- Dan Mason
Christian Mansell Stars On Euroformula Open Debut At Spa-Francorchamps
BRDC British F3 racer Christian Mansell battled at the sharp end throughout a competitive Euroformula Open debut this past weekend (19/20 June), narrowly missing out on a podium finish with his Carlin team at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Embarking on his first race outside the UK/Australia and his maiden visit to the world-famous Formula 1 circuit, the 16-year-old Australian from Newcastle, New South Wales, quickly felt at home in his latest environment. He went on to be a consistent front-runner all weekend on his first outing in the European single-seater series - grabbing a trio of top-six finishes. Riding a wave of optimism after celebrating a race victory on his BRDC British F3 debut at Brands Hatch in May, Mansell and the British-based Carlin squad showed what they were capable of upon their arrival in Friday's two practice sessions, briefly topping the latter in breezy conditions as he got to grips with the championship's Dallara 320 machine. The 2020 British F4 rookie champion - supported by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers and VISA Global Logistics - took that knowledge of the 7km circuit into Saturday morning's qualifying session, and sprinted into the top five in the times. Ultimately Mansell's penultimate effort was enough to put him fifth on the grid for race one and second best of the rookie competitors. In a dramatic start to the first of the weekend's three races later that afternoon, Mansell made a mighty effort to grab second place around the outside at the La Source hairpin after a strong getaway. Squeezed out wide, he soon inherited second place after an incident ahead of him removed two rivals on the Kemmel Straight, resulting in the first of two safety car appearances. Mansell traded places with Nazim Azman and later Casper Stevenson up front in the slipstream, passing the latter at the first hairpin with a successful lunge under braking before having to take evasive action in a slipstreaming three-way dice at Les Combes, dropping to fifth where he remained until the flag. The top-six reverse grid procedure put Mansell second on the grid for race two. Despite being squeezed down to fifth place on lap one, a bold three-wide overtake at the final chicane put the Rush Performance, Infinity Sports Management, Locker 27, IOR Petroleum and AMSL Diabetes-backed rookie up to fourth place, superbly fending off a train of cars. Despite losing a spot in the slipstream, a move on fellow rookie Enzo Trulli in the same instance heading down the Kemmel straight kept him fourth. He chased Azman hard for the final spot on the podium, narrowly missing out on third place after launching an attack in the slipstream out of Raidillon. Mansell still grabbed bragging rights as best of the rookies in fourth. The Australian's strong pace meant a lap time good enough to start third on the grid for the final race of the weekend, and a stall ahead of him allowed him to run in a solid second place in the early laps. Fading tyre performance and the slipstream advantage for those behind played into his rivals' hands unfortunately, Mansell falling to sixth after a valiant defensive effort to round off an impressive maiden Euroformula Open weekend. Christian Mansell: "It's been a really good learning weekend. The track is super fast and it has been such a cool experience to race at Spa for the first time. Eau Rouge is such an insane corner and I've been having a ball. "In qualifying, I felt that I was still learning and could have extracted more from the car, but I was happy enough with finishing fifth on my first session. In the first race, the start itself was strong and the first lap was very hectic. I managed to get into the battle up front, and made a few little mistakes but had a lot of positives to take away. "I was super happy with race two, and although we just missed out on second or third it's felt really nice battling for podiums in a car I was not 100 per cent used to. The last race was tougher as we had decent pace towards the beginning, but it fell off near the end. "Overall, I'm happy with how the weekend has gone and I have to give thanks to everyone at Carlin for their efforts and giving me this opportunity. I can't wait to head back to the UK now and race at Silverstone!" Mansell returns to BRDC British F3 action this weekend (26/27 June) as the second meeting of the season takes place at Silverstone GP circuit. Later in the season, Mansell will be returning to Spa-Francorchamps for the fourth event of the BRDC British F3 season (24/25 July).
Image from GT Sport/Euroformula Open.