It was Alvaro Torres who clinched the victory in the first race in the FSR ACE Division of 2016, after an absence in 2015.
Torres isn’t, however, the only new face present in ACE. Names like Valeriano, Schgoer and Kallas have jumped in after having driven in PRO in 2015. The first race of the season also featured the return of Daniel Brewer (2015 WC driver), Ernesto de Angelis (2011 WC driver) and Luka Oslakovic. All of these names ready to face the 58 lap race around Albert Park.
It was Alvaro Torres who set the fastest time in Q1 with a 1:26.3, being very closely followed by Mike Partington, both of whom seemed favorites to take pole at the end of Q2. Befumo rounded up the top 10 in Q1 with a cut-off time of a 1:27.125. Befumo and Heesterbeek (P20), were separated by 7 tenths of a second at the end of the session.
Into the five minute Q2 session, it was Alvaro Torres who sat on provisional pole after the first attempts, being 2 tenths clear of Mike Partington. Things went wrong for Torres, however, when he was forced to use the anti-cut on his outlap to avoid making contact with another car. He did make contact with that car though, when he couldn’t control his car going over the anti-cut, giving Partington another lap while he had to watch the monitors in the pit lane.
At the end of the day, it was indeed Partington who beat Torres’ time and thus taking pole position. Daniel Brewer was in third, being followed closely by Pashalis Gergis, meaning ACR locked out half of the top 4.
1) Mike Partington - Avid Chronic Racing Team 1:26.469
2) Alvaro Torres - NetRex TPL 1:26.540
3) Daniel Brewer - Origin Front Row Racing 1:26.872
4) Pashalis Gergis - Avid Chronic Racing Team 1:26.879
5) Giordano Valeriano - Twister Racing 1:26.969
6) Michi Hoyer - Avid Chronic Racing Team 1:27.018
7) Thomas Satherley - GhostSpeed Racing Team 1:27.105
8) Ernesto De Angelis - Brehm GP 1:27.202
9) Christian Befumo - Twister Racing 1:27.258
10) Christof Schgoer - GhostSpeed Racing Team 1:27.487
As soon as the five red lights went out, Partington held the lead against Torres going into turn one. Positions were swapped behind that though, with Valeriano jumping both Brewer and Gergis. As the drivers headed into turn 3, Partington lost his rear end while Torres looked on his inside. Partington ended up in the gravel, and rejoined in P14, having to do major damage limitations for the rest of the race.
After the first lap, Torres opened up a 2.5 second gap to Valeriano. Hoyer moved himself up to fourth place in the meantime, taking advantage of Partington’s mistake, and overtaking Brewer, who had lost two positions after lap 1.
As the race developed, it was clear that Valeriano was way off the pace. In three laps time, Torres created a 7-second gap to Valeriano, who had a big train behind him. As soon as DRS was activated, Pashalis cruised by Valeriano down the main straight, and opening up the chase to Torres who was by then 8 seconds in front.
One lap later, Hoyer made his move down the main straight on Valeriano, with Brewer now knocking on the door. A pass wasn’t made easily however, as Valeriano seemed to get into a better flow, improving his lap times and getting quicker towards the end of the stint. At this time, Baxter moved up into ninth place, after starting outside of the top 10.
Lap 10 of the race, and leader Torres came into the pit, switching to the medium (prime) tyre. By then, Brewer had already pitted in an attempt to undercut Valeriano for a podium spot.
Daniel Brewer came into the pits from fourth place at the end of lap 21, but had a very unfortunate disconnect while exiting the pits. This was an indication however, that the pit window had opened once again for the drivers who went for an option stint after the first round of pit stops. Michi Hoyer was one of the drivers who followed Brewer a bit later to pit for soft tyres again.
One lap later Alvaro Torres had a big moment at the exit of turn 5, facing the barrier, but being able to magically save it. Surely though, this was a wake up moment for Torres.
Gergis pitted in lap 26 going for the medium tyre, indicating Gergis and Hoyer had different strategies within the Avid Chronic Racing team. Hoyer did undercut Gergis, and so they swapped positions. Torres and Valeriano were now in the top 2, but obviously yet to pit.
Torres eventually pitted in lap 30, going for soft tyres, coming out 1.5 seconds in front of Hoyer. A bit further down the field, De Angelis pitted too. He came out in 11th spot, having to fight for the most points possible later in the race. Craig Baxter ended his race one lap later with suspension damage after spinning out.
At this time in the race, Partington was fighting with Satherley, who was in a quiet fifth place. Partington had moved back through the field, but made contact with Satherley into turn 3 causing Satherley to lose control of his car, and handing over his place to Partington.
Satherley retired a few laps later because of suspension damage.
With a few more laps to go, it was clear Torres wasn’t going to give away the victory. Hoyer had applied some pressure to him in the race, but the race was mostly decided in the first laps already, with Valeriano functioning as a buffer for Torres.
The racing didn’t stop however, as some great battles were going on in the final couple of laps. Firstly, De Angelis and Heesterbeek had a hard battle through the entirety of the first sector on lap 53. De Angelis claimed eighth spot after going side by side with Heesterbeek through turn 5.
Teemu Valkeejarvi was a driver who took advantage of the incidents which happened during the race, and had his eyes focussed on Schgoer for sixth place. Valkeejarvi made his move on lap 54, using DRS to swing by Schgoer down the main straight. Valkeejarvi threw it away however on the very same lap when he outbraked himself into turn 3. Thanks to this, Schgoer went by again with De Angelis joining the battle with 3 more laps to go, giving Valkejaarvi also a reason to look in his mirrors.
While this battle took place, Torres came across the line to celebrate a well-deserved victory being 15 seconds in front of Hoyer. Gergis found himself in third place, after driving a solid race.
After great defending from Schgoer, he did finish in sixth as neither Valkeejarvi nor De Angelis could get by.
Valeriano finished in fourth with Partington finishing fifth after his recovery drive.
The 2016 ACE season kicked off brilliantly at Albert Park. Join us next time for round 2 at Bahrain!