Tauranga racer Richie Stanaway is “over the moon” after scoring his maiden GP2 win on the tight and twisty streets of Monaco on Saturday, while Aucklander Nick Cassidy has had further success and is closing in on the lead in the Japan Formula 3 Championship.
On just his third weekend in GP2, Richie Stanaway scored a lights-to-flag victory in the category’s sprint race at Monaco, giving his Status team its first win in the Formula 1 support category. He said the tight nature of Monaco means it is critical to qualify well. Front row of the grid gave him every chance at a win.
“If you get the lead in the first corner in Monaco, [and] your pace is good it’s really difficult for anyone to overtake. After the first couple of laps I knew that if I just stayed focused that was pretty much job done because I wasn’t struggling with any balance issues. I just went as hard as I could,” Stanaway said.
He powered past pole man Raffaele Marciello at the start and maintained control throughout the race, surviving Marciello’s restart challenge after a three-car crash when Lazarus GP driver Zoel Amberg became entangled with former Monaco GP2 winner Johnny Cecotto Jr and hit the barriers, leaving Ryo Haryanto no chance to avoid the stricken cars. The tangle brought out the yellow flags and Stanaway and Marciello battled for the lead when the race restarted.
Stanaway demonstrated a clear speed advantage over Marciello, and by mid-distance his lead stood at three seconds. He made the most of his dominant pace, power sliding out of the final corner to take the chequered flag.
“Obviously, GP2 is quite new to me: it’s just my third race weekend so to win a race is quite a surreal feeling and of all places to do it as well. Yeah, I couldn’t be happier and I’m really happy for the team as well. I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said.
Stanaway’s victory contrasts sharply with Mitch Evans’ nightmare race weekend. First, Evans tangled with another racer and failed to finish the weekend’s 40-lap feature race; then his Russian Time car developed a fault on the warm-up lap of the sprint race, denying him any chance of adding to his points tally.
Earlier in the weekend championship leader and McLaren F1 protégé Stoffel van Doorne of Belgium won the feature race with Stanaway seventh. Mitch Evans holds onto fourth place in the championship despite his sprint race dramas.
In Japan, Auckland racer Nick Cassidy continues on his winning way with a victory and second place at the most recent round of the Japan Formula 3 Championship.
In the first of two races at Okayama, Cassidy took pole, posted fastest lap, and led by ten seconds at the chequered flag. In the second he had missed pole by a fraction but tucked in behind his TOM’S Toyota team-mate and championship leader Kenta Yamashita for a 1-2 finish, banking valuable points to narrow the gap to Yamashita.
Cassidy and his team-mate have now won six of the seven races of the championship.
Meanwhile in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship, Kiwis are first and second after four rounds, with seasoned racer Craig Baird holding an 11 point lead over Chris van der Drift, who won the most recent round on May 18. The championship has been a happy hunting ground for top Kiwi drivers in recent years: another New Zealander, Earl Bamber of Wanganui, has won the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia for the past two years he is now racing in Europe with the Porsche factory team.