The MAXX Formula season opener 2022 took again place at the world-famous high speed circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet. The FIA Grade 1 track is known for its extreme safety, specifically for the superfast F1, GP2, IndyCar, A1 GP and World Series 3.5! It also serves as the perfect debut for the driver, who mostly got back on track for the first time after the long winter break.
The 2 free practices on Friday gave every pilot the opportunity to get back to speed and in the same time to test the competitiveness and reliability of their complex formula bolides. The experienced Swiss confederate Kurt Böhlen made his GP2 premiere in Paul Ricard, so did the two newcomer Patrick Harmuth (FRA) and Philipp Todtenhaupt (GER). Both pilots did their first official race ever in a GP2 car. Wolfgang Jaksch (GER) from F Xtreme Racing Team, surprised everybody with the appearance of the newly rebuilt F1 Toro Rosso STR8 (2013), formerly driven by Daniel Ricciardo, instead of his “usual” F1 Super Aguri SA 06, which still suffers from the engine failure in the 2021 Assen race. The STR8 is to date the most modern F1 car officially raced in a sanctioned FIA series and the latest model with a naturally aspired combustion engine before the F1 hybrid era has been established in 2014! The Master Class was represented by 4 pilots: Stephan Glaser (SUI), Frank Thomas (BEL) and the two comrades from the French Team ZigZag, Nicolas Matile (MC) and Jean Christophe Peyre (FRA). The Advance Class, beside the above mentioned GP2 pilots were completed by Peter Göllner (SUI), Anton Werner (GER), Bernd Herndlhofer (AUT), Gilles Brenier (FRA) and his son Christopher, who arrived at Paul Ricard not only as the preceding year`s MAXX Champion, but also as the frontrunner for the two scheduled sprint races.
Both free practices could be performed under first-class weather conditions, basically, the entire race weekend from Friday until Sunday saw nothing but pure sun and a cloudless sky! As expected, Christopher Brenier dominated the two training sessions with his Superleague Formula V12. Wolfgang Jaksch, whose expectation were more or less pointed to “test” the STR8 for the first time under racing conditions and find a neutral setup to further work with, almost reached his former peak lap time with the Super Aguri and ended up P2. At the end, he declared himself completely satisfied with the outcome and showed thumbs up for the qualifying on Saturday. As usual, Nicolas Matile, the local hero, showed a great performance with his A1 GP car from Team ZigZag, he finished the practice sessions on P3. Gilles Brenier, also very familiar with the circuit, followed on P4. Despite his lack of track experience at Paul Ricard, the Swiss Kurt Böhlen adopted very quickly to the layout and utilized his decades of racing experience to place his GP2/11 on P5. It was already clear, that he will further attack in the upcoming qualifying. The German newcomer Philipp Todtenhaupt, who competed with the experience of only a few Formula 3 races in 2021, finished the training sessions with a remarkable P6 and furthermore a very small gap to the pilots above him. The Bavarian IndyCar driver Anton Werner followed him on P7, P8 went to the second newcomer Patrick Harmuth with his GP2. The scoreboard has been completed by the two Masters Jean Christophe Peyre and Frank Thomas. The unlucky fellow of the first MAXX Formula race weekend 2022 was definitely Peter Göllner (SUI). He struggled from the beginning with his Dallara GP2 and could not perform one time lap during the entire two sessions due to oil pressure problems.
The early morning qualifying on Saturday developed into a three-way fight between Christopher Brenier, Wolfgang Jaksch and Kurt Böhlen. The young French driver finally nailed the best overall time of the day with a 1:51.084 securing pole for the race. Between Wolfgang Jaksch and Kurt Böhlen, a tiny margin of 0.248 sec has been recorded after the 30-min qualifying session for the benefit of the Swiss GP2 pilot. P4 went to Gilles Brenier, who manifested his fastest time already in lap 2, followed by Nicolas Matile, who tried everything to beat the SuperLeague but finally failed by missing only 0.151 sec in his last and fastest time lap. Stephan Glaser (SUI) showed a great performance securing P6 and even more surprising, Patrick Harmuth, still slower in the practice sessions than Philipp Todtenhaupt, won the newcomer Quali-duel by a hair, exactly 0.095 sec! P9 went to Anton Werner, who was reporting some electronic issues with his IndyCar. Frank Thomas changed positions from free practices with Jean Christophe Peyre, both starting from P10 and P11.
