Owens Defiant After RS01 Misfortune in Imola

Raoul Owens endured a turbulent weekend in Imola for the second round of the Renault Sport Trophy (RS01), securing a fourth and tenth place finish that positions the British driver and his Spanish teammate third overall in the Endurance standings with 24 points.

As Raoul and his team arrived in Italy, the weekend’s weather conditions were under close observation as rain showers were anticipated on and off throughout the meeting. However, thanks to their winter test schedule, which took the team to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari under dry and wet conditions in early March, R-ace GP and its drivers were well primed for both conditions.

After a four week break following Round 1 at Motorland, Raoul quickly reacclimatised to his car to finish fifth fastest during FP1 with a best time of 1:42.091. As the track rubbered in, Raoul improved upon this time by over a second by setting his fastest time of the weekend in FP3 with a time of 1:40.880.

On Saturday morning, dark clouds loomed until the start of the Pro Qualifying session at 9:00 before openings in the sky allowed the sun to shine through. The cars of V8 Racing were the first to enter the circuit, while the rest of the grid waited in the pit lane for more optimal track temperature later in the session. With the clock ticking, the R-ace GP cars eventually left the box with 13 minutes of time remaining – allowing up to 6 timed laps. Unfortunately, the #8 car of Meindert Van Buuren caused a full course yellow flag while Raoul was on his first timed run. Having to recompose himself with just 3 timed laps to go, Raoul qualified P9 after losing +0.2s due to a small error on his flying lap. A Top 5 grid position was otherwise in reach.

The first of the weekend’s two races got underway on Saturday afternoon with Raoul’s teammate Toni Forné taking to the wheel for the opening half of the Endurance Race (70min + 1 Lap). Forné was aggressive on the opening lap and made his way into P2 ahead of the poleman, Fredrik Blomstedt. The Spaniard’s pace stabilised in the following laps in the 1:43s after Blomstedt had found his way back through. As the pit stop window opened, Forné was P4 behind Andres Mendez’s quick and balanced #4 car of Oregon Team. Raoul jumped into the car at the start of Lap 19, but left the pit lane below the regulated minimum pit stop time. The error would result in a 15 second penalty added to the final race time of Raoul’s #2 car, but a problem with Raoul’s radio meant that he was unaware of the penalty until after the race. Thankfully, the race pace of the British driver was very strong and he was closing the gap to the frontrunners – Kevin Korjus and Bruno Bonifacio – by over a second a lap. Raoul was unable to make a pass for the final podium position prior to the chequered flag, but his speed opened up a gap in excess of 20s to the car behind and allowed him to hold on to a P4 result despite the time penalty.

On Sunday, Raoul made a safe getaway from the rolling start of the Pro Sprint Race (25min + 1 Lap). Notwithstanding a jump start by Lewis Williamson, the opening lap was free of major incident and Raoul tucked in behind teammate Korjus who slipped from P5 to P8 at the start. Korjus struggled to hold off Raoul’s charge in the following laps and conceded his place along with Pieter Schothorst on Lap 7, promoting Raoul into P6 and with some clean air to chase down Dario Capitanio.

With just 3 laps to go, Raoul began a pass on Capitanio down the main straight as the Italian made a poor exit out of the last corner. As the cars reached the Turn 1 kink, Capitanio’s speed deficit had suddenly disappeared and enabled him to take an inside line into Turn 2 ahead of Raoul. Korjus – also in hot pursuit – had pace down the main straight and braked later than Capitanio on the inside. As a result, the Oregon car had to swerve to the outside leaving Raoul with no room to stay on track. Once Raoul’s right rear wheel made contact with the grass, the car immediately rotated into a spin and drifted into the gravel trap. Raoul managed not to beach the car and finished the race two laps later in P10 following the disqualification of Williamson.

“Overall there were positives to my weekend. I was happy with the strength of my lap time and ability to move through the field,” said Raoul post-weekend. “It was a shame not to make it onto the podium [for the Endurance Race] after being so close to Paltalla at the end. The [Pro] Sprint Race was really disappointing for me as I should have got into P4.”

Raoul will head to the Red Bull Ring in June for his in-season test with R-ace GP to prepare for the next round at the same venue during mid-July.

Source: Driver Club Management