Pau street circuit in southern France provided a stern test for Mark Burdett Motorsport drivers Presley Martono and Julia Pankiewicz over the weekend, 20th/21st May, as the Formula Renault Eurocup racers each made their debut appearances at the challenging 2.76-kilometre venue.
Renowned as one of the most challenging circuits of its kind in global single-seater racing, Pau lived up to its billing as not only a difficult track to overtake on but also a circuit which can bite – as Martono discovered in race two when a rival ran into the back of his FR 2.0 car.
Even so, the Indonesian came away from the event with a best finish of 16th in the opening contest on Saturday, inside the Rookie Class top 10, while lady racer Pankiewicz posted 22nd place in race one and 25th position in the second encounter.
“Pau is an intense challenge for any driver, so for inexperienced racers like Presley and Julia it’s an even greater test”, reflected team owner Mark Burdett, “We’re pleased with the progress they both made and even though it was a tough weekend in terms of results, they each learned a lot which is the main thing at a track as narrow and difficult as Pau.
“We travel straight to Monaco now for next weekend and while that will again be a huge challenge for our drivers, the experience they gained of being so close to the barriers in Pau can only stand them in good stead – especially coming so soon after this weekend’s racing.”
During their first ever qualifying session on the streets of Pau, Martono and Pankiewicz lapped eighth fastest and 15th quickest respectively in their session which was the second of the two qualifying periods – the entry split into two groups for qualifying in Formula Renault Eurocup.
Martono, therefore, started race one on Saturday afternoon from 15th on the combined grid and he held his placing strongly during the first half of the race. Circulating with competitive lap times, the 16-year-old Indonesian was edged back a spot to 16th with around seven minutes to go but held firm for the remainder of the contest to also finish 10th in the Rookie Class.
Pankiewicz, starting in 27th place, moved forward and with around 10 minutes to go she had climbed into 24th position as a result of dramas for other competitors. Gaining two more positions before the conclusion, the Polish driver took the flag in 22nd spot.
For race two of the weekend on Sunday, running as support to the 76th Grand Prix de Pau, Martono lined-up in 21st position on the grid – having lapped 11th fastest in his qualifying group – but hopes of battling through the order towards the top 15 were halted on lap one after he sustained damage to the rear of his car when a rival made contact from behind, leading to a frustrating retirement.
In the sister Mark Burdett Motorsport car, Pankiewicz again made progress in race two and from 29th position overall she climbed through into 25th place. Although a minor spin with six minutes to go lost Pankiewicz one place, a spin for a rival late-on elevated her back into 25th spot.
Mark Burdett Motorsport’s incredibly busy run of race weekends continues a few days from now when the Formula Renault Eurocup joins the FIA Formula One World Championship package for its blue riband event, the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, on 27th/28th May.