Nerea Marti and Belen Garcia battle hard for Female Trophy win in Barcelona race 1
Spanish F4: Nerea Marti wins the first "Female Trophy" race in Barcelona, as Belen Garcia recovers from the back of the grid before a late incident.
Circuit de Catalunya hosted the Spanish F4 first day of action for its final round, with a record-braking 19 cars grid for the series.
In chilly but sunny conditions, two of the most interesting upcoming female talents in international single-seater racing battled in the mid-field of an increasingly competitive field, with drivers from the freshly-ended European F4 championships joining for the season finale.
Belen Garcia, currently leading the "Female Trophy" standings will try to seal her title on Sunday, after the last two races. Nerea Marti, the young Spanish contender, on the other hand, will have give it her all to try to close the 9 points gap to Garcia.
Missing on the grid this weekend is the third W-Series newcomer, Russian Irina Sidorkova. The 16-year old SMP-backed driver will thus focus straight to testing ahead of her W-Series F3 debut.
Belen Garcia had a difficult morning after a crash at turn 3 in the second practice session, which left her Tatuus F4 car heavily damaged. Nerea Marti enjoyed positive sessions with a P12 and a P14 respectively.
With a racing schedule very condensed in two days, the Global Racing Service team crew had to pull off an extraordinary work to allow Belen Garcia to fire up the repaired car just in time to complete two timed laps of the 20 minutes qualifying run.
In such a difficult conditions, Garcia signed a 1:49.561 and had to take the start from the back of the grid. Marti ran solidly in 12th for most of the qualifying session and thus lined up on the sixth row.
Pole position went to championship leader Franco Colapinto, ahead of Italian F4 drivers Filip Ugran and Axel Gnos.
At the start of the first race, Colapinto and Ugran went side-by-side towards the first corner, with the Argentinian ultimately maintaining the lead. Behind them, Glenn Van Berlo passed Gnos, before overtaking Ugran as well for second in a matter of few laps.
Nerea Marti had a great start and advanced to 10th, while Garcia went also up to 17th. MP Motorsport driver Tijmen Van Der Helm was quickly into the stewards spotlight, as the Dutch driver was caught jumping the start and later received a drive through penalty.
The two Spanish female drivers both had a very encouraging first half of the race: Belen Garcia passed both Oggard and Pallot, advancing to 15th, while Marti kept lapping competitively well within the point-scoring positions and closed in on Nosov in 9th. When she was passed by Carles Martinez though, Marti lost momentum and allowed Espirito Santo by.
Ahead, Colapinto maintained his leadership unchallenged throughout the race, with Ugran and Gnos battling hard for third place. Right behind them, Nicolas Bart joined the action and started to put pressure on the Swiss driver.
As French newcomer Pallot brought out a yellow flag, Belen Garcia kept recovering with impressive pace and reached Nerea Marti; the two Spanish "Female Trophy" contenders then started a fierce battle for the 15th position.
In the closing stages, the leading positions were finally shaken: Romanian Filip Ugran pulled off a great move on Glenn Van Berlo at turn one and gained the second place, while Baert dived in at La Caixa and made a move stick on Gnos.
With the female talents very close to each other, Garcia had a couple close calls and ultimately spun at La Caixa in order to avoid running into the back of a defending Marti. She rejoined in a distant P18.
After 15 laps, Franco Colapinto crossed the finish line to take home an important victory: the Drivex School driver deservingly sealed with a two-race advantage the Spanish F4 title. Filip Ugran impressed and finished second, ahead of Glenn Van Berlo.
Nerea Marti took the chequered flag in 15th place and brought home a Female Trophy win in Barcelona, her favourite track. "It was quite a difficult race for me." - said Nerea Marti after the first race. "In the first laps I had two contacts with other drivers and I completely lost the rythm. After that we didn't really have the pace and we'll be changing something on the car for tomorrow."
"I was fast and I could have gained a couple of important points for the championship but then in the end we had this issue. Tomorrow I'll be giving my all in the last two races, so that I can score points for the championship."
"It's a real shame how it ended, especially after the difficult qualifying I had a very positive race until the incident" - commented a disappointed Belen Garcia.
"It was a very good race, but I got squeezed also in the laps before."
Tomorrow will be another day and Garcia will try to regroup and come back stronger.
With Nerea Marti very focused on gaining more points, the final day of the 2019 Spanish Formula 4 is looking to provide some more intense action.
The second qualifying session will start at 09:00 CET, while the second race will go green at 12:47.
Ph credits: www.Racers-BehindTheHelmet.com