Two better than in the latest Michel Vaillant strip cartoon book, Macau!
A year after his debut on the Guia circuit Fenestraz was back on the Macau track on Thursday morning. After a solid first run the Vaillante driver gradually found his marks again avoiding the circuit’s many traps and began to push, finally setting the sixth-quickest time in 2m 12.445sec in the first free practice session.
The first qualifying session took place the same afternoon. The Franco-Argentinean’s pit wasn’t well placed on the pit lane so he went out a bit later than his rivals to avoid the traffic. This strategy paid off as he quickly broke into the top 5 just before the session took a crazy turn.
First of all, he managed to stop in time behind a driver who had hit the guardrail. He changed the left-hand tyres and leaped up the time sheets into third place until a slight contact forced him to come in and change his front wing. Hardly had he rejoined when he noticed there was a brake problem and his team took advantage of another interruption to limit the time lost as they purged the system. Sacha kept a cool head and went out in maximum attack mode, but was unable to improve as another car went off.
So at the end of the first session that had nothing to envy the adventures of his mentor, Michel Vaillant, Fenestraz set the sixth-fastest time in 2m 11.707sec, the second best of the drivers who hadn’t used two complete sets of new tyres.
But this hectic first day was far from over for Sacha! That evening he was present at the Grand Lapa Hotel for a press conference celebrating the return of Michel Vaillant to Macau, as well as the launch of the Chinese and English editions of Macaufollowed by a signing session at which Tiago Monteiro was spotted!
The driver of the FFSA Equipe de France team made the headlines in the Macau Daily Times on Friday and he stayed fully focused on his mission in the second free practice session. He racked up the laps to improve his time and boost his confidence to the maximum as he worked hard to fine-tune his knowledge of the Yokohama tyres. Despite a small error at Lisboa in the dying minutes of the session and the fact that he was unable to find a clear lap, he set his best time in 2m 12.461sec.
The second qualifying session was crucial for the attribution of pole position and it lived up to its promise with multiple twists. Fenestraz topped the time sheets briefly on used rubber and took advantage of a red flag to shod four new tyres. He then had a real battle on his hands to try and use slipstreaming on the straight and find the best position on the track so as not to be slowed in the twistiest section.
With various yellow flags and neutralisations the outcome was decided in the last five minutes. His first improvement put him in eighth place and he then managed to put it all together and the Renault Sport Academy driver got round in a stunning 2m 10.508sec just before chaos hit the Macau layout in the shape of several accidents! The Vaillante-Carlin ace scrupulously avoided these traps and will line up in third place on the grid.
The first race over 10 laps on Saturday starts at 09:00 (GMT + 8) and will establish the grid for the Macau Grand Prix. On Sunday at 15:30 the field will set off in the main race to win the FIA Formula 3 World Cup.
Sacha Fenestraz: “These first two days have been incredibly hectic! We set off on the front foot on Thursday and I knew I had the potential and the car to break into the top five if I managed to string the sectors together. The second session wasn’t easy to manage. I paid a little bit too much attention in the corner where I’d made a small mistake and I never found a clear lap. So I really had to make a big step forward between Q1 and Q2. When my engineer told me it was the last lap I knew I had nothing left to lose. I really went for it and banged in a great time. I’m satisfied with my third place especially as I’m racing in only my second Macau Grand Prix compared to three or four for the drivers ahead of me. Tomorrow, my aim will be to seize any opportunity that presents itself while staying on the track so that I’ll be able to push hard on Sunday in the best possible conditions. And finish the weekend as in Macau!”