Questions answered as Twister Racing's drivers fill the podium. Morgan Morand ends up in 5th despite lack of testing.
The big questions on the minds of many FSR fans coming into round two at Sepang was: What impact would the returning Morgan Morand have on the front runners? and Was their time in the sun at Melbourne's Albert Park by default or was it earned?
In Qualifying the Twister Racing teams locked out the top three spots with Petar Brljak first, Jim Parisis second and Muhammed Patel in 3rd. Morgan Morand could only muster sixth although he was on the harder compound tyre to start the race and therefore this compromised him in qualifying. At that point in time he was, on paper at least, looking very dangerous. If Morand could hold onto the tail of the leaders until they pitted he would then run longer and rejoin to fight on the faster options from then on.
It could have worked. What actually happened was that Brljak and Parisis set a great pace with clear air and option (medium) tyres. Morand found that there is traffic and then there is traffic, and that in the World Championship the top half dozen guys are not easy to pass. He ran deep into the race on primes (hard) and a contact and spin virtually at the pit entry cost him possibly 5-7 seconds and several places.
Meanwhile Patel was building a tidy gap to fourth place himself and starting to look very strong for the final podium spot.
World Championship rookie Kuba Brzezinski proved that Melbourne was no fluke with fourth on the grid and the fastest non-Twister qualifier. He found himself in a straight fight in stint two for the first time ever with Morand after the French driver's earlier slight delays at pit entry. We knew Brzezinski was fast but after he closed down Morand the question was could he race wheel to wheel with the runner-up of 2014? The audience were treated to superb driving as these two fought it out. Brzezinski made the overtake after some excellent attacking and defending from both drivers.
However it was far from over for fourth place. Somehow, in a piece of wizardry after the next stops Morand was once again ahead of the Polish driver. How did he do that?
The podium was tied up by this stage but the fight for fourth was enthralling.
Morand pitted from in front with about 12 laps to go. It bluffed the commentators who figured Brzezinski had blown it when he didn't respond for two whole laps. Surely Morand was just walking away on fresh tyres?
Brzezinski's crew had other ideas, they wanted their guy on the best possible rubber for the final laps. After his stop he caught and engaged the 2014 WDC runner up and prevailed. The gap at the finish line after 54 laps and 91 minutes of racing was 0.501 seconds in favour of the Pole. The chase also gave him the fastest lap of the race.
Meanwhile the fight had enlivened up at the front too and after Brljak had led for about 40 of 56 laps Parisis switched it on and made the pass to be leading when it mattered. Muhammed Patel must be complimented on the kind of fast and uneventful race that we would all like to drive. Third place with a gap of 9 seconds back to Brzezinski.
So in summary, we must return to our original questions. The leaders and winners at Albert Park won with pace and on merit. Its exciting to think about it because after several season where it was a bit of a two horse race we have in 2015 at least five drivers with the pace to win. It bodes for a fantastic season.
To the second question? Morand will definitely have a huge impact now on the championship. We have to remember that the reason he missed Melbourne was equipment failure, his wheel broke. This means over the last two weeks he would not have driven. The new equipment has only just arrived and the Morand we saw may have been race rusty. Still, were it not for a spin he would have been fighting with Patel for third.
What will happen in China in two weeks at Round 3? Tune in and find out. We can't wait.