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Eurocup-3: Emely de Heus turns around Portimao weekend with P12 in race 3

After two retirements for mechanical issues even before the start of the races, Emely de Heus charged through the field in the third EuroCup-3 race in Portimao, securing a P12 from 25th on the grid, on only her second weekend in the series. While an unfortunate accident took her out of contention for most of the round, Victoria Blokhina had a positive first race, having gained nine positions.

Emely de Heus, GRS Team, Eurocup-3, Portimao 2024
Photo credits: Eurocup-3

The third weekend of the EuroCup-3 Championship was marked by another strong showing for Emely De Heus, who returned to the Formula Regional-based championship having made her debut at the Red Bull Ring in the second round. Her first experience of the series was a widely positive one, with two top-15 finishes and with battles just outside the top-10 in a very competitive field.

While at Red Bull Ring De Heus was subbing in for Nikola Tsolov at GRS Team, the Dutchwoman returned also for the third round at Autodromo do Algarve, Portimao, Portugal, aiming to continue the progression alongside her F1 Academy commitments.

Coming off a positive weekend at the Austrian circuit was also Drivex racer Victoria Blokhina, who is stepping up from Italian F4 and is tackling her first season in the very demanding Formula Regional machinery.

Blokhina had a superb first race of the season at Spa Francorchamps in torrential weather conditions, where a red flag denied her a potential top-10 finish. Protagonist of great battles in the midfield at Red Bull Ring, Blokhina consistently moved up the field in all races, scoring a best finish of 16th.

The Portimao weekend started with solid free practice performances for both Victoria Blokhina and Emely De Heus. Blokhina showed promising speed not far behind a potential top-10, while De Heus also displayed encouraging pace in the early sessions.

Both drivers had put in lap times good enough for the top-15 before a red flag halted Saturday's qualifying session with 12 minutes to go. When the session resumed, most drivers improved their times, and De Heus and Blokhina fell down the order, with Blokhina setting a 1:41.364 and De Heus a 1:41.501 - which translated into a start from P24 and P25 respectively.

Christian Ho retained the top spot at the start, while Del Pino fell behind Owen Tangavelou. A great start for Victoria Blokhina saw the Drivex driver moving up to P19, gaining five positions. Fittipaldi and Green had early trouble and couldn't take the start; De Heus also had issues early on: she had to pit with a clutch failure and retired at the end of the first lap, in a very disappointing end to her Saturday with not even a racing lap completed.

Blokhina reached P17 before a Safety Car was deployed to retrieve Jose Garfias' Sainteloc car. Upon the restart, Blokhina gained another position and soon put pressure on Nick Gilkes for the top-15. Despite losing one place to Zhuravskiy, Blokhina held P16 after a spin by Jensen. Blokhina moved up to P15, trading positions with Le Gallais, and eventually finished P16 after a Safety Car brought the race to a close, gaining nine positions from the start.

Victria Blokhina, Drivex, Eurocup-3, Portimao 2024
Photo credits: Eurocup-3

The second qualifying session on Sunday morning saw similar results, with Blokhina setting the 24th fastest time and De Heus starting from the back of the grid due to recurring technical gremlins.

De Heus's troubles continued as her car broke down on the way to the grid, preventing her from starting the race.

Polesitter Valentin Kluss had his leadership challenged by teammate Christian Ho, who took over the top spot with a better getaway, while Owen Tangavelou also got ahead of Kluss at turn 1.

From P24 on the grid, Blokhina had a great start and gained three positions, passing Barashi, Zhuravskiy and Le Gallais on the first lap. While chasing De La Torre, Victoria made up another position on Gilkes when the latter lost a few positions on lap 2, but she then had to give up one place to Zhuravskiy when the fellow Drivex driver fought back.

Unfortunately, Blokhina's recovery ended on lap 3, when she was hit at turn 5 by Nick Gilkes. Her car was almost overturned and, while up in the air, it luckily ended on its wheels, but it would result in her first DNF of the season.

The weekend saw the make-up race for the lost round at Spa Francorchamps, when the heavy rain forced the cancellation of the second Belgian race.

And the accident in race 2 was an unfortunate circumstance for Blokhina, whose car could not be fixed in time for the start of the third contest.

It was certainly a rocky start for Emely De Heus - but her bad luck was about to run out: starting again from P25, she now aimed for redemption in race 3 with a strong finish.

There was early drama at the start, with a collision between Diaz and Shin immediately bringing out the safety car. In just a few corners, De Heus had grabbed 22nd position, then moved further up to P21 when Morano pitted with damage.

The race went back to green with just over 22 minutes left on the clock, and De Heus then had to defend from the recovering Michael Shin, who had dropped all the way down the order. A second neutralization came just a couple of minutes later, when Noah Lisle went off in the gravel. From P21, De Heus had her eyes set forward at the following restart: she passed Le Gallais for P20, then was soon into the clutches of Fittipaldi - but the safety car was back out when Christian Ho went off and retired from the battle for the win.

Up to 18th, De Heus aimed for a strong finish to turn around her weekend and, when the race resumed for one final lap, the Dutchwoman avoided all sort of chaos with several contacts and spins shuffling the order. Emely kept it clean and took avoiding action to secure a brilliant 14th place finish - then converted into a P12 after penalties.

Emely de Heus, GRS Team, Eurocup-3, Portimao 2024
Photo credits: Eurocup-3

"Unlucky start of the weekend but came back stronger", De Heus commented. "Quali was difficult and ended up P26. Unfortunately the first two races we didn’t start because of mechanical issues. But we fought back in the last race and got bit more luck on our side where I finished P12"

Although mechanical troubles marred Emely's weekend, the final race at Portimao clearly proved that potential was bigger than what the results show. Despite the missed opportunities, a 12th place finish among a hugely competitive field of 26 cars was a deserved reward for her hard work, as the F1 Academy Red Bull junior proved fast adaptability to the upgraded Tatuus Formula Regional car in just two weekends behind the wheel.

While her attention now switches to the next F1 Academy round in Barcelona in two weeks' time, further outings in the burgeoning EuroCup-3 championship might offer further evidence of her development in single-seaters.

Victoria Blokhina will return to EuroCup-3 for the fourth double-header of the season, scheduled for 5-7 July at Circuit Paul Ricard, in the South of France, where she will continue her development season with steady improvements at each round.



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