Although the Westmaas-based squad’s AUTO GP campaign this season has been beset with some misfortune, 21-year-old De Jong showed the pace and performance which has always been there and added more silverware to the second place finish he achieved in Morocco back in April.
Lining-up at the back of the grid for round 12 of the season, following a frustrating retirement from race one on Saturday, 17th August, which was caused by opening lap contact from another driver, De Jong made a fantastic launch from the line to gain four places by the time he reached Turn One.
Moving to the inside through the right-hander, as others delayed each other on the outside of the corner De Jong rocketed up the order and climbed into sixth position by the time he entered the second turn. As the mandatory pit-stops started to take place, De Jong kept pushing and by the start of lap 12 he was in the lead of the race.
Serving his tyre-change stop at the conclusion of lap 13, De Jong rejoined at the front of the pack after great work by the Manor MP Motorsport mechanics. On cold tyres, though, the Dutchman wasn’t able to keep the leading drivers on up-to-temperature Kumhos at bay and so slipped to third within a couple of laps.
“After not finishing Saturday’s race, scoring a podium from the back in race two was a really great way to end the weekend”, said De Jong, “At the start I held the inside, kept my nose clean, and at the exit of the Mercedes Arena I was already in fifth. It was a great race for us, I’m very happy.”
For team-mate Meindert van Buuren, the weekend was one of mixed fortunes with 12th place in race one the highlight for the 18-year-old. His involvement in round 12 on Sunday came to an abrupt end before racing had actually begun due to an unfortunate spin on the lap to the starting grid.
Qualifying seventh fastest for Saturday’s 11th round, van Buuren was shuffled to eighth on the exit of Turn One at the start of the race but quickly made his way back into seventh and settled into a good rhythm in the leading pack.
Climbing into the top six by lap seven as the pit-stops began to be served, the Dutch youngster made his way into fifth but then slipped to eighth following his pit visit on lap 12. Unfortunately for van Buuren he had to serve a drive-through penalty late in the final quarter of the race, having been adjudged by officials to have exceeded track limits. He, therefore, eventually finished in 12th place.
“It’s fantastic we’ve finished on the podium this weekend thanks to a great drive from Daniël, but we’re obviously disappointed for Meindert as he had good pace and deserved much more from the first race”, said team principal Sander Dorsman, “Both guys had some bad luck but we proved the pace is there. Hopefully we can be on the podium again at Donington in a couple of weeks.”
Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit in the UK will host the penultimate event of the AUTO GP season, rounds 13 and 14, a fortnight from now on Saturday, 31st August, and Sunday, 1st September.
Image: Auto GP