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Giedo on his Garde at Spa
1 January 1901
Having swept all before him in the opening double-header at Monza, P1 Motorsport's Giedo van der Garde has marked himself out as the man to beat as the World Series by Renault gets straight on with round two, at Spa-Francorchamps, this weekend.
With pole position and two victories, the Dutchman takes a maximum haul of 31 points to Belgium and, while he may be confident of doing the same again a little closer to home, there are 25 drivers who won't be out to make it easy for him. van der Garde, who celebrated his 23rd birthday in Italy, has a warning of his own, however.
"My performance over the weekend at Monza means I can feel more relaxed," he explained, "I secured my first pole position and followed up with my first two wins, so it's good to have that under my belt. I enjoy the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, so I'll be hoping to keep my momentum."
Leading the likely resistance to van der Garde's onslaught will be Draco's Bertrand Baguette, who races on home soil this time out and will be looking to justify his backing from the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique.
"I was up with the pace, and my car was performing well, but we simply did not have any success," he said of the opening round, "We suffered a technical problem when I was out in the lead in race one and then there was that misunderstanding with Fabio Carbone in race two, leading to a DNF in both races. For me, the answer to that is quite simple: I have to win at Spa."
Another driver who looks certain to be in the hunt for victory is Julien Jousse, who currently lies second in the championship with reigning title holder Tech 1 Racing. Along with rookie team-mate Charles Pic, Jousse has kept Simon Abadie's team in touch with P1 in the teams' standings and is looking to build on his own podium performance in order to close the gap on van der Garde.
“We've proved that we're ready and that we're on the pace," team boss Abadie commented, "Our poor qualifying performance was more than compensated for by Julien and Charles' great races. We had to score points and they did!
"Julien showed that he's ready to fight for the title, while Charles learns very quickly and is going to be among the frontrunners. The whole team did a great job at the weekend, but we have to continue the surge and do even better if we want to win the titles. Monza has put us on the right path - we're second in the teams' championship, only four points behind the leaders, and Julien was very quick at Spa last year. We're going there with great hopes.”
Spaniard Alvaro Barba has to be another potential candidate for victory, and the same can be said of two other drivers currently on the same number of points as Pic, Pasquale di Sabatino and Mikhail Aleshin.
“I'm fairly pleased with the weekend - we leave Monza with some solid points and that's important - but it could have been better," the Russian admitted, "Qualifying is obviously very important in the World Series and I think our qualifying performance hurt us at the weekend. Improvements in qualifying will be my main aim for Spa, but I think that's more than possible.”
For others, the second meeting of the season will be seen as more of a revenge match. Off the pace or out of luck at the first weekend, drivers such as Marco Bonanomi, Fabio Carbone, Guillaume Moreau and Salvador Duran will be keen to bounce back with as many points as possible.
The race format will return to the series' usual set-up at Spa, with a pit-stop race joining the usual sprint, and, for the first time, the proposed Superpole session will be added to qualifying, giving the top six runners from each group a chance to improve on their times before the top eight secure places in the reversed portion of the grid.