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First top-15 for Marta García in FRECA

"We’re improving more and more with each event, so we just need to keep up that progression." - Marta García has secured her first top-15 in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine after a highly positive showing at Spa Francorchamps that saw the Iron Dame making improvements in both qualifying and race pace.


Marta Garcia, Iron Dames, Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, 2024 Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: Dutch Photo Agency / Diederik van der Laan

Inaugural F1 Academy champion Marta García has secured her first top-15 in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine after a highly positive showing at Spa Francorchamps, on only her second weekend in the uber-competitive series.


The Iron Dame battled through changeable weather conditions that left drivers with little track time ahead of qualifying on one of the most difficult race tracks on the calendar - but she was able to improve steadily throughout the weekend and made a notable step in qualifying which then translated into highly promising races in the midfield.


García, who made her debut in one of the most competitive junior championships in the world at Hockenheim two weeks ago, showed good progress with solid race pace and determination in the battles.


Her Iron Dames teammate Doriane Pin fought through flu-like symptoms and, while she made it to the finish line in race 1, she eventually opted to sit out race 2 and recover from the illness.


The weekend was off to a positive start for García, who started to show positive signs since free practice, where she made the most of the sole session in the afternoon after the first one was called off due to heavy rain. Also in wet conditions, Marta set a 2:17.565 that showed she was in the mix for her first top-20 of the season in the 32 car field.

Pin was 28th fastest, a little over half a second behind her teammate.


The cancelled FP1 meant that everyone had only one session to get up to speed with the car and the track before qualifying - a particularly tough job for rookies - but Marta was up to the challenge. In the group A of Q1 on Saturday morning, García had a good first run at the start of the session, but with heavily changing conditions she struggled to improve in the closing minutes - and the track improvements left the Spaniard P14 in the group.

Pin once again showed her qualifying skills in Group B and was looking for a top 10 in group when a mistake on the final lap in the final sector put her P12.


Roman Bilinski claimed pole position and would share the front row with Group A leader Enzo Peugeot. Doriane Pin lined up in P23, ahead of Marta García in P27 and Léna Bühler in P30.


Marta Garcia, Iron Dames, Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, 2024 Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: Dutch Photo Agency / Erwin Huizing

The start of race 1 on Saturday was delayed after Giovanni Maschio stopped on track on the formation lap; a few minutes later, Bilinski and Peugeot battled for the lead in a hectic first lap that saw plenty of cars cutting through the Les Combes chicane, as well as through the gravel - including second-placed Peugeot. Bilinski held the top spot from David and Stromsted, with the latter battling Camara and Giusti for third. Doriane Pin gained one position and was up to P22, as well as Marta García moved up to P26.


García continued a solid progression and gained another spot on the second lap, as she climbed the order and almost caught her teammate Pin, just one position ahead in P23.

Bühler was also making up ground and passed Andriolo for P28 on lap 3.

The pack was extremely compact and there were wheel-to-wheel battles throughout: Pin chased Bhirombhakdi and García tried to attack Veselaho - while at the same time she defended from a couple of cars behind.


The Spaniard had good pace and was almost half a second faster than cars immediately ahead; when Pin passed Bhirombhakdi on lap 6, Marta also found a way past the KIC Motorsport driver one lap later and closed in on her Iron Dames teammate.


Both gained a position when Edgar Pierre went off, as they found themselves just outside the top 20 with a handful of minutes left on the clock; ahead, Camara and Stromsted battled for the win, banging wheels into Les Combes - and the Brazilian driver made a move stick.


Running really close to each other, Doriane and Marta traded positions on the penultimate lap, when García found a way past and eventually crossed the finish line in P21, one position ahead of Doriane Pin. Léna Bühler had settled in P27 and had solid pace in the second half of the race, when she was faster than a couple of cars behind in the end.


“An interesting weekend here in Spa", García commented. "We had a bit of a problem in the first qualifying because it was mixed conditions, and the set-up wasn’t ideal. We started the first race 27th and we ended up 21st so we made some good overtakes."


Marta Garcia, Iron Dames, Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, 2024 Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: Iron Dames

Pin withdrew from the weekend on Sunday morning, having struggled with a flu for the whole week. The skies cleared on Sunday and the sun was out over the Ardennes for the morning sessions; Léna Bühler took to the track for the first qualifying group and set the 15th fastest time, having unfortunately had her fastest times deleted for track limits.


Marta García was therefore the only Iron Dame representative in Group A, and her first run was good enough for eighth. She eventually ended up P10, in a great qualifying effort that resulted in her best starting position to date in the series in P19. In such a compact field, one tenth was the difference that would have put Garcia P13 overall.


"We knew in the dry we could do better, so we focused on Race 2, we qualified 10th in our group which meant we started the race in 19th", Marta explained. "That was also a bit of a shame as we knew we could’ve been 14th if we were just half a tenth faster".


García had a great start and seized every opportunity to gain positions on the first lap, climbing to 14th place, before she settled in P15. The Valencian battled with Valerio Rinicella - and she overtook the Italian on the third lap of the race; when Clerot dropped down the order, Bühler picked up one position, then passed Carrasquedo and advanced to P27.


Bilinski was off on the grass on the Kemmel straight and was luckily avoided by the whole field when he spun back on track; Marta gained a further position and continued her progression with very competitive pace.


Stromsted meanwhile went past Wharton for third at Les Combes just before the safety car was deployed for the massive crash for Bhirombhadki at the end of Kemmel. The KIC Motorsport driver was almost upside down and made heavy contact with the barriers, but could extricate himself from the car under his own power and was unhurt.


A spectacular first part of the race saw Marta García comfortably battling in the top 15 and she could take the restart from P14, with now 7 minutes left on the clock.

Camara accelerated away and left Taponen checking his mirrors from Stromsted, who made the move stick for second on the Kemmel straight; Marta was right in Zachary David's gearbox after a brilliant restart and waited for her chance to sneak past the R-ace GP car, while at the same time keeping Rinicella at bay.


Rinicella, though, cut across the Bus Stop chicane and went past - then went on to attack David, as García tried to reclaim her position while defending from Lacorte. The Alpine supported driver went wide around the outside of the final chicane, but still made a move stick. Just behind, Léna Bühler was up to P25, although Carrasquedo fought back and demoted the Swiss racer to P26 with now two laps to go.

 

Marta had a spectacular side-by-side battle through Eau Rouge with Ruiqi Liu and she held on to P16.


Camara had meanwhile pulled away and crossed the finish line to take a commanding back to back victory, ahead of Noah Stromsted and James Wharton - after Tuukka Taponen dropped to fifth, also behind Alessadro Giusti.


Marta García brought home a remarkable P16, showing great pace and racecraft in the extremely busy midfield. After post race penalties, the Iron Dame was promoted to 15th, thus securing her career first top-15 in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine. Léna Bühler was P26, after a clean race.


"The start was quite good, we got up to 15th and from there I was fighting for that position for the rest of the race" García summed up. "We’re improving more and more with each event, so we just need to keep up that progression. We’ll see if we can replicate this performance in Zandvoort or do even better.”


Having shown significant improvements from the season opener just a couple of weekends ago, Marta García will now aim to carry momentum into the third round of the season, held at Zandvoort on 8-9 June. 

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