- DeFrancesco leaves it late to win pole position battle by less than half a tenth from Carlin team-mate Florescu.
- Thrilling qualifying session which saw Alex Quinn and Jamie Caroline take the fight to Carlin.
- Several championship protagonists have it all to do after difficult session.
OULTON PARK 4 JUNE, 2016 – Carlin’s Devlin DerFrancesco claimed a brilliant pole at Oulton Park ahead of team-mate Petru Florescu and Fortec Motorsports’ Alex Quinn.
In an entertaining qualifying, Quinn was the man who broke the Carlin stranglehold with six minutes remaining – their four drivers jockeying at the top of the timesheets for much of the session.
Quinn posted a 1m 22.741s to put him just under two tenths clear of Florescu and with the clock ticking down it looked as though the Racing Steps Foundation driver’s time wouldn’t be beaten, but DeFrancesco and Florescu had other ideas.
As the chequered flag fell on the session DeFrancesco posted a lightning lap of 1m 22.612s to storm his way to pole. Florescu leapt up from fourth to second to bag another front row start this season. He will also line up on pole in race three courtesy of his second fastest time being the best of the field.
Commented an ecstatic DeFrancesco: “This pole feels unbelievable. It was an unbelievable job by the team. The first few laps the car just kept on getting better and better and I knew there was more performance to come from the tyre. I really hooked up that last lap. I stayed cool, calm and collected to get the job done when it mattered. Things are coming together and we can definitely bridge the gap in the championship to be on top come the end of the year.”
Added Florescu: “It was a really tight qualifying, but I’m happy for my team-mate. The car was really quick. All the Carlins are quick. I’m looking forward to a good fight in race one and then to have pole for race three is great. With all my championship contenders behind me it’s a good chance to score more points than them.”
It looked as though Quinn might have the last laugh with his final flyer as he lit up the timing screen once more in the first part of the lap, but he was left ruing an encounter with traffic: “It was a good session. P3 is ok, but the potential was there for P1. I just got caught out by a little bit of traffic on my last lap when I was going quicker, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m looking forward to the races now because we’ve got excellent pace in the car.”
Pirtek Racing Jamun star Jamie Caroline, as well as Carlin’s Max Fewtrell and James Pull were in the mix for pole throughout, all taking turns at the sharp end of the provisional grid as the session evolved. The trio ended up fourth, fifth and sixth respectively and are sure to be key players in this weekend’s races.
Next up came TRS Arden’s Ayrton Simmons and Rafael Martins. The former had a fantastic pre-race test suggesting he had every chance to be inside the top 10. He well and truly delivered. Martins was also pleased with the step the team had made overnight with the car and cast an eye on a strong showing for the remainder of the weekend.
Said Martins: “We have improved the car a lot since yesterday. We went with a setup that we weren’t quite sure how much performance it would give us, but it proved to be a good step. We will try to do a good result in race one and then build on that to get really strong finishes tomorrow.”
Arden team-mate and championship protagonist Luis Leeds had a frustrating qualifying, damaging a rear suspension link after a heavy impact with a kerb. It brought a premature end to a session in which TRS Arden team manager Ben Bloomfield was confident of a strong result for the Red Bull Junior racer: “We got off to a bit of a rough start this weekend, but we have made some big steps since yesterday.”
“I think the circuit is just highlighting the relative inexperience of our drivers. Ayrton has done a great job and we weren’t expecting him to be so quick early on. It’s a really fantastic performance. It was shame about Luis not being able to complete the session because it looked like he was going to be really strong, but I’m happy with the progress we have made as a team so far.”
Billy Monger was another whose session was cut short, spinning on oil leaking from his car and ending up in in the gravel trap.
It was a session to forget for championship leader and JHR Developments driver Sennan Fielding. An experimental spring setup change backfiring terribly, meaning he will have to start from 14th.
JTR’s Patrik Matthiesen caught the eye with a series of quick laps late on to see him climb up several places and just miss out on a top 10 grid slot. However, the Dane was confident of breaking into the top positions during the weekend: “I’m happy with how qualifying has gone here. It’s getting better and better as the season progresses.
“I’m able to push the car harder and harder which is great. The key around here is being able to carry the speed through the corners. It’s something that I’ve been working on and I’m definitely getting stronger in this area.”
With the likes of Fielding, Leeds and Monger sure to battle their way through the field, while Messrs Quinn, Caroline and the Carlin quartet provide fireworks out front, the first race of the weekend at 1445 is one no will want to miss.
Provisional qualifying times Oulton Park 4 June 2016
Grid order for round 10
1 Devlin DEFRANCESCO / CDN / Carlin 1:22.612
2 Petru FLORESCU / ROU / Carlin 1:22.644
3 Alex QUINN / GBR / Fortec 1:22.741
4 Jamie CAROLINE / GBR / Jamun 1:22.761
5 Max FEWTRELL / GBR / Carlin 1:22.780
6 James PULL / GBR / Carlin 1:22.982
7 Ayrton SIMMONS / GBR / Arden 1:23.165
8 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / Arden 1:23.224
9 Zane GODDARD / AUS / Double R 1:23.287
10 Jack MARTIN / GBR / Arden 1:23.361
Round 12 grid order (based on second fastest times) Florescu – DeFrancesco – Fewtrell – Caroline – Quinn – Pull – Simmons – Martins – Kjaergaard – Bird etc.