Briton Adrian Quaife-Hobbs continued a dominant performance in the AutoGP World Series with victory and second place in the latest rounds in Budapest, Hungary on 5&6 May. His stunning pace in both races, in which he was consistently the fastest driver on track, has allowed him to extend his series lead to 43 points.
The 21 year-old set the pace in both free practice sessions on Friday, before notching up a third pole position in qualifying later that day, for the opening round on Saturday. Although his victory in race one ultimately proved dominant, the Tonbridge racer bringing his SuperNova Zytek V8-engined Lola home 29 seconds ahead of his team-mate, the start was not as straightforward as he would have liked.
At the lights both Quaife-Hobbs and his team-mate struggled with wheelspin and were passed by Pål Varhaug and Sergey Sirotkin, the latter arriving at Turn 1 far too quickly and running wide, forcing Adrian slightly off line. This allowed Varhaug to take the lead, but Sirotkin responded, reclaiming the position at Turn 2.
The pair continued their battle for the lead with Quaife-Hobbs keeping a watching brief, and when the duo collided at the last corner of the opening lap, Adrian was in prime position and wasted no time in seizing the place. His dominant pace over the course of the race was impressive, extending his advantage to more than 20 seconds before the mandatory pit stop on lap 15.
Rejoining the track still in the lead, he was thereafter never headed, as he consistently posted the fastest lap to take a convincing third victory - his sixth podium finish from seven rounds.
Sunday’s race saw him take up eighth place on the reverse grid line-up and a superb start allowed him to overhaul three cars to head into turn one in fifth place. By the second corner he was up to fourth, in among a three-car battle for the runner-up spot.
A crash involving another car on lap two necessitated the deployment of the safety car and at the restart Adrian made a brilliant move to claim third place. For several laps the leading trio were locked in a three-way battle for position, until Varhaug and Quaife-Hobbs both found a way past the erstwhile race leader, Adrian getting the better exit from the last corner to gain second place on the inside of Turn 1.
From then on the battle for victory proved hard-fought with the duo never separated by less than a second. A superb pit stop by the SuperNova team on lap 14 brought Adrian out in super quick time, however an even better one by his rival allowed Varhaug to just hold on to the lead, exiting the pits by the smallest of margins.
Over the remaining five laps, Quaife-Hobbs continued to pile on the pressure, several times the pair running side-by-side as they jostled for position. On the penultimate lap, the relentless charge forced the Norwegian into a mistake, which allowed Adrian one final chance to wrest the lead. However Varhaug had overboost in reserve and gradually extended his advantage on the very last lap, Quaife-Hobbs crossing the line still just 0.8seconds behind.
“It’s been a good weekend overall and it’s great to come away with an extended series lead,” said Adrian. “The start in race one didn’t go entirely as planned; I’d practiced a couple of starts during the pre-grid and warm up laps and I saw that the grip was good, I had no wheelspin at all, so I thought that using a bit more throttle in the real start would have been good, but I was wrong and I had too much wheelspin.
“The start was the only bad moment of that race and I knew that my advantage was such that I could have passed both at the pit-stop, just staying out a couple of laps more than them if it was the case.
“Second place in race two after winning on Saturday isn’t bad, but at the same time I’m naturally disappointed because I came just 0”8 tenths shy of the perfect weekend. I had clinched the fastest lap time in each session, the fastest lap in both races, I won race one, so I was just missing this race two win to achieve something that had never been done before in the championship history.
“We came very close to making it, but Pål (Varhaug) held on well. It was good race, hard-fought but fair, I enjoyed it. I will always go for a win if there is a chance, I want to win races because I’m also sure that it’s the best way to secure the title. I’m not going to take stupid risks, that’s obvious, but I’ll never back off if I see that a win is possible.”
The next rounds of the 14-round series will take place at Portimao, Portugal over the weekend of 2/3 June.