Christian Mansell kept his championship charge well on track in the third Euroformula Open event of 2022 at Paul Ricard last weekend (21/22 May), scoring pole position and a brilliant second victory of the season.
The 17-year-old Australian racer entered the third meeting of the year lying second in the standings after one win and four podium finishes to his name from the first five races, including a strong weekend on the streets of Pau two weeks prior.
With backing from AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers, VISA Global Logistics and Infinity Sports Management, Mansell returned to France for three races at Paul Ricard with his Motopark-run CryptoTower team, and put down a strong marker early on in Friday testing by topping the times across the day.
With momentum on his side, the BRDC Rising Star and Motorsport UK Academy star took that duly into Saturday's crucial qualifying session. Mansell lay down a marker good enough for second in the early stages, but he soon surged to pole position in the slipstream of his team-mate Josh Mason. Despite pressure from title rival Oliver Goethe, a scorching last lap was enough to seal the deal, Mansell grabbing his first pole of the year by 0.095s.
Attention shifted to race one for the former British F4 and GB3 Championship race winner, but he was victim to contact at the first corner which tipped his car into a spin to the rear of the field. What followed was a spirited fightback however, carving his way by several cars before battling past team-mate Mason at the second chicane on lap five, then dummying Nicola Marinangeli at the first corner to move into the top five.
He soon caught the fourth-placed car of Sebastian Øgaard which had tangled with Mansell's gearbox at the start of the race, making a decisive move stick at the final corner to complete a recovery from 12th to fourth place by the chequered flag.
Mansell, supported by Dexcom, Rush Performance, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27 and AMSL Diabetes Australia, turned his focus to race two on Sunday with a front row start. After being rebuffed initially by Marinangeli at the first corner, he chased hard and made a lunge stick at the final right hander to grab the lead, extending it to over three seconds as rivals jostled for position behind.
Second-placed Goethe soon used the slipstream to his advantage as he filled Mansell's mirrors in the closing laps, leading to an intense finish. The teenager from Newcastle rose to the occasion with a mature defensive drive, holding onto the inside line as his title rival attacked at the high-speed Signes bend to keep the lead and take a second win of the season after a wonderful battle.
Riding the highs of race two, Mansell started the final race of the weekend sixth on the grid with a reversed grid installed. A fighting performance started on lap one by bravely rounding his first competitor at the chicane separating the Mistral Straight for fourth.
He boldly repeated the move shortly afterwards on Øgaard under braking to climb into the podium places, before giving chase for second place and surpassing Filip Ugran at the first corner around the outside to claim the runner-up position that he would hold to the end.
Christian Mansell:"It's been another really positive weekend for us. We've been on the pace in every round so far this season, and it's good to see it continue again at Paul Ricard.
"It's a great track and I enjoy driving it. We showed really good speed in practice but it was important to take that into the weekend and we showed that in qualifying. The whole lap felt really hooked up and we got a good tow from my team-mate thanks to track position, which helped us take pole position.
"The pace was still good in race one but it was a shame that we had to do it from the back after the first corner, so I came out firing in race two. I don't know where to start on that one! Overall it was a tough race in the end, but I dug deep and we weren't going to give that one up easily so I was very happy to win that.
"We got our elbows out in the last race and scored more big points so that keeps us in the hunt heading to Spa. It's a circuit I love, and I'm confident we'll be quick there too."
A win and another podium means Mansell stays second in the championship heading to the fourth round at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, to be held over the weekend of 18/19 June.
Image from Euroformula Open.