F4 Spain: despite difficult first race Emely De Heus recovers to P20
The first race of the Barcelona finale proved to be a challenging one for the women of the championship: despite tyres issues after the Safety Car restart, Emely de Heus managed to gain some positions to finish P20, while Lola Lovinfosse was forced to retire, having suffered engine troubles throughout the day.
Spanish Formula 4 has been on the rise for the last couple of years and, with an increasingly bigger and more competitive grid, has become one of the most attractive F4 championships in Europe. And, with its grids, female participation has also been a constantly growing trend. From Marta Garcia to the rising stars of W Series Nerea Marti, Irina Sidorkova and Belén Garcia; from Léna Buhler to the two interesting talents of 2021: Lola Lovinfosse and Emely De Heus. 15-year old Lovinfosse had a remarkable karting career before making her single-seater debut in Spanish F4 for Drivex. Lovinfosse – who was also one of the participants in the inaugural edition of the "Girls On Track: Rising Stars" project – was joined in the 'Female Trophy' by 17-year old Dutchwoman Emely De Heus, in one of the nine MP Motorsport's cars. Lovinfosse massively improved after the first rounds and got increasingly closer to a top-10 at Portimao, when she finished P13 and secured her best result of the season so far – which also gained her her first point in the Rookie's standings. De Heus was initially hampered by a lack of testing during the first rounds of the season, but also showed good progress in the second half of the championship and had promising races at Aragon and Valencia – where she also finished in the top-10 in the Rookie class – before claiming her best result to date at Jerez with 13th in Race 1. De Heus had a good start of the weekend at Montmelo, with encouraging performances in free practice that showed a much better pace than in qualifying.Having been handed a 3-place grid drop after Jerez, she lined up on the grid of Race 1 from P25. Lola Lovinfosse struggled with some car issues and was 24th on the grid. A few minutes into qualifying, the young Frenchwoman pitted again with engine troubles. Drivex's crew removed the engine cover but she was sent back out soon after, as the gremlins persisted. Daniel Macia (Formula de Campeones) took pole position, ahead of MP Motorsport's Suleiman Zanfari. Josep Maria Marti and Rik Koen locked out the second row, while series champion Dilano Van't Hoff was sixth. Macia's leadership, though, was short lived: his car came to a halt when the lights went out and he was luckily narrowly missed by the whole field of 26 cars. Marti moved into the lead at Turn 1, followed by an impressive Van't Hoff and Noah Degnbol. Emely De Heus had a good start and moved into P21, while Lovinfosse had a slower start and had to avoid a few other stalling cars. She would slot nonetheless in P23. The Safety Car was soon deployed after the incident of Ryabov, who had crashed into the tyre barriers on lap 1. At the restart on lap 4, De Heus lost several positions due to dirt on her tyres. The battle for the lead was initially a matter of the top-three. Behind them, Koen, Ogaard and Zanfari – who had dropped to seventh – also put on a great show. After a few skirmishes, though, Koen was able to break away from the rest of the group and closed in on the leaders, joining teammates Degnbol and Van't Hoff in the pursuit of Marti. On lap 6, De Heus moved back past Lovinfosse – the latter still suffering from engine issues. Unfortunately, she would be forced to retire on lap 7, as her car came to a halt in the runoff of La Caixa corner. De Heus managed to gain some more spots and advanced into P20, where she would eventually finish. Dilano Van't Hoff took the lead with five minutes left on the clock and never looked back: Marti tried to respond back on lap 11, but Van't Hoff defended. The leading duo opened a 6 second gap to Degnbol; after 14 laps, the Dutchman took his 13th win of the season – the sixth consecutive one. Marti and Degnbol rounded out the podium, while Koen and Ogaard completed the top-5. Despite a difficult race made even harder by a tyre issue after the Safety Car restart, Emely De Heus was able to recover five positions to finish P20. "I was actually a bit disappointed with this race because my start was pretty good but then after the restart from the Safety Car I had too much dirt on my tyres so I burned my lefty front tyre and that made the race really difficult for me" – she said. "I am looking forward to tomorrow because I think it will be a better day". "Today wasn't my day" – commented Lovinfosse. "We started the day with a good FP1, we have been working a lot since yesterday to get the best result possible in qualifying today but unfortunately I got an issue with my engine and I couldn’t push as I wanted" – she explained. "We started from P23 in race 1. I managed to gain a few positions in the 3 first laps but again, I got another issue with my engine." – said a disappointed Lola. Both of them will have two more chances tomorrow, as they will try to end the season on a high. Qualifying 2 goes green at 09:30 local time, followed by Race 2 at 13:15 and the final race at 15:40 CEST. The races will be broadcasted live on the Spanish Federation (RFEdeAPrensa) youtube channel.