FR3.5 » 15 June 2006
WS preview: Istanbul.
The World Series by Renault will be making another small step to fulfil its global moniker this weekend, as the championship heads east to the Istanbul Park Circuit in Turkey for the first time.
It is the first time the series has ventured outside of Europe since 2002 when its forerunning championship, the Nissan World Series, completed four races in Brazil. However, it will be the only race on the calendar this season that will head further east than Germany and, crucially, it will also be the first time that most of the drivers will have seen the circuit, opened in 2005 for the inaugural Formula One Turkish Grand Prix.
Leading the way remains Eric Salignon, although his double victory at the season-opener in Belgium was cancelled out by a torrid meeting in Monaco, where the Frenchman failed to qualify in the top twenty and then went on to finish well out of the points in the single race.
As a result, he goes to Turkey sharing the championship lead with Monaco victor Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan claiming his maiden World Series victory around the twists and turns of the blue riband race. Indeed, now the only driver to have scored points in all the three races so far, the Draco Multiracing USA driver is now brimming with confidence and has already stated his intentions to go on and take the title.
Another driver to have missed out on a golden opportunity to build on a solid start to the season was third-placed Borja Garcia, the Spaniard failing to even make the Monaco grid when mechanical problems prevented him from making the cut. However, while the majority of the field will be racing in Turkey for the first time, Garcia will be able to use his GP2 experience to his advantage. On top of that, the RC Motorsport man was a podium visitor too when he raced there with Racing Engineering last year.
Having dominated the 2005 race and taken pole position for this year's event, Christian Montanari was all set to confirm is 'Monaco maestro' status in the Principality but, when he crashed out from second place, it lost him the chance to move just behind the series leaders. It is a mistake he will need to put behind him, particularly as he now has the consistent James Rossiter four points ahead of him, the Brit gradually rising through the order over the first three races and putting himself in contention to
claim that first win.
Carlin's Colin Fleming and Comtec's Alx Danielsson will also be chasing the top spot in Turkey, the American and the Swede having made a strong start to the season to currently lie sixth and eighth in the standings. However, while some drivers are performing above expectations, inevitably a handful have so far failed to make the impression their reputation and pre-season testing had led to believe.
Among these include Davide Valsecchi and Enrico Toccacelo, who both failed to qualify in Monaco, while testing pace setters Ben Hanley and Mikhail Aleshin are also yet to feature strongly.
Encouragingly though, Victory Engineering got off the mark in Monaco, with both Hayanari Shimoda and Alvaro Parente scoring their first points of the season. Jaap van Lagen celebrated his return to the championship with a third place on the grid for Comtec, although retirement ended his chances of a potential podium.
With Turkey rapidly embracing motor racing with the launch of the Istanbul Park Autodrom, it is only appropriate that the World Series will welcome a local driver to make a one-off appearance to delight home fans, and current GP2 driver Jason Tahinci will make his World Series debut at Istanbul in place of Mehdi Bennani, who was well off the pace when he returned to the Eurointernational team in Monaco.
Although he has so far struggled at the wheel of his FMS GP2 car in his debut season in the series this year, Tahinci will be looking to put on a good show for his fans, as well as ready himself for his second bow at the circuit when the GP2 championship rolls around to Turkey in August.
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