A podium followed by disappointement for Luciano at the Nurburgring...But he still has a solid championship lead
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It had to happen some time, and Germany's fabled Nürburgring turned out to be the place where Comma-sponsored Luciano Bacheta's record breaking run of consecutive victories in the FIA Formula Two championship came to an end over the weekend of May 26th/27th.
Instead, it was Romania's Mihai Marinescu and Switzerland's Christopher Zanella who shared the spoils of victory in the fifth and sixth rounds of the sixteen race series. Despite an as yet unexplained and surprising drop-off in race pace during Race 2, Luciano still nurses the equivalent of a near two-race lead in the championship points table, but with greater Formula Two experience than the 22 year old from Brentwood under their helmets, Marinescu and Zanella can be expected to continue piling on the pressure when the championship reaches its mid-season point at Belgium's daunting Spa circuit on June 23rd/24th.
Having experienced an engine problem in free testing which had to be fixed overnight, Bacheta was understandably apprehensive when the half hour qualifying session for Saturday's race got under way. In the event, it was Marinescu who annexed pole position ahead of Luciano by an ominous three tenths of a second, with a delighted Brit, Daniel McKenzie and Poland's Kevin Mirocha filling the second row. The Swiss duo of Matheo 'The Kid' Tuscher and Alex Fontana were closely matched on row three, with Zanella and local hero Marcus Pommer on row four. David Zhu from China and the somewhat frustrated Brit, Dino Zamparelli, rounded out the top ten.
Determined that he would not allow himself to be to overtaken from within the 1 second over-boost zone – as Bacheta had done to steal the win from the Romanian at Silverstone – Marinescu quickly opened a 3 second gap which a disappointed Luciano just didn't have the race pace to close. "I was hoping I'd catch him towards the end, but once I realised I wasn't going to, I had to make sure I didn't run out of tyres," he said after taking second spot on the podium.
Behind them, the race was enlivened by a great scrap that developed between Zanella, Mirocha, Tuscher and Fontana. Zanella managed to break free and pull steadily away to finish third, but the other three were joined by Zhu and snapped and sniped at one another for much of the race. Mckenzie somehow drifted back to eighth place, with Pommer dropping from eighth to ninth and Britain's Hector Hurst the final points scorer, tenth.
Qualifying was a much pacier affair, with Saturday's Race 1 pole position time being only good enough on Sunday for tenth on the grid for Race 2. Zanella's pole position time was the merest three thousandth's of a second faster than Marinescu's best effort, with Tuscher and a revitalised Pommer on row 2. Fastest with ten minutes to go, Bacheta ultimately found himself accompanied by Fontana on row 3, ahead of Zhu, McKenzie, Mirocha and Zamparelli. As close as ever, less than a second separated the top ten.
Ambitious to record his first 'double header', Marinescu made an early move to pass Zanella and took the lead in Turn 1. Unlike the first race however, he was unable to open a sufficient gap to break out of the overtaking boost zone. Zanella just shadowed him, lap after lap, until he turned the tables on the Romanian with five laps to go with his own passing manoeuvre into Turn 1.
Gradually, the leading two opened a buffer zone between themselves and Tuscher, who drove a lonely and untroubled race to finish third, nearly nine seconds behind Marinescu but four seconds clear of Pommer. Fontana got the better of Bacheta from the start and edged away to claim fifth ahead of Comma's man, who looked as if he was driving on ice by the end and very nearly fell prey to a thrusting move by Zamparelli. McKenzie, Zhu and Mirocha filled out the top ten.
In addition to sponsoring Luciano Bacheta's No 4 car in the series, Comma has been Technical Partner to FIA Formula Two, and the exclusive supplier of engine oils, coolants and maintenance chemicals to the championship since it was launched in 2009. All of the identical 500bhp Williams F1 designed Formula Two race cars are lubricated, cooled and serviced with maintenance products supplied by Comma.
You can read detailed race reports, view the complete championship standings and keep up with all the other latest FIA
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