Spanish F4: Emely De Heus claims personal best in the series, strong race pace for Lovinfosse
The two female drivers competing in the Spanish F4 championship have again stepped up their game at the fifth round of the season at Aragon, with Emely de Heus claiming her best result in the series so far and Lola Lovinfosse continuing to show strong race pace. Across the three races, they gained 20 and 14 places on track respectively.
By hitting the track at the 5.078 km long racetrack at MotorLand Aragón, the 2021 season of the Spanish F4 championship reached its mid-way point. Inaugurated in 2009, the venue located in Alcañiz, north-eastern Spain, features two layouts – one usually dedicated to cars and one to motorbikes. Last weekend, though, the Spanish Racing Weekend, organized by the Spanish Auto Racing Federation (RFEdA) saw the most important national auto racing championships battling on the 'MotoGP' layout. The Spanish-based F4 series has quickly established itself as one of the benchmarks in Europe, along with the Italian and the German one. Having more than doubled its entries over the last few years, the Iberian championship has continued to develop talented drivers - including a remarkable number of female drivers: from Marta García, to Belén García, Nerea Martí, Irina Sidorkova and Léna Bühler. 2021 is no exception and two more female entries will continue this tradition: both making their single seater debuts are 15-year old Lola Lovinfosse and 17-year old Emely de Heus. Two weeks ago, Lovinfosse claimed at Portimao her best result to date, with a 13th place in race 3 that brought the young French lady closer than ever to the points-paying positions. Likewise, de Heus also scored her best results in formula cars at the Portuguese round, breaking for the first time in the top-20 in two out of the three races. Since the season opener in Spa, the progress shown by both drivers has been remarkable and at Aragon, Lovinfosse and de Heus were consistently fighting within the pack and polishing their racecraft in the wheel-to-wheel battles. On Saturday, the two women of the championship qualified in P22 and P23 respectively, but the heavy rain would force the postponement of the first race to Sunday morning. Championship leader Dilano Van't Hoff (MP Motosrport) secured pole position, ahead of GRS Racing's Vladislav Ryabov. On the second row, Josep Marti (Campos) preceded Guilherme Oliveira (Drivex). Race 1 At the early start on Sunday, the track was finally dry and Van't Hoff held the lead into turn one from Marti – who made it up to second place with a better getaway – and Ryabov. Oxley stalled on the grid, while Lovinfosse and de Heus had clean starts and advanced to P20 and P21. By the second lap, the two ladies had already moved into 18th and 19th place, as they got ahead of Partyshev and Garcia - the latter making contact with Jenic, who had to pit soon after. Ahead, the heated battle for second between Marti, Ryabov - as Bordas was overtaken by Oliveira for fourth – gave the opportunity to Van't Hoff to pull away. On lap 5, Noah Degnbol (MP Motorsport) dropped down the order and Molina collided with Abramczyck at Turn 14: the Drivex Frenchman pitted with no rear wing and had to retire. Lovinfosse and de Heus - despite remaining well within the pack – were able to avoid all the incidents and kept climbing the order: by recovering six positions each, they slotted into P16 and P17. MP Motorsport teammates Koen and Kelstrup battled for seventh place, with the former eventually getting past Daniel Macia as well for P6. Kelstrup also tried to overtake the Formula De Campeones driver in the final two minutes, but he had to back off as the Spaniard defended hard. Never under pressure, Dilano Van't Hoff won in style his seventh race of the season, seven seconds clear of Vladislav Ryabov - who secured his best result in the series to date, topping a third place in Portimao. Marti was third, ahead of Oliveira and Arkhangelskii, who had moved into the top five.
Lovinfosse and de Heus crossed the finish line in P16 and P17 - and were the biggest movers of the race. Unfortunately, Lovinfosse received a 25-second penalty post-race for a jump start, that demoted her to P18.
De Heus 16th place, though, resulted in her personal best finish in the series to date.
“This weekend went much better than I expected, because for me the practices and qualifying session didn’t feel good." – told us the young Dutchwoman.
"But during the races I found the pace and could clearly fight with others, which was very good. As with every other race I’ve learned a lot and hopefully I can get closer to the top 10 each weekend!" – she added.
