Scenes around the streets of Monte Carlo completely changed the complexion of the 2022 Formula Challenge Series with just one race left to run. Risto Kappet, hot off of an impressive victory in Donington, went back-to-back in the winner’s column. It was a commanding drive with plenty of margin left in the final ten minutes to cruise home safely.
This swept the Estonian to the top of the points table, thanks also in part to Sander Kallas failing to attend Round 5. Below him now lay Christian Michel and Philipp Drayss whose Daytona heroics had launched him into Formula Pro Series Playoff contention.
A sizeable gap separated the top three from those chasing, yet it remained a catchable gap should any of the frontrunners misfire. A return to the United States awaited with Laguna Seca chosen to act as the curtain call to a thrilling season.
QUALIFYING: KAPPET STAYS ON TOP
There was no let-up from R8G Esports’ lead driver. Kappet took a second consecutive pole position; his closest challenger being Michel who was bidding farewell to Cetrez Nitor Velox following the season’s conclusion. Turkka Hakkinen and Mattia Crupi both put in strong efforts to make up the second row.
Drayss was not too far behind, starting sixth on the grid alongside Daniel Stepkowski. This particular pairing would be worth watching given the Jean Alesi driver’s fourth place position in the points table.
FEATURE RACE: HAKKINEN WINS, OTHERS ADVANCING
Much like Daytona, the decision was taken to run a rolling start in contradiction to convention. The biggest benefactor would be Hakkinen who seized on a sluggish Michel getaway to nab second while the iron was hot.
The German could not be the biggest loser of the opening corners, however. Rory MacDuff’s campaign arrived at a premature end following a heavy meeting with the barriers.
Next to make his move was Philipp Drayss who sweetly executed an undercut on Crupi into the Andretti Hairpin, securing fourth with applause from the commentators.
The Italian was evidently struggling for pace, as was demonstrated not just by how much the German was extending the gap in such a short amount of time.
Stepkowski was eager not to let his primary target slip away and performed exactly the same move on the Jean Alesi machine as Drayss had done before.
Hakkinen clearly had some pace over Kappet across the first ten minutes and was eager to unshackle himself. The inevitable attack came into the Andretti Hairpin which the Estonian defended neatly, hugging the inside line.
Stepkowski, meanwhile, was able to make another overtake stick. Drayss was now behind on the road, but many more points were required to take his spot in the points standings.
One of the biggest debates heading into the event concerned whether the no-stop strategy employed by Kappet to such great effect would be viable around Laguna Seca.
The pace of those in the top five suggested not so much and seeing Michel dive into the pits at the halfway point added fuel to the fire. It was the German’s first pitstop of the season, seeing him return to the field in sixth.
Stepkowski was next in, followed swiftly by Drayss. Then came race leader Kappet, as ultimately expected, though Hakkinen chose to continue on. The championship leader made a critical error, missing his pitbox and forcing him to complete another lap before returning to pit road in disgrace.
It was music to the ears of Michel who, passing the no-stopping Crupi, was now likely guaranteed at least second place. When everything was said and done, R8G’s star man had to rescue as many positions as he could from eighth.
Martin Dyrlund stubbornly refused to budge, making life monumentally frustrating for Kappet. By the time he finally got past, there were only fourteen minutes left to run. Joseph Hurlock was disposed of soon after leaving a fifteen second gap to try and eat up.
Next target down the road was Crupi who had just been overtaken by Stepkowski and Drayss in quick succession. A miracle was required yet the racing deities looked kindly upon Kappet. Having run so close for so long, it seemed like destiny that Drayss and Stepkowski would run into trouble eventually.
It all happened down at Turn 6 when the German was bold enough to go for a switchback whilst Stepkowski was put out of sorts. He clattered the sausage curb which spat him across the gravel and into the wall. The damage was severe, and Kappet had another position.
Then came the rather more anticipated moment of truth. Crupi was hobbling along on ruined tyres which proved no match for the Estonian into Turn 6. Now what was needed was drama for Michel.
None arrived and after Hakkinen had confirmed his second victory of the season, the experience endurance racer arrived home to claim yet another podium and championship glory. Drayss shadowed him home in third.
NEXT: RELEGATION RACE ROUND
Michel, Kappet and Drayss all advance to the Relegation Race against the bottom two teams in Formula Pro following their sixth race of the season on 1st August.
The three drivers advancing from Challenge will also need to find a teammate to compete with them in the upcoming Relegation Race that didn’t compete in the Pro Series.
Fans can help decide the upcoming events by voting on the Twitter polls below.
RACE #6 – LAGUNA SECA RESULTS
|2||13||Christian Michel||Cetrez Nitor Velox||+18.444|
|4||8||Risto Kappet||R8G Esports||+28.885|
|5||16||Mattia Crupi||Jean Alesi Esports Academy||+45.457|
|6||44||Martin Dyrlund||Jean Alesi Esports Academy||+47.409|
|7||23||Eros Masciulli||Musto GD E-Sports||+47.781|
|8||31||Jukkapekka Lalu||Super Venturi||+48.097|
|9||1||Markus Tammeveski||Vulkan Motorsports||+54.159|
|10||29||Mirco Mancini||Musto GD E-Sports||+1 lap|
2022 FORMULA CHALLENGE FINAL STANDINGS