M2 Competition enjoyed a sensational debut weekend in the Formula Renault Eurocup as driver Kush Maini scored an outright podium finish and a Rookie class win at the legendary Autodromo di Monza in Italy.
Kush, who was making his own series debut with the team from Uccle, Belgium, brought his pre-season testing form to Monza and qualified fourth for Saturday’s season-opener.
He battled hard for third spot, briefly losing the position to Oscar Piastri, but reasserting himself a few corners later after running wheel-to-wheel with his rival in between.
The 19-year-old Indian qualified fifth in a wet Sunday session and finished there too; winning the rookie category in a race that featured just three laps under racing conditions due to the abysmal weather and time taken to clear up several incidents.
Kush holds fifth spot in the Drivers’ Championship and is just one point adrift of the leading rookie, who is placed second overall. M2 Competition are fourth in the Teams’ standings.
Having only joined M2 midway through pre-season testing, American Yves Baltas was short on mileage arriving at Monza, but an impressive Saturday performance put him 11tht on the grid and he made up further ground in the race as he finished 10th.
Sunday seemed set to deliver more points from 17th on the grid, but after making up several spots, Yves was eliminated in a three-car collision at the Lesmo bends.
Esteban Muth; a race winner with M2 in New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series earlier in the year, pumped in a storming lap late in Saturday qualifying to put his car seventh on the grid and fourth among the rookies.
Sadly for the Belgian, he lost his front wing when caught out by a car ahead of him braking suddenly and unexpectedly at the Ascari chicane when restarting after a safety car. He had to pit for a replacement and finished and, despite showing good speed afterwards, unrepresentative 19th.
He suffered again in Sunday’s wet qualifying as a technical issue forced him to miss most of the session; the team needing to work to their limits to repair the car in time for the race.
Such was the amount of work needed, Esteban had to start from the pitlane, but he kept his concentration well to climb to 15th.
The next round takes place at Silverstone, UK, on May 11-12.
Kush Maini said: “It’s been an absolutely amazing weekend to get an overall podium and a rookie win, but honestly, after going top-five in pretty much every pre-season test, I knew we could do something here. Qualifying fourth on Saturday was a success and the race was great. I lost third to Oscar [Piastri], but I knew that the guys behind would try to pass too, so I went to get him back straight away, ran side-by-side and got him back. After that it was a case of just not making mistakes and keeping it all neat. In Sunday’s wet qualifying I honestly think we had the speed for pole, but I didn’t string my best sectors together and fifth was still good. The race was mentally tough because you had to keep mentally re-setting after every safety car and the visibility was non-existent. The speed was still good though and I’d say podiums are now the target everywhere.”
Esteban Muth said: “There have been good and bad points from this weekend, but the big positive is that we have a very fast package. In dry qualifying the times were so close; I started seventh, but I could easily have been second if I’d put my best sectors together. In the race I just got surprised by a car braking harder than expected in front of me while a couple of other cars made contact, and I knocked my front wing off. After pitting to change it my speed was very good – even without a tow – but the result was gone. The car felt even better in the wet, but it started burning and so I didn’t do a proper lap. The team did an amazing job to fix the car for the race, but starting from the pitlane, there was no racing to be done; it was just a case of surviving. Silverstone should be good if we can find this speed again.”
Yves Baltas said: “It’s been a pretty positive weekend pace-wise, even if the results weren’t what we were hoping for. In the dry qualifying I went fifth with 10 minutes to go, but the track improved after that and we couldn’t maximise it. Then in the race I seemed to go everywhere from about eighth to 14th. I had a good battle towards the end, but I had to drive to the limit of my tyres and 10th was the result. Race Two was very tough as the conditions were far worse than in the morning qualifying and when you’re in a pack, the spray makes it impossible to see. The visibility was so bad, I didn’t see the car ahead of me braking until it was too late and that was that. But this weekend has me the most excited I’ve been all year and I just know we can be strong at Silverstone.”
Jonathan Moury, Team Principal, said: “I can’t believe it. When you consider that four months ago we had a warehouse where they kept fridges and freezers, and in that short space of time we’ve put together a complete race team and now had a podium and a rookie win on our debut in a series as competitive as the Formula Renault Eurocup… I’m speechless. It hasn’t been an easy weekend, with a few issues in Thursday testing, some more on Friday and then with Esteban’s car in Sunday qualifying, but the team have been incredible to get us to where we are. Kush has been on the money everywhere and deserves his podium and his rookie win, Yves has really shown his potential with his result in Race One – despite only really having one season of single-seater racing behind him and coming into pre-season late – and Esteban has been much faster than the results sheets show. All three are going to have good seasons. When we have results like this, we put pressure on ourselves to repeat them. This should be our target every weekend now.”