Webb scores rookie podium in Le Castellet
Posted on in Latest News
19 September 2011
Webb scores rookie podium in Le Castellet
Track: Paul Ricard HTTT, France
Track length: 5.842 km (3.630 mile)
Date: Friday 16 – Sunday 18 September, 2011
Race 1: 25 laps
Qualifying: Pos: 14; Time: 1m52.207s + 0.784s
Result: Pos: 11; + 49.636s
Race 2: 23 laps
Qualifying: Pos: 15; Time: 2m15.641s + 2.505
Result: Pos: 10; +20.247s
British racing driver Oli Webb returned to the World Series by Renault this weekend, 16-18 September, as the championship visited the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit in Le Castellet, France for the first time. Two strong races saw him on the rookie podium for the second successive round, and 11th and 10th place finishes.
Feeling confident with the car’s set-up after a strong performance during the weekend’s free practice sessions, the 20-year old MSA Elite driver posted a series of quick lap times throughout qualifying for Race 1 to put him near the top of the timesheets. With 10 minutes of the session remaining, looking good for a top 10 grid slot, Webb pitted for fresh tyres and headed out for one final run. However, an incident out on track meant Webb’s final lap was compromised and, with the top 20 drivers separated by just one second as the chequered flag dropped, Webb ended the session in 14th.
Track conditions for Race 1 were dry with high levels of grip, but Webb lost two places as he struggled to get off the line. Despite this initial set back, the BRDC Superstar driver worked hard to regain track position but was stuck in heavy traffic throughout the 25 lap race. Webb continued to apply pressure to the cars in front, and when two cars in the leading pack came together in the latter half of the race, Webb’s quick reactions saw him move up to 13th. With clear air ahead of him, Webb then set about hunting down 12th place and, with a strong exit out of the final corner, Webb moved into the slipstream as he crossed the line with three laps to go and pulled off an impressive overtake into the first chicane. Webb then maintained this position to cross the line 12th overall and third place rookie driver, meaning a second consecutive rookie podium-finish after his impressive outing at Silverstone last month. Following second-placed Albert Costa’s post-race disqualification, Webb was promoted to 11th overall.
Webb and his PONS Racing team-mate Nick Yelloly adapted quickly to the difficult conditions during qualifying for Race 2 on Sunday morning. Heavy rain brought a new challenge to the 5.842km circuit in the Côte d’Azur, but both PONS Racing drivers got to grips with the slippery surface and, feeling increasingly happy with the set-up of their PONS Racing Formula Renault 3.5 racers, Webb provisionally ended the session in second place and Yelloly in fifth. However, Webb’s start position for Race 2 was later amended to 15th after his fastest lap time was subsequently deleted from the timesheets when it was deemed that he had exceeded the track limits.
Following the heavy rain that had affected qualifying, conditions for Race 2 were slippery but Knutsford-born Webb got off the line well and immediately moved up to 14th. However, he was forced off the track at Turn 1 as he avoided an incident involving several of the leading group and, when he rejoined the track, he had moved back to 15th.
Despite the dry conditions, the track’s surface offered much less grip than earlier in the weekend, but Webb quickly settled into a comfortable rhythm, posting consistent and competitive laptimes and applying constant pressure to the group of cars ahead of him. With a threat of rain throughout the race, the team ran Webb as long as possible, and when he did eventually stop, it was for another set of slick tyres. A string of competitive laps, combined with a strong performance by the PONS Racing team during the scheduled stop, moved Webb up into the points, battling for eighth as he exited the pitlane. Unfortunately, with his rear tyres not fully up to temperature, he was outbraked into Turn 1 and held station in 10th place, where he remained until the chequered flag.
Webb explained: ‘It has been a mixed weekend for us at Paul Ricard. We arrived feeling quite confident after testing here earlier in the year, and I felt really happy with the performance and set-up of the car. We showed some real potential during qualifying and the races, and it was nice to secure another rookie podium‘.
Ahead of the season finale, Webb continued: ‘Heading into the final race of the season in Barcelona, I am feeling really positive with the performance of the car, and it would be a great end to my rookie season if I could end on a high with a podium finish at what is the team’s home race.’
The ninth and final round of the 2011 World Series by Renault championship takes place at the 4.655km Circuit dé Catalunya, Spain over the weekend 7-9 October.