Christian Mansell continued his fantastic run of form by adding a double podium finish to his tally at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium last weekend (18/19 June), keeping him well in the fight for the 2022 Euroformula Open title.
The 17-year-old Australian racer from Newcastle, New South Wales, made the trip to the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes sitting a comfortable second in the Euroformula Open championship standings, looking to trim the lead cushion with three positive results around the famous Grand Prix venue.
Coming off the back of a thrilling second win of the season most recently at Paul Ricard in France, Mansell - backed by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers, VISA Global Logistics and Infinity Sports Management - again showed impressive pace on his third visit to the 4.3-mile track as he ended first practice second on the time sheets.
The BRDC Rising Star and Motorsport UK Academy talent turned his attentions to Saturday's qualifying session, aiming to put his Motopark-backed CryptoTower Dallara 320 towards the sharp end of the grid. Mansell and his team decided to play a strategic game by leaving it late to head out onto the circuit to set a competitive time, the GB3 race winner slotting himself into third place as the track rubbered in. It would prove to be his best effort of the session, after qualifying was red-flagged with three minutes remaining.
Mansell next focused himself for the weekend's three races, the first of which took place later that afternoon. What followed was an incredible launch from the second row when the lights went out as the Aussie charged up the inside of the two cars ahead of him to grab the lead out of La Source for the first time.
His lead would last until the end of the Kemmel Straight as the slipstream proved too strong to defend against, but Mansell kept the early pressure on team-mate Oliver Goethe at the head of the field. Surviving a small moment that put him out of striking distance, Mansell briefly dropped to third behind another team-mate Josh Mason on the penultimate lap of 14 despite a valiant defensive effort at Les Combes. Not deterred, Mansell boldly fought back with a daring move around the outside of Mason at the same corner on the final lap of the race, confirming second spot at the chequered flag.
It would be the seventh podium of the year for Mansell, supported by Dexcom, Rush Performance, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27, NTI Australia and AMSL Diabetes Australia, and he had two more chances on Sunday to add to that tally.
Starting fifth for race two on Sunday, Mansell made an even more spectacular getaway as he left his braking as late as possible into La Source to surpass three drivers around the outside at the hairpin for second, before completing a sensational first lap in the lead of the race as he slipstreamed past Sebastian Øgaard at the end of the Kemmel Straight.
Goethe would be the man trying to deny the young Aussie and he briefly went by into the lead, only for Mansell to fight back under braking at Les Combes to return the favour. The battle ebbed and flowed for several laps, Mansell's defense ultimately broken on the back straight after six laps, comfortably coming home in second place to add another podium finish.
A race three grid comprised by reversing the top six cars from qualifying put the former British F4 winner in a starting position of fourth, with a triple podium well within range. What followed was a truly manic encounter with the top nine cars all squabbling for position in the opening seven of the 14 laps.
Mansell climbed to fourth with Goethe in his mirrors, the latter attacking and missing the chicane as Mansell dropped to seventh trying to keep his car within the confines of the circuit. He recovered lost ground by swiftly passing two of his rivals to join the five-car scrap for second place, evading the crashing car of Alex Garcia to move into fourth place on the final lap.
He left his final attack for the podium until the final corner, switching inside Filip Ugran at the Bus Stop chicane exit to make it three-wide heading to the chequered flag. He pipped Ugran for fourth, but lost out on a trio of podiums by an agonising margin of two thousandths of a second to Vlad Lomko, Mansell now with eight podiums under his belt in '22.
Christian Mansell:"It's mega to come back to Spa-Francorchamps again as it's such an amazing circuit. The team gave me a great car all weekend, and we came away with some good points and a couple of podiums for our reward.
"We decided to leave our runs in qualifying late, and luckily we did that just before the red flags came out so we were up at the sharp end throughout the weekend. I'm very happy with how my starts went in all three races, and that put us in the lead in the first two which I was keen to hang onto.
"We had some good battles all weekend, especially with Josh in race one which I managed to time well to get back at him. Then in race two, I got up to the front and I didn't want to give that one up too easily! We were a bit unlucky in the last race getting caught on the wrong end of a few scraps which left us fighting back a lot of the time, and still we only just missed out.
"All in all, a solid weekend. We'll go to Hungary now which is a new experience again but one I'm looking forward to. A tough circuit to pass around which could help us, so we'll get prepared and go again."
A super weekend for the Motopark driver increased his stranglehold on second place in the championship, Mansell next in action in three weeks time as the Euroformula Open series heads to the Hungaroring in Budapest on 9/10 July for the fifth meeting of the season.
Image from Euroformula Open.