Current US F2000 Champion Roberto La Rocca kicked-off his 2013 European Formula 3 Open championship campaign in style by notching up a podium finish at Paul Ricard in France last weekend.
The 22-year-old, who contested selected races in the series at the end of last year, while also racing in the USA, has opted for a full season in 2013 and he immediately showed he will be one of the front runners in the 31 car field.
Indeed, despite very challenging wet conditions, the Team West-Tec driver began by setting the third best time in qualifying on Saturday - his best lap a 2 minute 20.447 second effort, which left him just 0.132 seconds off pole.
He then made the most of that in race one and ran in P3 from lights-to-flag, to score 15 valuable points.
The following day the weather remained wet and changeable, but again Roberto was strong and again he was third fastest in qualifying.
Sadly though, race two didn't go to plan, as he was pushed into a spin at the start by one of his rivals. Despite that though, the Venezuelan battled back and recovered to finish just outside the top ten in his Dallara F312, rounding off a good weekend in what is arguably now the strongest F3 championship in the world.
“Paul Ricard was the first race of the season and it turned out to be a very successful start for us,” Roberto summarised. “We qualified third for both races under wet conditions. It's always a great confidence booster to be quick in wet and difficult conditions, and the team gave me a good car to do so.”
“Not much happened in the first race, we started third, and we were able to maintain our position. We limited our mistakes on track, and we set consistent lap times, and that was enough to finish on the podium,” continued the Accelerate Driver Development Ltd (ADD)-affiliated youngster.
“The second race proved to be more difficult. Again, the track was wet. Unfortunately, the older rain tyres and the set up we had on the car didn't prove to be very competitive. From the start of the race, we were struggling with lack of grip, but we still had a top five car. In the opening laps though, a car tried a very low percentage pass on me and made contact with me, forcing me to spin out. We lost a lot of positions, and there was damage to my right rear suspension.
“Regardless, we were still able to fight back to P11, setting competitive lap times to the guys out in front.”
“Overall, it was a great weekend. We showed that we have good pace, especially in the wet. A big thanks to all the guys on the team for their efforts throughout the weekend,” he concluded.
Roberto will now travel to Portugal in two weeks time (May 11-12) with the 2013 European Formula 3 Open championship resuming for round two at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao.