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Preview: Formula Renault 2.0 stars at Pau Grand Prix

by Peter Allen

Photo: Fast Lane Promotions

With the absence of Formula 3 from the this year’s 72nd edition of the Pau Grand Prix, a one-off Formula Renault 2.0 event takes centre stage on the iconic French street circuit this weekend.

A non-championship race, the Formula Renault 2.0 Pau Trophy has attracted a smaller grid than the huge numbers we’re used to seeing in the Eurocup, NEC and Alps series, but some of the category’s biggest stars are present.

Indeed, the early points leaders in all three of the aforementioned championships will be fighting to add their name to a list of illustrious winners that includes Juan Manuel Fangio, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Jean Alesi, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean.

Matthieu Vaxiviere tore up the form guide to claim a double victory at a rain-hit Eurocup season opener at Motorland Aragon, and the Tech 1 driver will be amongst the favourites for Pau success thanks to his experience around the circuit. Last year he claimed an Alps podium at Pau in an otherwise difficult season, while in 2011 he was dominant there in French F4, claiming two of the three wins he scored on his way to the title. His knowledge is further boosted having contested the Andros Electric GP, something he will do again this weekend.

Matt Parry has taken the NEC by storm in his rookie season of Formula Renault 2.0 by beating a host of Eurocup regulars to top the standings after the first couple of rounds. If the Fortec driver can keep that up, the Caterham protege will be at the front this weekend too.

One driver with plenty of eyes on him will be Prema’s Antonio Fuoco, who took the strong start to his rookie car racing season to a new high with a double win at Imola last weekend to cement his Alps standings lead. Last year Raffaele Marciello hit the big time with a dominant Pau performance – can Ferrari’s latest find do similar on his debut?

Joining Parry at Fortec is the reigning NEC champion Jake Dennis, who should be another contender, as well as Mexican Alfonso Celis who is also racing for the team in the NEC this year.

Pierre Gasly is another likely contender alongside Vaxiviere at Tech 1. He has Pau experience from French F4, as does Russian team-mate Egor Orudzhev.

Fuoco is joined at Prema by his regular team-mtaes Bruno Bonifacio and Luca Ghiotto, another two with potential to run towards the front if they can get over their lack of track knowledge.

Dennis’ fellow Racing Steps-backed driver Oliver Rowland leads Manor MP Motorsport’s charge, while another ex-French F4 man Tristan Papavoine makes his first start of the year with the AV Formula team. Lesser-known Frenchmen Nicolas Pironneau and Marc Cattaneo (59) line up with the Formula Motorsport team.

In round two of French F4 itself, Anthoine Hubert will be looking to star after winning two of the three races at the season opener at Le Mans, chased by?Valentin Naud,?Matevos Isaakyan and?Felix Hirsiger.