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Third podium of WSR season for Ellinas at Le Mans

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Strakka Racing’s double race-winner makes third visit in as many race meetings to Formula Renault 3.5 Series rostrum

Tio Ellinas secured yet more Formula Renault 3.5 Series silverware during round 15 of the season at the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit in France on Sunday, 27th September, with a fighting third place finish in the second race of the weekend.

Having qualified on pole position for Strakka Racing, the Cypriot led away at the start and maintained his place at the front into the mandatory pit-stops after a brief Safety Car period. Although missing out on the chance to challenge for victory after all of the pit visits played out, third place still marked a very strong result and consolidated a top six championship placing.

“We had a great start to today after an amazing qualifying”, said Ellinas, “The balance in the race wasn’t quite the same and the Safety Car spoiled our advantage a bit. Still, third was very good points and I’m pleased to be on the podium for the third meeting running. I’m looking forward to Jerez now.”

Arriving at Le Mans off the back of the team’s first ever one-two result last time out at the Nurburgring in Germany, hopes were high of continued success during the penultimate event of 2015. Ellinas produced an exceptional performance in round 15 qualifying to take pole position by almost half a second, his best lap a time of 1m20.648 seconds (186.8 km/h), while team-mate Gustav Malja ended the session 13th quickest.

Making an excellent start to the race, Ellinas led away through the first sequence of turns and although only a few tenths of a second ahead of Tom Dillmann over the course of the first five laps, the Strakka driver remained unflustered. Due to an incident further back in the order, the Safety Car was deployed at the beginning of lap six which corresponded with the scheduled opening of the mandatory pit-stop window. After the re-start on the eighth tour, Ellinas led away again and then pitted for his stop at the end of the lap. Malja meanwhile, who held 14th position prior to the Safety Car, made his stop a lap later than his team-mate from eighth place.

When the order settled around mid-distance, albeit with the lead three cars still to pit, Ellinas held fourth position with Malja in the top 10. Hopes of a bid for victory didn’t work out, though, with Ellinas having to settle for a nonetheless strong third after Egor Orudzhev and Matthieu Vaxiviere emerged ahead following their pit visits.

Under huge pressure from Dean Stoneman throughout the second half of the race, Ellinas kept his rival at bay to claim the third podium of his maiden Formula Renault 3.5 campaign. Malja, meanwhile, moved up into ninth position on lap 16 and remained there to the finish sandwiched between newly crowned Formula Renault 3.5 Series Champion Oliver Rowland and Nyck De Vries.

“The second race was pretty good”, said Malja, “Before that we struggled a bit for pace but we learned a lot from the first race and the set-up for race two was really good. Now, we’re already looking for the Jerez preparation and to bounce back there.”

In round 14 on Saturday, 26th September, Ellinas started fifth on the grid while Malja lined-up in 10th position, just 0.4 seconds separating the team-mates in race one qualifying. Unfortunately, at the start of Saturday’s contest, Ellinas didn’t get away from the line cleanly and slipped back to the tail of the top 10 with Malja also edged back to 12th position. Quickly moving back into 11th place on the first lap, Malja closed up behind Ellinas initially before the gap opened back up and with 10 laps complete the pair were split by roughly 2.5 seconds. As the race progressed, positions remained unchanged although Malja did begin to come under some pressure from Nicholas Latifi as the race approached mid-distance.

Following a pit visit and retirement for Latifi, Andre Negrao became the new threat but Malja comfortably saw off his rival to hold 11th position to the chequered flag. Ellinas finished the encounter in a clear 10th place but due to a time penalty for Matthieu Vaxiviere, the Cypriot was elevated into ninth spot. While Ellinas maintains sixth in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series standings with 113 points, Malja ended the Le Mans weekend ninth in the title race on 69 points. In the team championship, Strakka Racing is fourth with 182 points.

The final two races of the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 Series will take place at Jerez in Spain over the weekend 17th/18th October.

