Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG driver Martin Rump (19) extended his win streak to seven as the Estonian mastered yet another track – this time the 4.3 km Zhuhai International Circuit – to extend his lead in the Drivers Classification over championship rival Jake Parsons (20) of Meritus.GP. Parsons was third in the first of this weekend’s three races in Southern China, finishing one spot behind Alessio Picariello (22) of Absolute Racing, who has now scored three podium finishes in his first four FMCS races.
With 89 points still on offer, Rump now holds a 63-point lead over Parsons, who must be wheel-perfect if he is to keep his championship hopes alive. Rump’s team mate, Nicholas Rowe (17) is third in the Drivers Classification, but is no longer in championship contention having finished sixth in today’s 11-lap race. Behind Rowe in the championship standings is fellow Australian Aidan Read of Eurasia Motorsport, with the 16-year old having finished just shy of the podium today. Malaysian Daniel Woodroof (19) of Meritus.GP rounds out the top five, having finished fifth in Race 13.
“I feel great. It’s difficult to keep the win streak going and the further it goes, the more pressure you have to perform well”, said Rump. “I feel great to bring home another win and want to thank KCMG for providing me with a winning car. It was pretty close at the start and Alessio got pretty close to me. At the exit of Turn 7 he came beside me and I defended – it was a close call and there was no room.”
Third-year Star Racing Academy driver Yuan Bo of Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG was the race’s top-finishing Chinese driver, having battled with his rivals to finish seventh.
It was a day of tight qualifying and action-packed racing as the fledging talents – representing no fewer than 10 different countries and territories – took to the hard-braking track, all eager to beat a masterful Rump and maximize championship points in the penultimate race weekend of the 2015 season.
Having arrived in Zhuhai with six consecutive wins under his belt, Rump was on the hunt for a seventh. Rump took provisional pole in the first of two qualifying sessions, but so close were the drivers that the top five were within three-tenths of a second of each other. Arrows Racing driver Matthew Swanepoel (20) was second fastest in the first session to line up on the first row alongside Rump in this afternoon’s Race 13. Picariello and Parsons had the third and fourth fastest qualifying times to comprise the second row.
The second 15-minute qualifying session, which determines the grid for tomorrow’s Race 15, was just as competitive, but this time it was Picariello who set the fastest time to take his maiden pole position, just two-hundredths of a second ahead of Rump. Highlighting the competitiveness of the series and the emphasis on providing a platform for young drivers to develop a solid motorsport foundation was Star Racing Academy driver Sean Zheng (17) of Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG, who was third quickest in the session and landed himself a spot on the second row of the grid.
With two intense qualifying sessions complete, Race 13 was guaranteed to contain plenty of on-track action. There was immediate drama for Swanepoel, whose car stalled on the grid due to a gearbox issue. An extra formation lap was required, reducing the race to 11 laps, while the South African was forced to start from pit lane.
At the start, Rump led from pole position, while Picariello, in second, began to immediately pile the pressure on Rump. Picariello got close to his rival, but Rump defended expertly and forced Picariello onto the grass. Picariello recovered and moved back into second and despite having to deal with an issue to his front wing for the remainder of the race, maintained a strong pace to keep Rump in his sights. Parsons stayed steady in third, pulling away from the rest of the field along with Rump and Picariello.
Behind the race leaders, there was plenty of action. Singapore’s Sean Hudspeth (21) of Eurasia Motorsport was locked in a battle with Woodroof and Rowe, who had moved from 12th on the grid up to seventh by the end of the opening lap. Woodroof overtook Hudspeth on Lap 4 to move into fifth position, where he would stay for the remainder of the race. Two laps later, Rowe would also get by Hudspeth, with Yuan successfully making a move past the Singapore driver on the following lap.
In the closing stages of the race, FMCS newcomer and young American karter Oliver Askew (18) of Absolute Racing got past Zheng. But Zheng fought back and a lap later retook the position, with team mate Jeffrey Ye (17) also getting past.
FMCS action resumes Sunday morning at the Zhuhai International Circuit with the seven-lap Race 14, followed by Race 15 scheduled for 12 laps in the afternoon. With the fastest lap times from Race 13 setting the grid for Race 14, Rump will again be on pole position and this time will be looking for his lucky eighth victory.