Oliver Rowland on brink of FR3.5 title with Le Mans victory

Oliver Rowland stands on the brink of the Formula Renault 3.5 title after taking his seventh victory of the season in the opening race of the weekend at Le Mans Bugatti

The Fortec racer scored a dominant win after engaging in a fierce tussle over the lead with his title rival Matthieu Vaxiviere in the early laps.

The leading pair made contact on the approach to the Dunlop Chicane on lap 11, the impact of Vaxiviere's front wing against Rowland's left-rear tyre sending debris flying.

The touch effectively ended Lotus Formula 1 junior driver Vaxiviere's challenge for victory.

He finished second on the road, but was hit by a ten-second time penalty for repeatedly running off-track, including cutting the first corner twice to maintain track position when challenged by Egor Orudzhev.

Vaxiviere fell to tenth as a consequence, promoting Hungaroring winner Orudzhev and Frenchman Tom Dillmann to the remaining podium positions.

"I feel extremely lucky to finish the race, as I could see in my mirrors that my left rear had a cut in it," said Rowland.

"Fortunately for me, Vaxiviere damaged his car and had a penalty, because I had no answer to his pace in the early laps.

"I did raise my hand going past the pits one time, though, as I felt he was being very ambitious with the track limits."

Rowland needs just one point, equivalent to a tenth place, from the remaining three races at Le Mans and Jerez to secure the FR3.5 drivers' crown.

Arden racer Orudzhev's second place was well-deserved as the Russian was only denied taking the runner-up position on the road when Vaxiviere cut the first corner on laps 12 and 18.

"Every time I sent it up the inside he cut the corner," said Orudzhev.

"I couldn't understand the approach of the race director.

"Eventually, I heard on the radio that they were going to give him a ten second penalty, but that didn't help me as Dillmann was closing up.

"They should have handled it differently and given him a drive-through."

Red Bull junior driver Dean Stoneman completed the 'train' behind Vaxiviere, but despite several attempts he was unable to find an opening to pass experienced former GP2 racer Dillmann.

Dillmann's third place is just his second podium of the season after another third secured in the crash-strewn race at Monaco.

Aurelien Panis made a slingshot start from ninth on the grid to take fifth ahead of newcomer Yu Kanamaru.

Moving in the opposite direction to Panis away from the lights, Silverstone and Nurburgring winner Tio Ellinas bogged down in his initial getaway from a fifth-place starting position and the Cypriot failed to rise higher than ninth.


Pos Driver Team Laps Gap
1 Oliver Rowland Fortec Motorsports 30 42m33.351s
2 Egor Orudzhev Arden Motorsport 30 4.226s
3 Tom Dillmann Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 30 4.983s
4 Dean Stoneman DAMS 30 5.360s
5 Aurelien Panis Tech 1 Racing 30 6.026s
6 Yu Kanamaru Pons Racing 30 7.028s
7 Nyck de Vries DAMS 30 8.374s
8 Roy Nissany Tech 1 Racing 30 10.030s
9 Tio Ellinas Strakka Racing 30 11.984s
10 Matthieu Vaxiviere Lotus 30 12.958s
11 Gustav Malja Strakka Racing 30 16.168s
12 Andre Negrao International Draco Racing 30 17.352s
13 Jazeman Jaafar Fortec Motorsports 30 22.753s
14 Beitske Visser AVF 30 25.299s
15 Marlon Stockinger Lotus 30 26.405s
16 Sean Gelael Jagonya Ayam with Carlin 30 29.440s
17 Nikita Zlobin Pons Racing 30 38.886s
- Nicholas Latifi Arden Motorsport 20 Retirement
- Alfonso Celis AVF 16 Retirement


Le Mans FR3.5: Oliver Rowland claims race one pole for Fortec

Matthieu Vaxiviere defends his driving after FR3.5 Le Mans penalty