Gosia Rdest and Lilou Wadoux battle out in Alpine Europa Cup season finale
Gosia Rdest and Lilou Wadoux successfully completed their first season in the Alpine Europa Cup in Portimao, as the two women of the French-one make series battled hard on track in the final round of the championship.
Racing alongside the European Le Mans Series, the Alpine Europa Cup - the French brand's one-make series dedicated to the A110 Cup car which this year has seen the participation of two very interesting female talents on its starting grid, former W Series racer Gosia Rdest and 19-year old French driver Lilou Wadoux - rounded out its shortened 2020 season with a double header on the Autodromo do Algarve, home of last week's F1 Portuguese Grand Prix.
Rdest returned to the Alpine Europa Cup after combining a double-program in the Polish WSMP series - her home country's touring car championship - where she finished runner-up in both the classes she entered. Her first season as a brand abbassador of the Alpine brand - which will make its big step up to Formula 1 next year, due to the Renault F1 Team rebranding - saw her claiming three sixth place finishes as her best results at the Le Castellet triple header at the beginning of October.
Wadoux, also making her debut in the series after previous experiences in touring cars, had a very exciting first season and secured three top-5 finishes at Magny Cours and Le Castellet.
The Portimao round, the only one outside of French borders due to the compressed schedule, started on a high for the fastest woman in Poland: Gosia set the second-fastest time in the first practice session and kept showing great speed throughout the weekend.
Due to a track-related technical issue, the qualifying session scheduled for Friday evening was cancelled and moved to early Saturday, when several laptimes were deleted for track limits. Jean-Baptiste Mela claimed pole position, ahead of a Autosport-GP team lock-out.
Gosia Rdest was sixth fastest and marginally preceded Lilou Wadoux on the starting grid for race 1.
The first race was utterly dominated by the Autosport GP drivers, who finished in the top 4 positions. 22-year old Mela secured his first championship at his third series participation and preceded Traynard and Hurgon. Lilou Wadoux was protagonist of several on-track battles and managed to overtake Pierre Sancinéna (Racing Technology) and Mateo Herrero (Herrero Racing) before the race was halted following a huge crash at the end of the main straight: Herrero's car - already damaged by a lap 1 contact with Marc Guillot - snapped away under braking while the 18-year old driver was fighting hard for fourth placed with Wadoux.
Herrero made heavy impact at full speed with the outside guard rail but was luckily unharmed. The damage to the barriers and the debris scattered around the track required the red flag and, having completed over 75% of race distance, the competition wasn't resumed.
Lilou Wadoux was classified fourth due to a 30-second penalty applied to Herrero and also signed the fastest lap of the race in 1:52.220, which gave the young French lady one extra point in the standings. Gosia Rdest finished sixth, equalling her best result in the series.
On Sunday morning, the two ladies of the championship lined-up alongside each other on the third row, fifth (Rdest) and sixth (Wadoux).
Despite the top-four positions in the standings were effectively locked after Saturday's race, the race did not disappoint: Pierre Sancinéna won his first race from pole position, leaving no chances to Marc Guillot in second after an entertaining battle in the first laps of the race. Laurent Hurgon preceded freshly-crowned champion Jean-Baptiste Mela and was third at the finish line, leading the Autosport GP squad.
But the heart of the race was surely the battle for sixth place between Gosia Rdest and Lilou Wadoux - the latter still in contention for fifth place in the points table.
The wto drivers switched positions several times and provided some of the most exciting racing action of the weekend. Their fight was fierce yet fair and, after 15 laps around the Portimao racetrack, it was Polish star Gosia Rdest to came out on top.
"I am very pleased with this weekend." - said Gosia. "We had a problem-free round once again and I showed my good, consistent pace. The competition in the second race was very entertaining - the fight went on lap after lap, until the final metres before the finish line. After such a duel, finishing on top is even more satisfying".
Seventh at the chequered flag and fourth in the junior classify, also commented on her battle with Rdest: "I didn't want to take any chances as it was the last race, and wanted to end on a good note. She was within my reach but I wasn't sure how she would react so I kept calm."
"I can only remember the good things from my first season in Alpine because I had a really good year in a team that was always on top. The speed was there! We will come back stronger, even if for next year, with the Covid situation, at the moment we do not know..."
Gosia Rdest was also happy with her performances in her first Alpine Europa Cup season, despite a couple of troubled rounds twaords the start of the championship ultimately prevented her to finish higher up in the standings.
"Because of the problems in the first two rounds, I failed to fight for a higher place at the end of the season, but for a debut in this Cup I think I can be proud of myself." - said the Polish racer. "Thank you very much to Alpine, my Racing Technology team, the sponsors, as well as the fans who kept their fingers crossed for me during every round. I felt their support at every turn and it helped me a lot."
Additional reporting: Vincent Delorme, Léandre Leber for GazetteSports.fr