Ascari - one of the trickiest parts of the Monza circuit, even more so in rainy conditions: the driver of the #110 Alpine slid towards the inside barrier and scattered debris all over the track. The incident brought out the red flag and declared the victory of Alexis Garcin. Lucas Frayssinet preceded Louis Meric, Louis Maurice and Rodolphe Wallgren. Ninth after the final accident, Gosia Rdest was classified P10 due to the red flag - gaining four places from her starting position. “Race 1 ended quite well, I was really unsatisfied with my first two laps", Rdest told us after the race. "The pace was a bit too slow, so the confidence was not perfectly there in the braking zones, which is crucial here." "But then, from the third lap onwards, I started to get up to pace and I was doing faster lap times compared to the others. After a few mistakes from my competitors, it put me in P10. It would have been a P9, but there was a big crash and a red flag on the last lap – which means you get the position from the lap before the red flag.” - she summed up.
“But still, being in the top 10 is always nice and we’re consistently scoring points.”
Conditions were indeed difficult, but Gosia enjoyed the experience of racing on such an historical track: “With the wet conditions in Monza it was amazing", she said.
"We started the two free practices on dry, then suddenly the rain came for qualifying – and it was supposed to rain for the rest of the weekend, but now Sunday seems to be dry.”
The rain did eventually stop on Sunday, leaving the Alpine Europa Cup field again in an exciting uncertainty for the final qualifying and race sessions of the weekend. Race 1 winner Alexis Garcin was again on top of the timing screens, followed by Louis Meric and Lucas Frayssinet. The conditions remained difficult, with many wet patches and standing water resulting in many drivers choosing to go out on wet tyres. On the slick Michelin tyre, Gosia Rdest struggled in the opening minutes, when the track was still very damp - but then lap times started to drop as the track dried up. She would qualify in P12, in a promising position to aim for another top-ten. “It’s like 50-50 for me" - Gosia told us when asked what weather conditions she preferred. "I must admit that it’s not a very complicated track to drive in the rain: the lines are quite obvious, but in drying conditions it becomes a little more tricky because of the tarmac; the old tarmac doesn't dry up as equally in comparison to other parts, so you have quite a lot of standing water deep in the tarmac." - she explained. "So I would say that I’m very curious how it will go in completely dry conditions.” “The pace from the top three was quite different in the dry and in the rain, so it might be an interesting race. But up until now, I’m super impressed by all of us: even if the speed here are quite high – especially the first corner in Monza can be tricky in these conditions – we delivered really nice, clean racing with no contact at all." As the race went green at 13:20 local, the track was fully dry: the big pack of 20 Alpine A110 Cup cars roared down the Monza main straight towards the world-famous Prima Variante, so often the stage of spectacular action. Once again, the drivers of the Alpine Europa Cup managed to keep it clean and, after a 4-wide fight into Turn 1, Lucas Frayssinet took the lead from P3 on the grid. The top three soon pulled away; Garcin fought back on lap 3, but it would be Simon Tirman - who had just lost the championship lead the day before - to surprise Garcin with a great late move at Parabolica. One lap later, it was Frayssinet's turn, as Tirman re-took P1 at Prima Variante. Gosia Rdest had a good getaway and battled hard in the really tight midfield.Having gained eleventh place, she started to hunt down a group of cars ahead, also engaged in close fights for positions from fifth to eleventh. Rdest completed a brilliant pass at Lesmo 1 on Wallgren, which gained her tenth place. The Polish driver was quickly in the gearbox of Tim Merieux. There was outstanding action throughout the field: Tirman could not break away and had to defend; Paul Cauhaupe attacked and passed Louis Maurice for fourth after a long scrap, while the train of cars for the remaining top-ten position continued to put up a show. Meric spun at Turn 1 and Gosia Rdest was quick to seize the opportunity to advance to ninth. Race leader Tirman survived the pressure and won Race 1, ahead of Lucas Frayssinet and Alexis Garcin. Having shown really good pace and racecraft, Gosia Rdest completed another weekend in Alpine Europa Cup with another double top-10, as the Polish driver came home with a P10 and P9. Gosia Rdest now sits in eleventh place in the drivers' standings, with 27 points to her tally. The series will now head to one of its home races, at Circuit Paul Ricard, South of France, for the season finale in three weeks' time.