Leopard Racing drivers Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay moved closer to title contention in both races around the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore, with the duo finishing 1-2 in the first race.
Frenchman Vernay entered the Singapore weekend more than 40 points adrift of the championship lead, but the Volkswagen driver leaves just 28 points away, having claimed his third win of the year in race one.
Vernay had been the form driver all weekend, topping both practice and qualifying beforehand. Although he finished sixth in race two, he managed to close the gap to points leader James Nash.
“Everything went to plan,” said Vernay after taking his win on Saturday. “I knew that to be in with a chance for the championship, I had to win a race.
“It was very nice to win here and in this fantastic atmosphere. I knew that the start was going to be crucial and luckily, everything went well. I pulled away nicely in the first laps, trying to stay calm, avoid any mistakes and preserving the tyres. Everything went as planned, and it was great.
“I was also able to reduce the gap in the championship, I still would prefer to be much closer, but it was a good result anyway.”
Vernay criticised the safety car interventions in the second race, which saw him finish in sixth, having started from tenth on the grid, having had limited time under racing conditions to make further progress.
“The race was a bit boring, because we only actually raced for four laps because of the two Safety Car periods,” added Vernay. “Unfortunately, lacking top speed on the straight, it was impossible to overtake the SEATs.
“Now it’s time to get ready for Malaysia, which is bound to be a tough weekend given that we will be carrying quite a bit of performance ballast after the good result here in Singapore this weekend.”
Whilst Comini followed his team-mate home in the first race, the defending champion admitted afterwards that he wanted to ‘create some chaos’ in the night race.
“Second behind my teammate was a very good result, especially for the team,” said Comini, who is now just two points behind Nash overall. “I wanted to create some chaos and I almost managed to do so, because I saw in my mirrors that [Pepe] Oriola and [Mat’o] Homola were going everywhere…
“It would not have been clever to try to reach Jean-Karl, so I settled for a quiet race and saved new tyres for Sunday.”
Leopard Racing Team Principal Claudio Berro praised Vernay’s performances on the barrier-lined street circuit, where he believes that the former single-seater’s experience proved to be decisive.
“The Marina Bay circuit here in Singapore is unique and presents a very difficult challenge,” said Berro. “Fine-tuning the car’s set-up and the skill of the drivers is what makes the difference here.
“In race one, the Leopard Racing duo proved they were up to the task: Jean-Karl made the most of his great experience on circuits bounded by walls, acquired racing on ovals and street circuits in the USA, where he was the Indy Light champion.
“Stefano is the reigning TCR champion and last year at this circuit he took pole and finished both races in second place; a clear indication that he particularly likes this track.
“The team did a great job with the cars, especially in terms of managing the tyres and brakes. Yesterday, in the Formula 1 qualifying, the gap between first and seventh was almost two seconds, whereas normally, the top ten in Q3 are separated by just one second, which is proof that, in our case, it was the good job from our crew and the skill of the drivers that made the difference, in delivering the win in race one on Saturday.
“As expected, race two proved to be chaotic and that meant we couldn’t do any better.”