FR3.5 » 4 May 2009
Walker kick-starts campaign with Spa win.
James Walker opened his 2009 World Series by Renault Championship account with victory in front of almost 80,000 spectators at the spectacular Spa-Francorchamps circuit, confirming himself as the class of the field in round two.
The P1 Motorsport driver dominated Saturday's qualifying session, taking the fastest time in his group which, as in Barcelona, turned out to be the fastest time overall. Going into Superpole, he was singularly focused on taking top spot to underline his pace, so was hugely disappointed to be pipped to pole position for race two by local favourite Bertrand Baguette by just a couple of hundredths of a second.
With the reverse grid system employed for race one on Saturday afternoon, Walker started from seventh spot and was running well until a small mistake caused him to lock up at the hairpin and get stuck in the gravel.
Despite being determined to make up for Saturday's error in race two, and make the most of his starting position on the front row, the Briton made an uncharacteristically bad start and initially dropped to fourth behind Baguette, Miguel Molina and Charles Pic. With the latter pair locked in their own private battle, Walker was able to choose his moment, getting past both at Les Combes before setting off after Baguette.
The Belgian had had the chance to open out a cushion while Walker found his way into second place, but it was negated when the safety car came out to clear up an incident, allowing the Briton to close right in again. Once back up to race pace, the leading duo pulled away from the field, giving them an advantage before Walker came in for his mandatory pit-stop.
It proved to be a well-timed call from Roly Vincini's team, as the Briton was able to rejoin on a clear track and, without the hindrance of traffic, could bang in fastest lap after fastest lap. Once Baguette pitted, the true margin became clear, with Walker having made up enough time that the Draco driver could only slot into second place when he rejoined.
From there, Walker was able to cruise to the chequered flag to take only his second World Series win, despite having been a potential frontrunner in previous seasons. The Spa success came at just the right time, however, for, having been made one of the pre-season favourites after his testing pace, Walker vaults into third place in the championship, albeit still 21 points adrift of three-time racewinner Marcos Martinez, with the consistent Baguette between them.
“After the disappointment of Barcelona, this is where we get this championship started,” Walker insisted, “It's a great feeling to go to the next race in Monaco as the latest winner - the team needed this result and so did I. Our speed has never been in question, but now we have put it all together to produce a victory and it feels great.”
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