Monza, Italy – Max Defourny enjoyed a winning start to his 2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC campaign with a race victory at an action-packed opening round from Monza.
The weekend marked Max’s return to the NEC following a successful rookie season in 2015, where he finished fifth and as the highest-placed debutant of the year. Max’s NEC return followed his race-winning jaunt in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup at Motorland the weekend prior; the DCM driver will juggle both championships with R-ace GP throughout 2016.
When the 23 drivers made it to the track for Friday’s Free Practice at the temple of speed, it was the Belgian racer who ended FP1 fastest of all while at the helm of car #33. Well on his way to recovery from a neck injury, the teenager soared to an impressive 1:49.552 over a single lap in the hot and sunny morning conditions. Come the afternoon and Max was even faster. This one lap wonder was enough to place him as the second fastest competitor overall at the end of FP2 and just +0.06s behind Dorian Boccolacci. This qualifying position came in spite of a disrupted session which ended early when the Fortec of Bruno Baptista suffered an engine failure.
With Max having once again showcased his pace, qualifying began on Saturday morning where the teenager was among one of the favourites for pole position. A red flag again stopped the action prematurely in Q1 which halted any improvements from Max. Furthermore, Max was unable to find a toe from any of his rivals and ultimately led to a P5 grid slot for Race 1 with rival Jehan Daruvala on pole in a front row lockout for Josef Kauffman Racing. By Q2 and Max was fairing much better to show his true one lap pace around the iconic Italian circuit. Max stayed fastest to secure pole position for Race 2.
His starting positions were now decided and it was all about securing a strong start in the championship when Race 1 began on Saturday morning. The two-race event started with Daruvala on pole but the Force India protégé would ultimately finish down in fourth. Max did not enjoy much luck either when a gearbox failure forced him to retire with just ten minutes left on the clock. Starting from P5, Max climbed as a high as third in the race but the gearbox failure ultimately caused him to lose out on his potential podium finish in the final stages.
However, Sunday was another day and Max’s pole position gave him the perfect opportunity to fight back and end the weekend in a strong title position. Despite a brief lock-up, Max kept Daruvala at bay and, while his rivals battled for position behind, was able to build a substantial two second lead mid-race. Maximising the estimated 248kph speed of his car, Max remained untouched to charge to his first win of the NEC season and his second victory in as many weeks. Able to put his difficult Saturday race behind him, it was a strong performance from Max on Sunday which saw car #33 climb to fifth in the standings and just five points behind his nearest rival, Lando Norris.
Speaking of his weekend, Max was quick to explain the reason behind his lost podium on the Saturday when his failing gearbox forced the R-ace GP driver into an early retirement:
“Every now and then, I was struggling to downshift, that’s why I dropped from third” said DCM’s Max. “I couldn’t change gears and couldn’t get out of first gear but I didn’t worry about it happening again on Sunday because the team has never suffered anything like this before.”
“Otherwise, the car was good, everything was good and it was looking good; Monza is a circuit I like and I am of course very happy with my win for the team.”
Max will return for the second round of the NEC at Silverstone on the weekend of May 14 – 15. Later in May, Max will also head to Monaco for Round 2 of the Eurocup – a support event to the Monte Carlo F1 Grand Prix.