Gavin Cronje goes from zero to hero in Le Mans Series

Gavin Cronje goes from zero to hero in Le Mans Series

13.05.2009: In the two races of the Formula Le Mans Championship at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, South African driver Gavin Cronje quickly established himself as a top competitor in European Sportscar racing

In the two races of the Formula Le Mans Championship at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, South African driver Gavin Cronje quickly established himself as a top competitor in European Sportscar racing amongst the international endurance racing fraternity.

The Formula Le Mans Championship is a feeder series to the Le Mans Series, the official five-round European Endurance series, which includes the most famous race in the world, the Le Mans 24 Hour.

Formula Le Mans culminates in two one-hour heats over the race weekend, one on Saturday and one Sunday, contested by open ‘Le Mans Prototype’ cars, built to LMP3 specification.

Cronje, who has in the past represented SA as the Rookie driver in A1GP Team SA and is the 2008 championship winner of the Formula Volkswagen Series, gave notice of his pace at the first official test for the Series, at the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans on the 30th April. Piloting an Oreca LMP3 car, prepared by the highly respected Team Dams, Cronje topped the time sheets in both the wet and dry sessions.

It was on this performance that Cronje, together with his teammate Nicolas Verdonck, was selected to drive at the weekends Belgium round, and put himself squarely on the map as a more than capable endurance driver.

Gavin would have to start the weekends race after doing just two flying laps of the difficult and notorious Spa circuit on Friday before the session was red flagged, coupled with Nicolas damaging the car on the out lap of qualifying. This meant that the pair had to start from the back of the grid in both Saturday and Sunday’s one-hour races as they had not been able to post a qualifying time.

Nicolas started race one and made short work of getting through the field to hand the car over to Gavin in fourth place at the pit stop. Gavin then went out and continued the good work by taking the car into the lead with just two laps to go, setting the fourth fastest race lap in the process. The Dams team was highly impressed with Gavin, not least for taking the car through the world famous Eau Rouge corner without lifting off the accelerator, on his first lap after he took over the controls, this being only his third flying lap of the circuit in this type of racing car!

In race two Gavin impressed again by carving his way through the field to hand the car over to Nicolas, again in fourth position, while setting the second fastest lap in the process. It was Nico’s job this time to take the car to the front which he did, and not a moment too soon, as the race was red flagged due to a racing incident two laps from the end, the same lap Nicolas claimed the lead!

With the pair now leading the championship they will go Le Mans in June as one of the official support races to the Le Mans 24 Hour, as firm favourites.
 

- Alan Macdonald-

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/formula-le-mans-series-gavin-cronje-south-african-driver-oreca-team-dams-nicolas-verdonck---63184.html

13.05.2009 / MaP

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