Yifei Ye extended his Euroformula points lead with a return to the top step of the podium in the opening race of the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps triple-header.
The Chinese driver had to get past his pole-sitting CryptoTower Racing Team team-mate Lukas Dunner to claim the lead, doing so by getting a tow from the Austrian down the Kemmel Straight on the opening lap and completing an overtake before the pair entered Les Combes.
After a few laps, Dunner tried returning the move on Ye but the Chinese driver braked later to hold the inside line into Les Combes and keep the lead. This occurred several times during the race, with Ye always defending the inside line. On one occasion Dunner had to cut across the chicane after they went side-by-side on the entry to the corner, and he sportingly handed the lead back to Ye at the start of the next lap.
That gave him the benefit of the slipstream behind Ye for one more time, but he couldn’t make a pass. He did however continue applying the pressure to the leader through the remaining laps, and after qualifying 0.045 seconds apart the pair ended the race with 0.448s between them.
“I had a good start, I was coming close to Lukas going up to Eau Rouge [on lap one],” Ye recalled. “I think it was a typical pass. It’s narrow, but the second guy can always get a better run up to Eau Rouge, which I managed to do. And then I got the lead lap one, and from there onwards I was just trying to drive as quick as I can and keep him behind. We came close a couple of times at Turn 5, but luckily I managed to hold on to the lead until the end so very happy about that.
“I think the wake from the dirty air is pretty significant, so you lose a lot of downforce following, also in braking and cornering. But equally you gain a lot in the draft, so yeah I think it kind of equals out so it’s hard for the leader to run away, and I think tomorrow we can see another two interesting races.”
Third place went to Carlin’s Ido Cohen after a last lap clash involving his team-mate Zane Maloney and Motopark’s Niklas Krütten. For the whole race Krütten had run in the final podium place, initially quite close to the lead two, but he dropped back late on and especially so on the final lap. On the entry to the final chicane he slowed so much that as Maloney came to overtake they crashed. The result was Krütten dropping to the back of the order and Maloney not even making it to the finish line.
Van Amersfoort Racing’s Andreas Estner benefitted to finish, just holding off Motopark’s Cameron Das to do so. Manuel Maldonado (Motopark) put in some exciting overtakes to finish sixth, while Double R Racing’s Louis Foster and Benjamin Pedersen shone on their series debuts to finish in seventh and eighth, having been in the battle for fourth place early in the race.
Sebastian Estner (VAR) and Glenn van Berlo (Drivex School) rounded out the points, with van Berlo coming from a pitlane start to continue his scoring run. His debuting team-mate Matthias Lüthen chose not to start the race.