Sensational one-two at Nürburgring for Strakka Racing

Strakka Podium

 

Ellinas heads home Malja for second win in as many weekends during dramatic rain-hit encounter in Germany

Silverstone-based Strakka Racing celebrated a memorable one-two finish, its first ever in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, during an incident-packed and highly dramatic 13th round of the season at the Nürburgring in Germany this afternoon.With light rain ahead of the start meaning a wet track was declared by officials, the majority of lead contenders still opted for slick tyres and the rain only became a factor during the incredibly tense final laps.

Starting the race fifth and sixth on slicks, drivers Tio Ellinas and Gustav Malja both had very high hopes of challenging for the podium. Nobody, though, could have predicted the superb one-two result – especially when Ellinas sustained damage to his front wing while battling for third place at the end of the first lap.Having to work hard to compensate for the lack of downforce, the Cypriot had to try and drive around the issue until his mandatory tyre change at the end of lap five when he pitted from third place, having been as high as second. Malja pitted from fifth position a lap later and the real turning point of the race for Strakka came shortly after when the Safety Car appeared following a spin for Aurelien Panis.

As the highest placed cars of those to have pitted in eighth and ninth, with Malja moving ahead of Ellinas through the stops, when racing resumed on lap 11 both Strakka drivers made excellent re-starts and instantly challenged Tom Dillmann.Through a nail-biting few corners Ellinas and Malja swarmed all over their rival and, after swiftly seeing off Dillmann, the pair continued their own private battle with Ellinas edging ahead.Running in fifth and sixth into lap 16, the team-mates had a waiting game until the lead quartet took their pit stops and that started to happen soon after.With only race leader Pietro Fantin still to pit with five laps to go, Ellinas and Malja held second and third and at the end of lap 18 Fantin dived into the pitlane.

Gustav Malja Strakka Nurburgring2015-1623

Assuming first and second, Ellinas and Malja looked set for a superb dream result for Strakka but the conclusion wasn’t as straightforward as anticipated when rain began to fall with a couple of laps to run.Initially holding a three second advantage over Malja, as the track became increasingly slippery and with grip at a premium the gap between the pair reduced to nothing.Nose-to-tail into the final tour, lap 22, a wicked twitch for Ellinas out of the second turn looked to have relegated him to second but he managed to regain the lead when Malja had some wheel spin – Ellinas taking his second victory just eight days after his first.

“It was a very long race”, said the winner, “I got a good start, tried to overtake for P3 [at the end of lap one] but had my front wing chopped and had a broken front wing until I pitted. I was hanging in there and then, at the stop, we changed the front wing.“I kept my head down and tried to go as quick as I could. I’m delighted for the win, the team did a really good job and we judged it well. I was trying dry lines at the end but when I could see Gustav closing, I knew I had to change my lines!”

Second place for Malja marked his best result yet in Formula Renault 3.5 and second podium of the year, as well as top Rookie, having climbed the rostrum for the first time in Hungary in June.“The final lap was the most intense of my career”, said the Swedish racer, “I made it past Tio in the Mercedes Arena [on the last lap] but then I had some wheel spin on the exit and he got back in front.“It’s an amazing result for myself and for the team – they made a fantastic pit stop and I think we all deserve this following all the hard work we’ve put in.”

Round 12 on Saturday, 12th September, didn’t go quite to plan for Strakka when Ellinas wasn’t able to convert his second place grid start into a podium result after being put wide on the first lap.Initially launching away well from the grid, Ellinas was edged back to fourth into the first corner and subsequently elbowed out wide, dropping him to sixth where he remained to the conclusion. Malja made a great getaway at the beginning of the race to climb into the top eight, from 10th on the grid, and just like his team-mate he ran in the same position throughout.

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In terms of the championship battle, Ellinas’ success has hoisted him into the top six, just 10 points shy of fourth position, with Malja into eighth place. In the team standings, Strakka Racing departs Germany in fourth position.

France is the next destination on the Formula Renault 3.5 Series calendar with rounds 14 and 15 of the season taking place at the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit over the weekend 26th/27th September.