F4 Spain: Belen Garcia claims Female Trophy title in thrilling finale
Spanish F4: Nerea Marti completed an outstanding race in P7 as Belen Garcia was crowned Female Trophy champion in thrilling finale.
The third and final race of a very exciting 2019 Spanish Formula 4 Championship went underway at Circuit the Catalunya with Franco Colapinto already crowned champion after Saturday's first race. But the final day of action wasn't devoid of emotions as the Female Trophy went down to the wire, with a fierce battle between Spanish upcoming talents Belen Garcia and Nerea Marti.
With the drivers taking to the track this morning to qualify for the third race, Nerea Marti and Belen Garcia lined up in P8 and P11 respectively, as Franco Colapinto took his third pole position of the weekend.
After the second quali session though, Artem Lobanenko received a six positions grid drop, Killian Meyer was sent to the back of the grid and Rafael Villanueva lost 3 places.
At the race start, series champion Colapinto had an exciting fight with Glenn Van Berlo for the lead throughout the first lap, with the Drivex and MP Motorsport drivers swapping positions until the Argetinian regained the lead.
Nerea Marti had a blistering start and advanced to fourth, while Gnos and Nosov almost stalled on the grid. Belen Garcia continued her tradition of good starts and also made up several places up until P8.
On the second lap Marti lost one place to Baert on the main straight but held on to her fifth place for a couple of laps, until Carles Martinez found a way past his teammate on the fourth lap.
Romanian Filip Ugran had a slow getaway but continued his impressive weekend with one more recovery, passing Marti and chasing down the leading drivers.
The two Female Trophy contenders then found themselves close to each other once again, with Garcia trying to close in on her class title rival.
The Safety Car was deployed on the fifth lap following an incident involving Lobanenko and Frenchman Pallot, leaving the Jenzer car of the latter stranded into the gravel at turn five. The Russian pitted to check for damages, but was able to rejoin.
The race resumed on lap 6, with Van Berlo closer than ever to the race leader Colapinto, but ultimately not enough to attempt a move on the Argentinian series dominator. Soon, Tijmen van der Helm joined the action, with two MP Motorsport drivers from the Netherlands fighting for position and thus allowing Colapinto to open a small safe gap.
Axel Gnos made a move stick on Belen Garcia for eighth, before the Spanish lady lost momentum and dropped behind Sagrera, Meyer, Oggard and Villanueva.
With Nerea Marti running steadily in seventh, the battle for the Female Trophy title lit up: the two racers, now closer than ever in the provisional points standings, had to give their all to gain the final, vital positions.
In the closing minutes series newcomer Filip Ugran completed one more impressive comeback to finish third, overtaking Martinez, Baert and Van Der Helm.
Colapinto crossed the line to win his 11th race of the season, crowning a faultless second part of the season. Glenn Van Berlo finished second, first of the MP Motorsport drivers.
17-year old Nerea Marti took the chequered flag in seventh after an incredibly solid race pace-wise. She won her third Female Trophy race of the weekend, but had to wait a little longer to discover the official result of the championship.
Belen Garcia finished P14 a very difficult weekend, but after all the maths were done, was crowned class champion. In fact, following the disqualification of Formula De Campeones-Praga racing team in Valencia and the resulting appeal, the official confirmation arrived well after the podium ceremoniy was over, leaving a disappointed Marti and an ecstatic Garcia.
"It's been a hard day and a hard weekend." - said Belen Garcia after her home weekend. "Quali wasn't so bad, I found some traffic in the good lap, so I couldn't manage to be quicker but 11th was still better than the previous sessions."
"In the second race I tried to do my best but quite didn't have the pace and finished more or less where I started. In the third race I started eleventh after the second quali and I think I did a good first lap: in the first corners I managed to gain some positions but then I dropped some more as I didn't have the pace. I managed to be faster in the end, but it wasn't enough to advance".
The third race in Barcelona concludes a very interesting season for Spanish Formula 4, which provided good racing and proved itself a great training ground for female racing drivers. Unluckily, Irina Sidorkova's absence deprived us of a possible three way battle for the Female Trophy, but all three of them will keep challenging themselves again next year, on the prestigious W-Series grid.
Ph credits: www.Racers-BehindTheHelmet.com