Oliver Rowland moved to within just a single point of the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 title by storming to his seventh victory of the year at Le Mans on Saturday.
Formula Renault 3.5 is the flagship series on the World Series by Renault roster, and has produced a number of Formula 1 drivers including Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sainz won last year’s title with a record seven victories before joining Toro Rosso in F1 for 2015, but his tally was tied by Rowland on Saturday after the Briton dominated proceedings from pole position on the Bugatti layout of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Rowland came under pressure throughout the race from title rival Matthieu Vaxiviere, but when the Frenchman lost part of his front wing trying to take the lead, he dropped back into the pack.
Vaxiviere took a rather liberal attitude towards to the track limits, frequently cutting the chicane in a bid to gain position and keep the chasing drivers back. The stewards decided that enough was enough after he had cut it four times and handed him a time penalty.
This left Vaxiviere tenth at the end of the race, giving him one point that in fact denied Rowland from being crowned champion on Saturday. With 75 points remaining, Rowland leads by 74, making his title victory a mere formality.
“The start was difficult and Egor [Orudzhev, who finished second] was very close to me, but I managed to keep him behind me,” Rowland explained.
“After that, I really had no answer to Matthieu’s pace. Although the contact made my life easier, I was a bit worried for my tyre and tried to stay away from the curbs, as well as stay within the track limitations to avoid a penalty.
“I spent two seasons with Fortec in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and this is my second season in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with them. It is great to reward such fantastic people with this victory record.”
Rowland and Orudzhev were joined on the podium by Tom Dillmann, who edged out Dean Stoneman for P3 on the final lap of the race.