Race 1 on Saturday noon started with a safe rolling start and a clean turn 1 for all participants. No position changes could be recorded, so it was Christopher Brenier, who was leading the grid, followed by Kurt Böhlen and Wolfgang Jaksch. Christopher Brenier quickly bridged a gap between himself and the two chasers. Wolfgang Jaksch, who slowly but surely went closer to Kurt Böhlen, tried an overtaking manoeuvre on the famous mistral straight, right before the full flat right turn “Signes”, when he suddenly lost significant power, falling back almost 5 seconds within a short period of time. He finally needed to retire the car in lap 6 with electronic problems. One lap later, Christopher Brenier got hit by the gremlin and needed to park his car with a massive clutch failure. The way was clear now for Kurt Böhlen to win the MAXX Formula season opener 2022 at his first appearance ever at Paul Ricard and he mastered the remaining laps without any mistake, P1! Behind the lonely leader, Gilles Brenier, the French SuperLeague driver was the one leading the rest of the grid and he played out all his routine to position his V12 on P2. Nicolas Matile utilized his knowledge of the circuit and his vast experience to cross the finish line on P3, winning also the Masters classification, followed by Stephan Glaser, who confirmed his excellent performance from the Qualifying. Another big surprise was the finish of Jean Christophe Peyre on P5, which also turned out to be a podium spot in the Masters Class. Anton Werner greatly improved his Quali result from the morning and he placed himself ahead of Philipp Todtenhaupt. The German Maxx Formula rookie finished his first ever race with a GP2/2011 on P7 overall and slightly missed the podium by one place in the Advance class. Beside Christopher Brenier and Wolfgang Jaksch, also Patrick Harmuth and Frank Thomas had to unfortunately retire their cars with technical problems during the race.
In Race 2 on Sunday the pack has been reshuffled as the grid started again in the same order of the qualifying results from Saturday. While Christopher Brenier was able to place his T-Car on pole position, the F Xtreme equipe of Wolfgang Jaksch (GER) couldn’t solve the electronic issues from yesterday`s race and had to leave the extraordinary Toro Rosso STR8 in the garage. The same bitter fate hit Frank Thomas, his World Series by Renault 3.5 didn’t make it to the starting grid due to an irreparable clutch failure. This time Christopher Brenier showed a flawless performance from start to finish and his T-Car also turned out to be a reliable choice – ultimately earning a start-finish win in Race 2. Kurt Böhlen tried to follow Brenier at the beginning of the race but couldn’t keep up the fast pace. However, he secured P2 leaving a reasonable gap between himself and his follower Gilles Brenier, who again ended up on the podium. Nicolas Matile not only nailed P4 overall, he again won the winner`s trophy in the Masters Class, driving back home with the maximum of 50 points! Philipp Todtenhaupt (GER) was responsible for the eyecatcher of the day with a fantastic overtaking maneouvre ahead of the mistral chicane, surprising Jean Christophe Peyre on the inside. He again missed the podium slightly by one position. The Frenchman Peyre however finished this time ahead of Stephan Glaser (SUI) and changed podium position with him comparing to Race 1. Patrick Harmuth and Anton Werner did not finish the race, both due to technical problems. Luckily, both races did not face any red flags and also no safety car phases.
MAXX Formula is back on track from 15th to 17th of July for the “MAXX GP Netherlands 2022” on the completely renovated, traditional F1 track in Zandvoort, together with the FIA Historic F1! A great and thrilling event not to be missed!
Detailed results can be viewed here.