R8G and YAS Heat are feeling the pressure already in Season 2 ahead of their Group A clash.
Both teams head into this Round 3 head-to-head looking for their first win of the campaign. Previously, Romain Grosjean’s R8G were swept away 4-0 by Aston Martin in Week 1, while YAS Heat has been outclassed by both Redline and then Aston Martin so far.
Each team has their eyes firmly focused on 3rd place in the group standings. So, who’ll come out on top here between the play-off hopefuls?
Monza always delivers
R86 Esports: Erhan Jajovski, Samuel Libeert, Thomas Petitjean
YAS Heat: Manuel Biancolilla, Cedric Thome, Simon Weigang
We started the day at Monza - the Temple of Speed - for the relay race, with Manuel Biancolilla on pole for YAS Heat ahead of Erhan Jajovski.
It was a great start off the line for Biancolilla only for Jajovski to catch up to the Italian on the straight-ahead of the Roggia chicane. As they headed to the corner Jajovski took to the outside of Biancolilla. For a brief second, the two looked to make contact, and the R8G driver ran through the chicane. Having taken the lead, he was forced to give the place back to Biancolilla.
After some jostling on Laps 1 and 2, there was over one second between the pair as they took to the pits. Out the two teams came for Lap 3 of 4, with Cedric Thome keeping the lead for YAS Heat with R8G’s Thomas Petitjean in pursuit.
Nothing could separate the two as they reached the pits again ahead of the final lap. This time it was Simon Weigang v Samuel Libeert. But there was little Libeert could do to catch Weigang after a slow pit exit, and this gave YAS Heat an easy the first win of the day.
Or so they thought; as a little while after the race was over, Biancolilla was given a 10-second penalty for 'rough driving'. This saw R8G handed the win, and their very first point of the R-League!
It was Biancolilla who made it two great getaways in two Monza starts, as he lead the pack from pole position in the following team race.
A super move from Jajovski at the first corner saw him fend off Thome and consolidate his 2nd place position. But there was drama behind the front two as Thome, Petitjean and Weigang came together, resulting in Weigang running over the sausage kerbs and falling six seconds behind the rest after Lap 1.
A costly error from Petitjean on Lap 2 saw the Frenchman drop down to 5th, but all eyes were on the leading two in the final laps. Biancolilla was in front, but the chasing Jajovski was hot on his heels. The heat was on as the Macedonian picked up the fastest lap ahead of Lap 5.
But in the end, Biancolilla was as cool as a cucumber as he rounded the final corners to win the team race, while the fighting Jajovski had to settle for 2nd.
You shall not pass
The teams headed to Mugello for the second part of the day and it was neck-and-neck between the two. YAS Heat, though, certainly looked more confident.
Continuing the theme of the round so far, Biancolilla was off the line well from pole in the relay. Libeert's slow getaway meant he failed to challenge the YAS Heat man on the first corner. Biancolilla then headed for the pits after his lap to swap with Thome, while Libeert continued on.
Libert pitted at the end of Lap 2 with Thome staying out to increase the lead over R8G. Petitjean lost further time on Lap 3 to the leading team before swapping for the in-form Jajovski on the final lap, while Weigang took over from Thome for YAS Heat.
The last lap was setup for a thrilling battle between Weigang and Jajovski, but it was simply a case of too much to do for the trailing R8G driver. The 25-year-old chipped away at Weigang's lead, but crossed the line still over a second behind the German. Could R8G salvage anything from Round 3 in the final team race?
Feeling the Heat
A front-three lockout coupled with a good getaway gave YAS Heat the perfect start here... but there was drama behind them.
The Abu Dhabi outfit's dominant start was eclipsed by the contact between the R8G drivers going into turn 3. Teammates Jajovski, Libeert and Petitjean went into the sweeping right-hander three cars abreast, resulting in Jajovski being forced wide and left chasing the rest of the pack.
Up ahead, the YAS Heat trio entered into a commanding lead of the race. Biancolilla was in front, with teammates Thome and Weigang guarding the rear. With Mugello renowned for being a particularly difficult place to overtake, the writing was on the wall for R8G. There was little change of position between the six cars on track as they crossed the finish line.
YAS Heat's dominant final team race performance matched their overall form throughout Round 3. They finished up with an excellent 3-1 win, with the team looking thoroughly on top throughout. However, they'll be unhappy with the penalty they received in the opening relay race in Monza, and the resulting dropped point.
For R8G, the V10 R-League has proven to be unforgiving towards them so far. The newcomers will surely just be happy to get their first point on the board this season!