Motorsport: Stanaway back on the pace

By Eric Thompson

Kiwi jumps at open-wheel drive after patient wait

Kiwi Ritchie Stanaway is driving in the Renault 3.5L Championship in Europe. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi Ritchie Stanaway is driving in the Renault 3.5L Championship in Europe. Photo / Supplied

One of New Zealand's brightest sparks in single-seater racing is making a comeback after a stint in sports car racing.

Richie Stanaway's open-wheel career was put on hold two years ago when he sustained serious back injuries in a massive crash at Spa Francorchamps in a Renault 3.5-litre championship car.

On his recovery he started working towards a drive in the Porsche Super Cup and was soon back racing. This was followed by a stint in Aston Martin GTE cars in the World Endurance Championship where he became a works driver. Stanaway surprised many earlier this year when he announced a return to single seaters in the tough GP3 category.

He was almost immediately back on the pace, and at the opening races of the championship at Spain's Barcelona track he finished third and fourth, to sit second on the series table. Last month Stanaway announced on Twitter that he was replacing the injured Matthieu Vaxiviere in last weekend's Formula Renault 3.5 championship round, back at the track where he had his accident.

He was called up as a last minute replacement for the Lotus (Gravity-Chaurouz) squad after regular driver Vaxiviere hurt his back racing at the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. "I've had to wait two years for this but I finally get the second chance I always dreamed of," said Stanaway. "If there was ever going to be a lesson to never lose hope or give up, this is one of them. Let's do it."

And do it he did. Stanaway may not have finished on the podium for a variety of reasons, but his pace would have made few regular drivers sit up and take notice.

He qualified on the second row for race one but was unfortunately tangled up with a melee and had to retire the car.

In race two he again got off to a flyer and had cemented himself into third by the compulsory pitstop window, only for all his good work to come undone.

He pitted on the last of the allowed laps but as he crossed the start-finish line in the pits the lap counter ticked over and he was penalised 20 seconds, dropping him to eighth.

Stanaway may not have left Spa with a trophy, but he's got to be happy he's on the pace.

He's philosophical about the penalty and is looking forward to his next outing at Moscow Raceway, June 28-29.

- NZ Herald

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