Current US F2000 Champion Roberto La Rocca effectively had to fight with one hand tied behind his back during round two of the 2013 European Formula 3 Open championship at Portimao in Portugal last weekend (May 11-12).
The 22-year-old, who began the season with a fantastic podium at Paul Ricard two weeks ago, headed to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve eager to add to his trophy haul and keen to resume battle in what is now one of the strongest F3 championships in the world. However right from the off his Dallara F312 was lacking pace, and while Team West-Tec pulled out all the stops to solve the problems, with a front roll bar issue diagnosed on Friday night, suspected engine problems continued to hinder the Venezuelan star on Saturday and Sunday.
Nevertheless he pushed on, and despite being spun round on the opening lap in race one and having to retire with 5 laps to go, Roberto qualified a very strong 13th for race two, before bringing it home in eleventh, just 0.180 seconds off tenth.
He will now stay on in Portimao on Monday and Tuesday (May 13-14) to test and try and fully understand what was wrong.
“At the beginning of the weekend we had a problem with the car,” Roberto explained. “The front roll bar was then fixed and we gained some time, but we were still lacking something. We came to the conclusion that the engine was low on power and torque. That cost us the whole weekend.
“It meant we were unable to qualifying as high up as we should have for race one and at the start I got spun out in turn three. That was pretty much it.
“In qualifying for race two it was a bit better and in the race we got eleventh, but again it just came down to the engine. We just didn't seem to have the same power output as the other cars. It really hurt us.”
“We will be testing on Monday and Tuesday now and while that test was already planned, it is going to be very useful in light of what happened over the last few days. We have a spare engine and we will probably try that out and see what happens,” continued the Accelerate Driver Development Ltd (ADD)-affiliated youngster.
“The car is still brand new to us. We only got in it about two weeks before the first race at Paul Ricard. The more mileage we can do the better as it will help me out in terms of finding a better balance and a key set-up and also, of course, figuring out this problem with the engine. I have every confidence in the team.”
“Despite everything this weekend, every session we went out we improved and at least we are now pretty sure what the problems were. I am looking forward to the next few races,” he concluded.
Roberto will be back in action now at the end of the month, when he competes in the opening round of the 2013 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series at Silverstone in the UK (May 25-26). He then resumes his campaign in the 2013 European Formula 3 Open championship a week later, when he heads to the Nurburgring in Germany for round three (June 1-2).