Ryo Fukuda confirmed Tech 1 Racing's consistent improvement in this year's World Series by Renault by taking fourth place in Sunday's race at Donington Park.
In just four months, the progress made by the series newcomer has been little short of astounding, becoming faster and more consistent with every race. Having scored its first point in Turkey, Simon Abadie's Toulouse-based outfit - the only French team engaged in the World Series - recorded its best finish to date on British soil, but still has it sights set higher.
With series veteran Patrick Pilet making the switch to Tech 1 at Donington, the team was able to field two experienced WSbR drivers for the first time, although the Frenchman struggled to find time to set-up his car properly as his practice sessions were blighted by technical gremlins. Saturday morning's first qualifying session was not kind either, with Fukuda and Pilet being forced to start on the sixth and tenth rows respectively.
Fortunately for both drivers, the British circuit favours overtaking, and Fukuda was soon into ninth place. Chasing Pastor Maldonado, the Japanese driver seemed set to score two points before making a mistake just a couple of laps from the flag. Pilet, meanwhile, finished 13th with a set-up that was not entirely to his liking.
Fog replaced sun for second qualifying on Sunday morning, but Fukuda managed to achieve by far his best qualifying performance to date, ending up in a solid fifth place, but Pilet continued to struggle, recording a lowly 25th place.
While Pilet soldiered on to 14th spot having found some half-decent settings, Fukuda held onto his fifth place until the obligatory tyre change, and emerged in fourth, albeit under attack from erstwhile points leaders Andy Soucek and Pastor Maldonado. However, wiping memories of his mistake in race one from his mind, Fukuda did not buckle, and was even able to close up on Borja Garcia in the final few laps to claim his best finish in the category.
"Our objective of finishing on the podium before the end of the season is entirely realistic," team boss Abadie insisted, "I'm very proud of our team's work this weekend and Ryo enjoyed a perfect race. He fought hard without making mistakes and was rewarded with a top result. He was also fighting with the people who are challenging for the championship, and certainly keeping them honest!
"I'm also very happy with the start of our collaboration with Patrick Pilet as well. He didn't give up and we've made enough progress now to have some good base settings for our next race at Le Mans. We can't wait to get there!"