The circuit of Spa Francorchamps produced a magnificent show in each of the two races on Saturday, 2nd June. The hero of the day was Ulysse De Pauw. On his home territory, the Belgian brilliantly manoeuvred to move from 5th to 1st place in Race 1, before climbing on the third step of the podium in the second race which was won by a Junior, Theo Pourchaire! Meanwhile, the drivers at the top of the rankings collected only a few points, so that the hierarchy of the FFSA Academy French F4 Championship has been upset.
Among the drivers entered this year, there are a large number able to win despite extremely small differences between competitors, whether they are repeaters, just moved from karting or entered in the Junior category. It is certainly more proof of the very high quality of the 2018 field. At Spa, Ulysse De Pauw and Théo Pourchaire have increased the number of different winners this season to six, in addition to Arthur Leclerc celebrating his first pole position the day before.
Ulysse De Pauw at home
After the rainy episode of Free Practice and Qualifying on Friday, the drivers took advantage of a dry track in both races. In the first, Monegasque Arthur Leclerc could not take advantage of his pole position as he would have liked and was quickly threatened by his direct competitors. Everything was decided in the first minutes, when the top five appeared almost all together at the braking point of Les Combes. Caio Collet and Stuart White touched, Théo Pourchaire was held up and wasted time, while Ulysse De Pauw managed to find the opening on the inside to take the lead.
Leclerc was trying to keep up with the pace of the Belgian, but he was followed by Pierre-Louis Chovet, very fast from his 7th place on the grid. On the fourth lap Pierre-Louis surprised the Monegasque. The positions were not going to change in the top three, to the delight of the leader Ulysse De Pauw. “For a Belgian driver, it’s always a bit special to win at Spa Francorchamps. I admit that I was a little disappointed to have achieved only 5th in Qualifying time when I was the fastest in the previous session,” commented Ulysse.
Behind Chovet and Leclerc, respectively 2nd and 3rd under the chequered flag, the hierarchy quickly stabilised for Stuart White, Théo Pourchaire and Adam Eteki, who achieved the three fastest laps in the race. Theo Nouet had a solid race in 7th place ahead of Ugo Wilde, who was busy controlling pressure from Esteban Muth.
Magnificent victory for Pourchaire
Race 2 was still likely to offer many twists and ups and downs. Tenth in the previous race and therefore first on the starting grid according to the reverse grid principle for the top 10, Matéo Herrero was quickly overtaken by Esteban Muth and Ugo De Wilde, then by Adam Eteki. As the duel intensified between these three drivers, Théo Pourchaire closed on the leaders thanks to his steady pace. The latter continued his offensive to the point of seizing the head at the end of lap 5.
In the braking for Les Combes, an incident eliminated three drivers simultaneously: Ugo De Wilde, Adam Eteki and Reshad De Gerus. The safety car entered the track, fixing the positions. “I was looking forward to this first win. While Race 2 is not the one that brings the most points, it will give me even more confidence for the rest of the season. I’m still very satisfied with the way I won, making several overtakes and taking the lead in less than six laps after starting in 6th position,” analysed the current Junior leader of the F4 French Championship. Finally, the German Esteban Muth and the Belgian Ulysse De Pauw joined Theo on the podium, leaving Stuart White in 4th position, with the fastest lap in the race.
The recovery of the day was from Caio Collet. Starting 18th and last, the Brazilian made a spectacular return to 5th place ahead of Arthur Leclerc, Matéo Herrero and Pierre-Louis Chovet. Behind O’Neill Muth, Sacha Lehmann celebrated his first top 10 of the season.