The PRO Championship saw its share of drama on the opening weekend. GhostSpeed Racing's Jeroen Kweekel would prevail and take home the first win of the 2015 Season.
Dutchman Jeroen Kweekel of GhostSpeed Racing Team and ACE commentary fame was expected to return to fight for the Pro Title in2 015. Sunday's race showed that he is in great shape to do exactly that. He started on the front row in second position with a very handy qualifying time of 1:22.375. He might well have had a sharp intake of breath when the newcomer, Polish driver Nikodem Wisniewski from Avid Chronic Racing, lived up to paddock rumours and the announcer's suspicions with pole and a blistering time of 1:21.878. An amazing lap that would have seen him on the pole in the World Championship race.
Kweekel himself raced in the major category later in the afternoon and showed he has the pace to mix it at the front end of the top league. It seems that things will be a bit tasty at the front in Pro for 2015. Some might think that its a problem having very quick drivers in Pro, others might think its a great thing to have such a depth of talent and speed.
We were denied a battle between Kweekel and Wisniewski when it looked like the Polish driver suffered electrical problems before the braking zone for the Turn 10-11 chicane when in the lead with Kweekel in close pursuit. There was contact but the car of Kweekel was able to continue.
The battle for second place was intense as Kallas and Schgor fought over many laps. The Italian driver did manage to hold position only to be cruelly denied second place with a fuel pick-up issue no more than 50 metres from the line. It handed the place to Kallas who had been hounding him for many laps. The fight was made a little more unorthodox and tricky for the commentators to call as Canadian David Cook out of position and 2 laps down after collisions and repairs clearly had the pace to run with them and fight but had to sit behind them due to the blue flag he would experience otherwise.
The three podium winners all ran a 2 stop strategy and had a comfortable gap to fourth place driver Estonian Alari Algpeus and then to Great Britain's James Sadler in fifth. However looking at race pace and pit stops (including drive-throughs) it becomes apparent this was due to unscheduled pit lane visits rather than pure pace.
Algpeus (+1:02.389) managed a lap of 1:24.905 but visited the pit lane four times.
Fifth placed Sadler (+1:12.246) recored a best lap of 1:24.888 and had three journeys down the pit lane. We will look into it but its likely that Sadler had damage and Algpues a drive through.
The rest of the drivers on the lead lap were:
Sixth: Italian Christian Befumo for BBR Life4Racing, a handy drive from 20th on the grid and seventh Andrea Cannata for Eventa by Pescara SHS.
Then lapped but in eighth place and in the points was American Andrea Ventura of Origin Front Row Racing. Ninth was Englishman Will Barnes for ZERO Sim Racing. Tenth and the final points scorer was Spanish driver Juan Sanchez Lopez for JS Champs Racing.
The formation lap saw an incident as the field concertinaed into turn 16 slowly approaching through the final turns to roll to the grid. It caught out one driver who collided with a slowing car and flew over another. It damaged innocent party, Andrew Pienaar who lost his rear wing. Had he realised this, he could have started from the pitlane once again intact but unaware of his missing wing he stayed on track and his race was effectively ended.
It was a little unfortunate if unsurprising to see a lap one turn one incident which caught up several drivers. Hopefully the Pro grid will become aware that races are not won at turn one, but they are often lost there and a brave move with full fuel and cold tyres and brakes on a driver who out-qualified you will seldom make your race.
Albert Park walls too are notoriously deceptive and unforgiving. They claimed several victims on Sunday. There were however still 14 drivers circulating at the end.
YouTube replay can be found here: