M2 Competition’s Kush Maini scored a sensational last-corner rookie victory at the team’s home Formula Renault Eurocup event at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The Indian had qualified 11th overall for Friday’s opening race, but put on a tremendous performance once the lights went out at the start.
Making up two places instantly, Kush climbed to sixth spot by two-thirds distance, and then benefitted when the appearance of the safety car closed up the field.
Sensing an opportunity, he dived down the inside of the final chicane to pass his chief rival and snatch fifth overall as well as his – and the Brussels-based team’s second rookie win of the season.
Saturday’s second race should have provided a second helping of points, but it wasn’t to be thanks to a bizarre chain of events at the end of the race.
Having started 19th, three places behind new team-mate Callan O’Keeffe, Kush made superb progress throughout the 30-minute race.
Both he and Callan worked together throughout and had climbed to eighth and ninth mid-way round the final lap.
However, a multi-car incident within sight of the finish brought out the red flags, despite every car on-track having past the incident before the race was stopped.
Instead of taking the chequered flag and sealing those deserved positions, Kush, Callan and the rest of the field were directed down pitlane towards parc ferme.
As a result, the race order was declared after 12 laps rather than the expected 14; nullifying the pair’s late gains and dropping them to ninth and 10th in the final standings.
Callan had driven strongly from 15th on the Race-One grid, but the South African suffered an electrical problem that left him stuck in gear with a third of the race to go; causing his retirement.
The results of the weekend leave Kush seventh in the overall standings and third in the rookie table – just a point shy of second spot. Callan is 14th while M2 hold fifth in the Teams’ Championship.
Kush Maini said: “I’m so happy to get a rookie win at Spa. Monza, where I scored my first, seems like a long time ago and the team definitely deserves it for the work they’ve put in all season. I just tried to keep calm and manage my tyres, but I still managed to come up from 11th to sixth. The safety car definitely worked for me, I closed in on [Petr] Ptacek and just saw an opportunity at the last chicane to get the rookie win. It worked. Sunday was good too and it’s a shame the red flag stopped us both getting more points than we did. We had really good speed here, but we really need to nail qualifying more consistently so we can fight for better positions.”
Callan O’Keeffe said: “This weekend has been a hugely positive experience. The deal came together very late, so I didn’t really have huge expectations, but the team is so professional and so well-drilled that it’s just been really great to be a part of it. We didn’t have great luck in qualifying, and it was unfortunate to stop in Race One, but in Race Two we both made good progress and it’s a shame the red flag stopped both Kush and I scoring the results we deserved, though a point is still very welcome. Currently I don’t have any more plans with M2, but I’ll be working flat-out to make sure I can be back with them for more races this season.”
Jonathan Moury, Team Principal, said: “Getting our second rookie win of the year has been a hugely positive result for both Kush and the team, and for him to have the confidence to keep pushing right to the last corner is a really good sign. Both drivers should have scored more points in Race Two as well, but because of the race being red-flagged on the last lap, the order was re-set and they didn’t get what they deserved. Callan’s been a great addition to the team. He’s settled right in with the guys and his technical feedback through practice really helped push all of us through the weekend. He and Kush have worked very well together and we’d love to have the chance to work with him again.”