M2 Competition secured a top-10 result in the Formula Renault Eurocup on their first visit to the world-famous Monaco street circuit.
A points-scoring finish for Kush Maini on Monaco Grand Prix weekend ensured the Belgian team maintained fourth place in the Teams’ Championship as the season reached one-third distance.
The event started superbly for Kush and team-mates Yves Baltas and Lucas Alecco Roy, who set the sixth, seventh and eighth-best times in a dry free practice on Thursday morning.
But come Friday qualifying; which was held on a damp, but drying, track, it was not possible to transfer the pace.
Due to the Formula 1 timetable, just one qualifying session sets the grid for both Eurocup races in Monaco, with that session split into two groups.
Repeated full-course yellow periods denied both Yves and Lucas the opportunity to have more than a single shot at the top spot while Kush – who was placed in Group B – couldn’t maximise his pace on wet tyres and then found conditions slower when he followed most of his rivals out on slicks later on.
Starting 13th and 14th for Race One, Kush and Lucas both made excellent starts; German driver Lucas storming up to 11thh before his race ended prematurely in the barrier at Massenet.
He’d made similar progress in Race Two when an identical incident caused his retirement at one-third distance.
Kush, however, kept his nose clean and finished in a points-scoring 10th in Race One and – from 13th on the grid – was 11tht in Race Two; the Indian driver seeing no opportunities to overtake and twice finishing fifth-best of the rookies on track.
American Yves Baltas qualified 18tht, but bided his time and finished 16th. Wing damage forced a pitstop for a replacement nosecone early in Race Two, but he responded by setting the race’s fourth-fastest lap on his way to 17th.
The results mean Kush holds ninth place in the Drivers’ Championship with Yves 17tht.
There is no rest for the M2 team, who now make the 190km journey into France ahead of the next Formula Renault Eurocup round at Circuit Paul Ricard near Marseille, which begins on Friday.
Kush Maini said: “It’s been a frustrating weekend that started so well with top-six pace in dry practice. Unfortunately qualifying was damp, we made the wrong decision to go onto slicks and I put the car in the wall. Because there isn’t a second qualifying like at normal Eurocup rounds, that meant I was on the seventh row for both races. A points finish was more than I was expecting in Race One, and to be in a train battling for sixth was a bit frustrating because in clear air I was much faster than all the cars ahead of me, which I proved whenever I had to drop back to stop the car overheating in the dirty air. Race Two was fun and I made three completely separate overtaking moves on the first lap, which was incredibly satisfying, but again, although I was faster than the guys ahead, I couldn’t pass as Monaco is very narrow. I’m just glad we only have a few days to go before Paul Ricard so we can put this one behind us and get back to challenging for the podium.”
Lucas Alecco Roy said: “Monaco is simply incredible, and while the results weren’t what I wanted, I have a new favourite circuit. I was very pleased with eighth place in the dry practice – my first session here – and we all felt there was more time just sitting in the car , but in the wet qualifying I was quite unlucky with full-course cautions and then just didn’t get the time I needed on my last lap. I knew I had to make up ground so I really went for it, made up several places in both races, and just lost it at the same corner in both races. The big shame is that I felt really comfortable for the first time in the car, but that can only bode well for Paul Ricard.”
Jonathan Moury, Team Principal, said: “The experience of competing on the world’s greatest street track has been a very good one, but the results weren’t what we came here wanting or expecting. The pace of all three drivers was excellent in practice and in the races, but we qualified badly on a damp track – our first bad session all season – and that proved crucial. We’ve certainly learnt a lot and next year we’ll come back much stronger. Now we look ahead to Paul Ricard and we aim to get back to the kind of results we achieved at Monza and Silverstone.”