Race 2

Paul Ricard - FRA

Race 2

Kuppens grabs another French win

Renaud Kuppens showed his championship intent on the track where he secured the European title last year. For Kuppens, this win goes with his triumph in Race 1, a one-two that consolidates his overall lead and gets his title chase off to a good start. Riccardo Ragazzi and Mathjis Bakker took the other podium places after a tight battle. Also starring was Niki Cadei (who drove because his team mate, Pellegrinelli, injured a foot) and Mauro Calamia.

The Belgian claimed the win in a 30-minute race made even more difficult by the rain, though it didn’t fall as heavily as yesterday.

There were no incidents to speak of at the start and, at turn one, the top three in the standings made it through unharmed with Kuppens heading Ragazzi and Gobbo. In the middle of the pack the situation was tougher with the spray reducing visibility to practically nil. Delli Guanti clipped Barde, sending him spinning down the pack. Both were soon forced to pull out.

Up front, Ragazzi was hounding Kuppens and overtook him on lap one. The Belgian was having none of it and was soon back filling Ragazzi’s mirrors. It took less than a lap for Kuppens to strike back, just as Calamia slipped into third after Gobbo spun. The Swiss driver was soon back in control of his car but couldn’t prevent Mathjis Bakker, who had started from the centre of the pack, from overtaking.

Danish driver, Mac, made his way through the pack to fifth by making the most of crashes in front of him and Akhtyamov’s retirement. Behind him was a trio who were really going for it: Merjech, Gardelli and Adrien De Leener. The Swiss driver cut corners a few times resulting in the officials slapping him with a drive through.

Up front Kuppens was trying to extend his lead over Ragazzi who, in turn, had to keep an eye on Mathjis Bakker coming up fast behind him. Calamia, in fourth and some twelve seconds off the leader, was heading Cadei, Mac and Cecchellero, who had stormed up from last place.

The rain was making things really tricky for the drivers: there was a thin line between tracing the perfect line through a turn and ending up spinning. It was exciting stuff and Segler, Bettini, Javier and Nielsen, challenging for eleventh, were in the thick of it.

The race was hotting up with Cadei’s putting in a series of quick laps to force his way up to the front four while Ragazzi’s spin allowed Bakker to move into position to overtake. However, the Dutchman couldn’t just focus on what was ahead of him as he had Calamia less than a second behind and Cadei closing in too. Gardelli, who still had to make his drive through, spun and lost even more places in a disappointing end to the potential shown in qualifying. The only driver who didn’t make any errors was Kuppens. After dealing with Ragazzi, he stretched his advantage to nine seconds over the pack of Ragazzi, Bakker, Calamia, Cadei, Mac, Merjech, Cecchellero, Adrian De Leener and Segler.

It was the group of drivers tucked in behind the leader who were really aggressive: Cadei’s lap times came down and he started to pressure Calamia with Bakker giving Ragazzi some of the same. On lap eight, Calamia almost blew his podium chances when he spun but with Ragazzi, Bakker and Cadei’s private spat slowing them down, he managed to keep his advantage. He was helped by putting in the race’s fastest lap (lap 10), a time that was bettered by Mac a lap later.

So, Renaud Kuppens took the chequered flag from Riccardo Ragazzi and Mathjis Bakker. Next in line were Cadei, Calamia, Mac, Merjech and Cecchellero, whose comeback from last spot was sensational.

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