Jamie Chadwick's streak of tough luck in Formula Regional European Championship continued in the seventh round at Imola, where she was hit and spun in the opening lap after a good start.
British racing star Jamie Chadwick's tough luck continued into the seventh and penultimate round of the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship: the 22-year old driver, after a challenging season, came into the Imola weekend hoping to catch a break from her streak of misfortune and had really positive free practice sessions on Friday, also followed by a promising testing day on Wednesday at the Emilia Romagna racetrack, former home of the San Marino F1 GP.
Chadwick was P7 and P9 in the two practice sessions on wet and mixed-weather conditions.
“I think it went a bit better than the timesheets show.” - she said on Friday.
“Both sessions were obviously in mixed conditions and I don’t think we quite got a lap in when we could have done. But it was actually quite positive.”
“It’s looking dry for the rest of the weekend, so probably not too representative today, but still it’s nice to be making big progress from the previous weekends and have a better showing.” - concluded Chadwick.
On Saturday morning the drivers did indeed find different track conditions, with the sun making its way back onto the circuit - which made FP1 and FP2 irrelevant in the race preparation.
In the two 15-minute qualifying sessions, Chadwick was ninth and tenth, meaning that she would start from the fifth row of the grid for all the three scheduled races in Imola.
Oliver Rasmussen claimed pole position in Q1, ahead of series rookie Ian Rodriguez (DR Formula), making his return to Europe after a season spent in the US-based Road to Indy.
Dennis Hauger was third for Van Amersfoort Racing, in his only second weekend in Formula Regional.
Championship contenders Arthur Leclerc and Gianluca Petecof were further down the field, starting respectively in fourth and eighth, after the Brazilian had lamented technical issues in qualifying.
There was early drama even before the lights went off, as poleman Rasmussen was forced to leave his grid slot empty due to a gearbox issue that hampered his second part of qualifying and that forced the Dane to sit out the first race altogether.
First position was thus gifted to the impressive Ian Rodriguez, who got off well at the race start and defended from the fast charging Leclerc into the Tamburello chicane. In the highly spectacular opening stages, Rodriguez, Leclerc and Hauger went into the first corner side by side, but the Guatemalan driver held off the attacks and maintained the lead.
Jamie Chadwick had a good start and slotted into eighth place - but her race came to an early stop when Emidio Pesce came way too hot into the Variante Alta chicane and hit the British lady, spinning the Rodin-sponsored car around. Chadwick rejoined and pitted, but she had to retire the car due to the damages sustained.
Pesce received a drive through penalty for the incident.
Ahead, the top three pulled away and quickly opened an over three second gap from Chovet, Lappalainen and Pasma, which could never keep up the pace with the leading trio.
A struggling Petecof never seemed able to catch up either and was further down the order in seventh place, before making a trip to the gravel at Tamburello and dropping one position behind Gillian Henrion.
Rodriguez never saw his leadership under imminent threat, but the fight at the top was tight and exciting, with Leclerc and Hauger setting fastest laps after fastest lap: the Norwegian VAR racer increased his pressure on Leclerc - in what was the race-defining battle between arguably two of the most promising young talents in formula racing.
On lap 12, Leclerc made a mistake and went slightly off at the second Rivazza corner, crucially opening the door to Dennis Hauger for second place.
The Monegasque caught up again with the rival, but had no more chance to overtake in a historically difficult track to pass.
After 19 closely-fought laps but without many passing opportunities, Ian Rodriguez crossed the finish line to take his maiden win at debut - an outstanding showing by the driver from Guatemala, who also gave DR Formula their first victory in over a year.
Hauger was second and preceded Leclerc - the latter taking advantage from his main championship rival Petecof to re-claim the lead in the points standings.
He now sits on top of the classify with 317 points, seven points ahead of his Brazilian teammate. Rasmussen retains third despite his setback, as the Dane will have to andure another challenging day tomorrow starting from the back of the pack.
It was therefore another unlucky race for Jamie Chadwick, as she posted her third DNF of the season. With two more races to go on Sunday, though, Chadwick will regroup and come back at 09:00 CEST on Sunday for Race 2, where she will chase that speed she had found on Friday.