A storming pair of race performances from Kush Maini and a highly-impressive debut for Cem Bolukbasi ensured a strong weekend for M2 Competition in the Formula Renault Eurocup at Hockenheim.
The Brussels-based team, who are in their rookie season of European competition, added more crucial points to their season total on a weekend when heavy rain and constantly-changing track conditions made things extremely challenging for both drivers.
Starting 10th, Kush quickly gained positions Saturday’s dry first race; his climb to sixth spot including one of overtaking moves of the season as he launched his car inside one of his key rivals at the ultra-fast right-hander entering the stadium section.
Having set the race’s fourth-fastest lap, he continued to show fighting spirit as he attempted to wrest fifth at Turn 2 in the dying laps, but out-braked himself, slid wide and had to settle for seventh in the final order.
From 11th on the grid he had a similar task on his hands in Sunday’s wet race, and produced an even more impressive drive.
By the halfway point of the 30-minute race, just three laps had been run under green-flag conditions, but this was no barrier to the 19-year-old’s progress as he climbed to sixth.
Despite yet more time behind the safety car during the race’s closing stages, he was able to move up to a superb fourth spot, which also made him the second-best rookie driver and meant for an 18-point haul; his best weekend score since the Monza season-opener.
With team regular Patrick Schott still recovering from a broken hand, M2 were able to give one of the world’s most highly-regarded sim racers, Cem Bolukbasi, the opportunity he craved; his single-seater race debut.
A member of the Red Bull Racing Esports team, and part of the Toro Rosso squad that finished second in 2018’s F1 Esports rankings, Cem belied his lack of experience to set impressive laptimes in the wide variety of track conditions.
Working his way up the order through Friday’s pair of practice sessions, the 21-year-old from Turkey qualified ahead of several Eurocup podium finishers and starting 14th for the opener.
After losing several positions at the first standing start of his life, a number of well-judged overtaking moves brought him to 16th by the chequered flag as he fought hard for position in an eight-car train.
His Sunday race ended on the third lap with a technical issue, but the Istanbul competitor had made his point with his impressive rate of progress.
The weekend results solidified Kush’s position in sixth in the championship and second among the rookie competitors.
Just one round remains of the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup; taking place at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on October 25-26.
Cem Bolukbasi said: “This weekend has been a dream come true. Racing a single-seater has been an ambition for so long, and I’m really pleased with how things went. Every time I went on track, the conditions were different, so trying to adapt was tough, but I was always in the pack and by the end of the weekend the pace wasn’t far off the top 10. I didn’t lose any pace to the pack in the dry race on Saturday, made a few overtakes, and as a team we were really happy. I’m very pleased with the positive improvement over the course of the weekend and I’d love to do more.”
Elise Moury, Team Manager, said: “We picked up some very important points this weekend. Kush had very good race pace and did a very good job to make up ground on both days. We found it tough with different levels of wet all weekend and only one dry session, but we made some improvements from qualifying to race both days and that was a big help. For someone that had never raced a single-seater before, Cem did extremely well; better than any of us expected – even him. He was never last in practice, qualified only half a second outside the top 10 on Sunday and showed good race pace. He lost some positions at the start, but he’d never done a standing start before, so that was to be expected. He didn’t get phased by it, made some good overtakes and stayed in the pack. With more improvements and race fitness, he can definitely come good.”