Christian Mansell almost secured a sensational maiden race victory on just his second ever outing in Euroformula Open last weekend (25/26 September) at Monza, claiming a rookie class victory and a second place overall on his trip to Italy.
The 16-year-old from Newcastle, New South Wales, took up the opportunity to return to the European single-seater championship for the second time in 2021. After impressing on his debut at Spa-Francorchamps in May, almost grabbing a podium finish, this time he entered with Motopark Racing at the 'Cathedral of Speed' after striking an agreement between the team and his regular GB3 Championship squad, Carlin.
Heading into Saturday morning's 25-minute qualifying session at the famous high-speed Italian circuit after impressing in free practice, the story was all about picking up the slipstream to ensure a strong grid position. Tagging onto the rear of Motopark team-mate Cameron Das, the AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers, VISA Global Logistics and Infinity Sports Management backed driver leaped up to as high as second place in the times before securing fifth with a late effort as everybody's efforts tumbled.
The double GB3 Championship race winner turned his attentions to the opening 18-lap race of the weekend's triple-header at the Formula 1 circuit. A good start allowed him to challenge for fourth, but the spinning Dallara of Louis Foster ahead scattered the field, Mansell inheriting positions with some smart evasive action at the first chicane to move into second place overall.
With a chance for a maiden victory suddenly dangled in front on him, Mansell attacked for the lead on team-mate Das. After several looks to pass in the slipstream heading up into the first two chicanes, Mansell finally got his man with an expertly-judged dummy to the inside of Das under braking for the second chicane on lap eight. His rival fought back however to reclaim the lead at the same point a lap later, the pair battling it out all the way until the chequered flag.
Second place would be the reward for Mansell as he tailed his team-mate by just half a second by the conclusion of the race, claiming the rookie class win in the process for his efforts on a weekend where he would clinch three rookie podiums.
After the dry skies of Saturday, lightning and sodden conditions greeted the Motopark driver for Sunday's final two races. Mansell again started in the mix, and sat fifth after a safety car start before settling into sixth place behind his team-mates. Setting the fastest lap on numerous occasions in the second half of the race, the plumes of spray coming off the cars made overtaking difficult, Mansell finishing sixth but right on the back of the two cars ahead of him.
Mansell, who races with support from Rush Performance, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27 and AMSL Diabetes Australia, started sixth on the grid in the final race of the weekend later that Sunday afternoon, and a rapid getaway - coupled with slow starts from the front row drivers - resulted in a five-wide squeeze heading up towards turn one. Mansell took to the grass on the outside to find room which forced him to back out of the throttle, emerging still in sixth place.
Showcasing his ability in wet weather conditions, Mansell swiftly passed team-mate Nazim Azman for fifth, and began chasing down the top four as they fought for grip in the tricky conditions. The Australian unfortunately dropped back to 10th with an electrical glitch, but two safety car periods gave him the chance to recover lost ground after a system reset.
Regrouping, he fought his way back up to sixth spot, which soon became fifth after negotiating a spinning car at the first Lesmo corner. The weather turned dramatically as the rain poured down, Mansell's recovery charge rewarded with a brilliant fourth place to round out his weekend.
Christian Mansell:“Getting the call late on to ask if you want to race at Monza - that really isn't something that you can turn down as a racing driver. It's a sick track in the dry and wet - although it was maybe a bit too wet at the end!
"We had good pace all weekend, and we showed that in practice and qualifying. To get the rookie win in the first was a fantastic result, and the race win was definitely there for the taking so I went for it. The move we did; it was mega and one of those that just happens, and you don't really think much about it. I was super happy with that result even if we didn't get the win, but Cameron did a great job and we battled hard. Overall I'm happy with the outcome.
"Race three on Sunday was a mega end to the weekend. I was catching the leaders early on, then out of turn one it wouldn't shift up. I had to put it into the emergency gear shift mode and then the safety car came out and I thought 'maybe this race will come to me'. It was so unexpected and we got back up to P4.
"Thanks to both Carlin and Motopark for giving me the opportunity to race again in the series and at such an amazing circuit, and now we look at Donington Park hoping to end the GB3 season on a high."
Mansell next turns his focus back to the UK and the final round of the 2021 GB3 Championship, hoping to end his maiden season as the series runner-up when he heads to the Donington Park finale with Carlin on 16/17 October.
Image from Euroformula Open.