Teenage Tasmanian car racer Alex Peroni is the 2016 Monoplace Challenge champion after clean-sweeping the final round in Portugal.
Although the 16 year-old Hobart driver only needed a minor placing in one of the round’s three races to clinch the European series for Formula Renault openwheelers, he won them all!
Alex dominated the round at the 4.2km circuit, which was wet to varying degrees throughout the round.
He began by clocking the fastest qualifying lap on Friday by nearly four tenths of a second.
In Saturday’s first race he established a three-second gap on the first lap, added another two seconds over the next two laps, and took the chequered flag 4.121 seconds clear of Dutch driver Rinus van Kalmthout.
That sealed the title for Alex. His lead over the only other contender going into the finale, Frenchman Gilles Heriau, was an unassailable 205 points with only 120 available from the remaining two races.
His only anxious moment came after the race had finished, when officials investigated a possible jumped start. But the results remained unchanged, giving him the race and series victory.
Later on Saturday, Alex went further ahead by winning a crash-shortened second race.
Starting from second on the grid, he overtook pole sitter van Kalmthout on the first lap. He’d opened a 4.5-second lead over Frenchman Antoine Robert after three laps when a midfield pile-up at turn 1 brought out the red flags.
On Sunday Alex completed his second clean-sweep in the seven-round series with a crushing 14-second win, his 14th of the 21 races in this year’s Monoplace Challenge.
His final points margin over Heriau, after drivers’ two worst races were deducted from their scores, was 209 points. Third-placed Ukrainian Alexey Chuklin was a further 49 points back.
An elated Alex described what it was like to win an international car racing series in only his second season out of karts.
“I felt confident going into race 1, because the track was wet like it was when I raced here last week in the Formula Renault Eurocup round,” he said.
“It was a great way to clinch the championship!
“The track was even wetter in race 2, and I wanted to start well so that I could have a clear track ahead. I managed to pass van Kalmthout into the first corner and open up a gap.
“It was very satisfying to win in such difficult track conditions.
“Race 3 was amazing. The track was damp, but everyone had to use smooth dry weather tyres instead of treaded wet weather ones.
“Even though I was comfortable with the way the car handled the conditions, I was surprised that I could drive away from the others.
“It was great to finish the series with a win!
“Thanks to Stefano Turchetto and everyone at TS Corse for their perfect car preparation and technical support throughout the series.
“It’s incredible what we have achieved together, and I’ll always be grateful to them.
“I’m also very grateful to my parents and my Tasmanian sponsors who made this possible.”
Before returning to Australia, Peroni will test with the Fortec Motorsport team at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps racetrack in Belgium on Monday.
The test is part of his plan to contest next year’s Eurocup, the premier Formula Renault race series that launched the careers of several F1 stars, including Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo.
2016 MONOPLACE CHALLENGE FINAL ROUND – ESTORIL, PORTUGAL
1. Alex Peroni (AUS) 941
2. Gilles Heriau (FRA) 732
3. Alexey Chuklin (UKR) 683
* corrected points (worst 2 races deducted), subject to official confirmation.
ALEX PERONI’S RESULTS FOR ROUND 7
Qualifying: Pole position
Race 1: 1st
Race 2: 1st
Race 3: 1st
ALEX PERONI’S SERIES STATISTICS
Race wins: 14 from 21
Podiums: 17 from 21
Pole positions: 4 from 7