Race 2 The shorter race of the weekend saw Marti starting from pole, ahead of Ryabov, Bordas and Oliveira. Van't Hoff lined up in eighth place, while Lola Lovinfosse and Emely de Heus again got off the line from 22nd and 23rd positions. The second race was particularly important because the fastest times of the 18 minutes + 1 lap competition would set the starting grid for Race 3 in the late afternoon. Marti held the lead at the lights out, while Bordas quickly got himself up to second, jumping ahead of Ryabov. Van't Hoff had a great start off the line and gained two positions, as he soon battled with Oliveira. In the hectic first laps, the Portuguese went wide at Turn 1 and dropped behind the championship leader. Lola Lovinfosse and Emely de Heus had great starts as well and managed to move up into 17th and 18th place at the end of the first lap. When they passed Zanfari and Macia dropped down, the two ladies continued to climb the leaderboard and as dust settled, they found themselves P15 and P17. Lovinfosse had gained seven places, de Heus six. Lovinfosse traded places with Zanfari and they fought in the midfield with good race pace. Ahead, Josep Marti (Campos Racing) comfortably led, ultimately opening a 4-second margin over a group of 4 drivers fighting over the podium positions: with a stunning recovery from eighth, Van't Hoff managed to get ahead of Ryabov, Bordas and Ogaard – as Arkhangelskii joined the group and stripped Bordas of his fifth place on the last lap. Ogaard and Van't Hoff were not holding back and almost banged wheels on the main straight, but the Danish ace held off the attacks. Entering the final lap, Lovinfosse had contact at Turn 1 with Jorge Campos (Teo Martin Motorsport) and unfortunately dropped to P20. Having once again kept her MP Motorsport Tatuus away from trouble and with a very solid race, Emely de Heus took the chequered flag in 15h place – which would have topped her personal best, but – just like Lovinfosse in the previous race – was handed a 25-second penalty for jumping the start.
After penalties were applied, Lovinfosse was classified P18 and de Heus P20. Josep Marti claimed his maiden win in Spanish F4 ahead of Van't Hoff, Ogaard, Ryabov and Arkhangelskii.
Race 3 The third and final race of the weekend at Aragon saw Marti lining up alongside Macia on the front row - with Van't Hoff and Ogaard just behind – following the fastest lap classification from Race 2. The second qualifying session had in fact been cancelled due to Saturday's heavy rainfall. Van't Hoff had the better start but couldn't jump ahead of Marti and Macia into Turn 1. The first lap was a clean one from the whole field – until Filip Jenic was hit by Kelstrup and almost rolled his Teo Martin Motorsport's car. The incident triggered the only Safety Car of the weekend. Oliver Michl and Manuel Espirito Santo also picked up damages from the opening lap incidents and pitted – the Austrian rejoined, but would later receive a 25 second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Lola Lovinfosse and Emely de Heus were again able to avoid the contacts and moved up to P19 and P20 respectively. At the restart on lap 3, Van't Hoff was caught off guard and lost three places coming into Turn 1, Koen passed Ogaard for fourth place – but would later lose two positions when Oliveira fired himself up into third. Lovinfosse resumed her battle with Suleiman Zanfari (MP Motorsport): the two swapped positions fighting over P17 – with de Heus also following closely. The gaps remained minimal throughout the first half of the 25-minute +1 lap race and all the front runners continued to be separated by less than a second. Marti was only able to sign off and open a safe gap once Macia, Oliveira and Ogaard engaged in a three-way battle. On lap 10, a stunning battle for the runner up spot between Macia and Oliveira animated the race - but Lola Lovinfosse was also busy, as she got back ahead of Zanfari and grabbed the 16th position. She would gain one more place on the penultimate lap, when Maksim Arkhangelskii spun around at Turn 1, dropping down the order. Marti completed his impressive weekend with a back-to-back victory in Race 3, almost 5 seconds clear of the battling Macia and Oliveira. It would be the Formula de Campeones driver to hold on for second place, as Dilano Van't Hoff couldn't step on the podium and finished fourth, preceding Ogaard and Koen. It was the first time this year where no MP Motorsport drivers finished on the podium. When Lovinfosse was set for a P15 finish, she was passed across the finish line by Zanfari, with Emely de Heus only 2 tenths behind in 17th place.
"Unfortunately we didn’t get the best qualifying because of the traffic, but the pace in the races was very good, so I’m happy about my weekend anyway" - said Lola Lovinfosse.
"Not the luckiest weekend we had but we showed a very good pace during the races.
We will come back stronger for Valencia race and show what we can do with that pace."
Across the three races, she gained 14 positions on track. It was thus an overall positive weekend for both de Heus, securing her best result to date, and Lovinfosse, as they continue to show steady progress. If they will be able to improve their qualifying, we are likely to see both drivers getting closer to a point-scoring finish in the second half of the season.
De Heus, who has had limited track time in testing, is closing the gap quickly.
"About the season, as mentioned earlier, I’ve missed some test days which made the start of the season quite hard for me", she explains. "But I feel like I’m getting better each weekend and I’m also learning a lot. I expect I can make more progression after the summer break, and hope to be more involved in fights on the track.”
The championship will resume after the summer break, with the fifth round scheduled for 18-19 September at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Valencia.