February 26th, 2016 by Paul Malokas
The first half of the season has seen Mikko Nassi dominate. However, Nassi missed the endurance race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. This allowed the other contenders a chance to close the gap and give them hope for the stretch run of the championship. The standings leading to the race at Circuit Zolder were Nassi leading with Arjan de Vreede in second and Philippe Leybaert in third.
Circuit Zolder always produces close racing but passing is difficult, so qualifying is critical. De Vreede set the pace on the first lap with a 1:45.364. He would not improve on that lap, but it was easily fast enough to maintain pole position. Behind him were his PSR teammates Brian Doell at 0.168 behind and Paul Malokas 0.182 behind. Leybaert and Nassi followed them and the rest of the top ten were Johnny Guindi, Tom Ward, Mickael Lamoureux, Daniel Schwonek and Greg Seitz.
The early stages of the race saw the front of the pack stay together, with the exception of Guindi who did not start due to technical issues. However, gaps started to appear after the first few laps. Seitz made a mistake early on and fell down the order. Then on lap 5 the whole race changed. Leading into the lap the top 6 had not changed positions, but Malokas made a mistake in T2 and Leybaert challenged into the first chicane. They navigated the chicane side by side, but Nassi got a run on both of them and they headed to the second chicane three wide. They entered with Malokas slightly ahead on the outside, Leybaert in the middle and Nassi on the inside. They were closely followed by Ward and Schwonek. On entry, Leybaert and Nassi almost touched and Leybaert reacted by drifting out and touched Malokas. This sent Malokas off track and Leybaert was further damaged by a touch from Schwonek. This led Leybaert losing control a few seconds later.
The outcome of this was de Vreede and Doell were now well clear of the field. Nassi was chasing in third with Ward, Schwonek, Simon Schulze, Lamoureux and Malokas in a second pack. Just behind them were Rob Read, Emmanuel Menendez and Martin Ascher. These groups merged quickly and it was a group of nine chasing the two leaders.
Entering the pit window the lead was growing. The two leaders pitted late in the window and de Vreede came out with a two second gap to Doell in second. Behind them Nassi came out ahead of Schwonek in third and fourth. Ward and Read came out together and raced closely all the way to the finish. Malokas and Schulze were running together in seventh and eighth. The final places in the top ten were a battle between Menendez, Lamoureux, Enzo Canta, Ascher and Angelo Cellura.
In the closing laps de Vreede continued to expand his lead and won easily ahead of his teammate Doell. Behind them was a gap to Nassi running alone in the third. Schwonek finished alone in fourth. Then the first battle to the finish. Ward and Read raced most of the lap side by side and it came down to the final corners, but they touched slightly and Ward was able to finish ahead in fifth. Read finished sixth. Malokas and Schulze exchanged positions a couple of times in the closing laps, but Malokas finished seventh without much battle in the final corners. Schulze finished just behind in eigth. The final two places in the top ten went to Menendez and Cellura after a long battle that saw Lamoureux, Canta and Ascher crash in the final laps.
With the pole and win deVreede closed up the championship race a little bit. Nassi leads with 338 points. De Vreede is in second with 288 points. Leybaert maintains his third place, despite the poor result, with 256 points. Going into the final stretch it will take great results from the chasers and poor or no results from Nassi to make it a battle. The championship now moves on to the oval at Phoenix.
|1||Arjan de Vreede||Benelux||56|
|5||Tom Ward||UK and I||-12.407||26|
|6||Rob Read||UK and I||-12.847||34|
|13||Szabolcs Feher||Central-Eastern Europe||-35.921||20|
|14||Collin van Raam||Benelux||-36.169||17|
|15||Aurelien Bonnet||New York||-36.302||18|
|20||Fahim Antoniades||UK and I||-00:01:11.12||9|
|21||Martin Ascher||DE-AT-CH||-2 L||0|
|22||Mickael Lamoureux||France||-2 L||11|
|23||Will Fisher||West||-5 L||2|
|24||Tuan Tran||Benelux||-8 L||9|
|25||Mike McCormick||Texas||-9 L||0|
|26||Philippe Leybaert||Texas||-16 L||9|
|27||Johnny Guindi||Hispanoamérica||-22 L||0|
|28||Bas Slob||Benelux||-22 L||0|