MONZA (ITA) APR 21-23 2017 -  First round of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup at Autodromo di Monza. Julia Pankiewicz #25 Mark Burdett Motorsport. Action. © 2017 Diederik van der Laan / Dutch Photo Agency

FORMULA RENAULT EUROCUP ROOKIE PANKIEWICZ SECURES TOP 15 BEST AT MONZA

Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup team Mark Burdett Motorsport experienced a mixed first event of the 2017 season at Monza in Italy over the weekend, 22nd/23rd April, with Poland’s Julia Pankiewicz taking the squad’s best finish with a strong top 15 result in round two.

Pankiewicz, who is embarking on her first full season in the globe’s premier Formula Renault category this year, had an unfortunate start to the championship opener when an ECU problem prevented her from contesting round one on Saturday.

In round two on Sunday morning, though, Pankiewicz delivered a very intelligent and calm drive, avoiding any incidents, to climb through from 29th on the grid into 15th position at the chequered flag on lap 13.

Indonesian 16-year-old Presley Martono also experienced a mixed event – after taking a best result of 16th position in round one, ninth highest placed Rookie, an unfortunate incident at the start of race two ruled him out on the spot.

While making good progress in the championship curtain-rasier, Martono could potentially have achieved more but a brace of Safety Car periods interfered with the flow of the race so the reigning South East Asia Formula 4 Champion just missed out on breaking into the top 15 himself.

“We’ve been very impressed with Julia and Presley this weekend, they’ve both done a great job and moved forward well”, said team principal Mark Burdett, “Eurocup is never easy for any rookie, but they performed strongly and the lap times were good – and getting better – throughout.

“Presley raced well to 16th in race one, he was just very unlucky in race two with some contact otherwise we’re sure it would have been another strong finish. Julia had the reverse, with some bad luck in race one with the ECU issue before the start, but race two went very well and the top 15 was well deserved.”

Running well during pre-event practice, the Mark Burdett Motorsport team-mates qualified in separate sessions – the entry in Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup split into two for the grid-determining run each race weekend.

Pankiewicz ran in Group A and produced a best lap of 1m50.980 seconds to place 13th fastest while, in Group B, Martono was an excellent ninth and fifth fastest Rookie thanks to a quickest effort of 1m49.505 seconds – just 0.2 seconds shy of the top six.

On combined times for the round one grid Martono lined-up 17th for his Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup debut and although slipping back initially, he climbed back through to finish just outside the top 15 in the red-flag shortened encounter.

Running in 20th place overall when the first of two Safety Car periods occurred early on, the second cautionary period came with around 10 minutes left on the clock. Martono, staying out of trouble and producing competitive times, ultimately went on to finish 16th overall and ninth best Rookie after a strong conclusion to the season-opening encounter.

For lady racer Pankiewicz, race one wasn’t the start she wanted to the Eurocup season with the aforementioned ECU issue preventing her participation in the race. While disappointed, she was determined to show well on Sunday and did precisely that.

On day two the Group A qualifying session was the faster of the two and Martono started the second contest from 19th position with Pankiewicz a further 10 places back on the grid. Sadly for Martono though, his involvement would only last a few hundred metres.

As a result, the action fell under Safety Car conditions early on and when racing resumed on lap six Pankiewicz held an improved 23rd place following an additional incident higher up the order. Making more progress on the first racing lap, the Polish racer moved into 21st place and yet more drama for some rivals ahead elevated the Mark Burdett Motorsport car into 17th position.

Running in the thick of an eight-car battle headed by Thomas Neubauer in 13th place, Pankiewicz continued to improve her pace and on the 11th tour she moved up onto the top 15 when two rivals dropped back. Remaining there to the finish on lap 13, the result marked a very strong conclusion to the 17-year-old’s first race meeting of the season.

Next stop for the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup is a visit to Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in the UK, Mark Burdett Motorsport’s ‘home’ event, over the weekend 13th/14th May. Once again, the category will support the Blancpain GT Series.