Friday, 19 April 2013 00:00
Ryan Tveter, the only American tackling the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup in 2013, laid a solid foundation for future success in the season-opening tripleheader last weekend at one of Europe’s most famous tracks, Hockenheim.
Tveter, 18, of Oyster Bay and Zurich, Switzerland, didn’t have the results he’d hoped for in his first weekend racing in Europe, but he was far from disheartened because he learned so much.
“I learned more this weekend than I have in any other race weekend in my life, so it was great!” said Tveter, whose Fortec Motorsports No. 36 advertised Fredy Lienhard’s Autobau Automotive Museum and Convention Center in Romanshorn, Switzerland. “The racing over here is much closer and there is a lot of overtaking. It’s really a mental game and requires a lot of strategy, which makes it more fun!”
Tveter, who is taking a leave of absence from his studies as an engineering student at Lehigh University in order to race in Europe, faced a strong field of 37 other drivers from 17 other nations who entered the 2013 opener for the 20-race NEC. As is typical of European formula car racing the driving style was very aggressive, but unlike many of his rivals Tveter accomplished his primary goal of finishing all three of the 25-minute races.
He qualified 16th, just a second off the pole, at a track he’d never competed on. “There were a lot of Euro Cup drivers here too and I out-qualified some of them, so that was good,” Tveter noted. “We were just on the brink of qualifying in the top 10 and I know what I can do differently next time, so that was all very positive too.”
Tveter got a good start in the first race Saturday morning and maintained his 16th position. He was embroiled in a fierce battle with Ed Jones, Raoul Owens and Aurelien Panis in the initial laps until a driver who was behind him hit Tveter working lap five.
“That was really frustrating,” Tveter said. “It happened in the second-to-last corner of the track. We both spun, and when it was over I was missing half of my front wing and I had bent suspension.”
Tveter dropped back to 36th place after the incident but was later able to move up to 30th place. There was a full-course caution on lap 13 that gave him new hope of passing the driver ahead of him, Julio Moreno, on the restart, but the race ended under that yellow with 14 laps complete. Without the incident Tveter very well could have been in the top 10, as one of the drivers he was battling early in the race, Victor Sendin, finished tenth.
Mother Nature played a role in the second race, which occurred Sunday morning. Rain overnight made the 2.842-mile, 17-turn road course very slippery, and there were many incidents in the race.
“The track was wet but drying,” Tveter reported. “I was a little too aggressive coming out of Turn 1 on the warm-up lap and I spun and hit the wall, but luckily I hit it straight on and there wasn’t much damage. I pitted for a new nose cone and I started from pit road, but luckily a full-course caution came out for somebody else and I was able to rejoin the field and pass quite a few cars.”
The race got going at speed on lap five with Tveter in 36th place, but he had an excellent restart and leapt to 32nd position by lap six.
He passed Cedric Freiburghaus on the next lap and another driver fell back, which put Tveter into 30th position by lap seven. Simon Stoller was 1.0014 seconds ahead of him, but Tveter’s last lap was faster than five of the drivers immediately ahead of him, including Stoller.
That soon became evident on the track, as Tveter passed Stoller working lap eight. Jack Aitken fell back at the same time, which put Tveter into 28th position. He got 27th on lap nine when Louis Deletraz had problems, and he passed Moreno and his teammate last year in Star Mazda, Andres Mendez, on lap 10 to advance to 25th position.
The only thing that stopped him from advancing further was that time ran out, and he took the checkered flag with 12 laps complete in 25th position.
The weather conditions improved and were nearly perfect for Race 3 Sunday afternoon. Although that was welcomed, it played havoc with many team’s set-ups because the rain had washed away some of the Michelin rubber from the track and then it got hot.
Tveter started 30th in the field of 37 Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately the car in front of him stalled at the start and forced him to go around the outside, and allowed five other cars behind to pass. However, by the end of lap one Tveter had already gotten those positions back and was running in 32nd. Further dicing found him in 29th place, right behind Mendez again, on lap four. He’d just turned a 1:41.885, however, which was faster than six cars directly in front of him.
By lap eight he was in 27th place directly behind the driver who would be his goal the rest of the race: Freiburghaus. At that point he had to change from offense to defense, however, because Alfonso Celis was only 0.482 of a second behind him.
Tveter was just 0.525 of a second behind Freiburghaus and he was 0.567 of a second ahead of Celis with 13 laps down and 1:07 remaining in the race. Celis passed both Tveter and Freiburghaus and all three of them passed Philopaz Armand on lap 14, which put Tveter in 26th position.
Tveter ended the race on a high note when he accomplished his goal of passing Freiburghaus working lap 15. He was in 25th position, 1.788 ahead of Freiburghaus, when the intense, non-stop action halted with the drop of the checkered flag on lap 16.
“There really were a lot of positives from the weekend,” Tveter summarized. “Hockenheim is a very challenging track. I was able to fight with a lot of different drivers for position. Fortec Motorsports gave me a good car and the engineer I worked with this weekend was great. The data we collected showed that we were very close; just a few small things and we would have been right there. I really learned a lot. We’re going to test at the Nürburgring in preparation for the next race. I can’t wait to take what I learned here and apply it at the Nürburgring! It looks like a fun and challenging track, so I’m really looking forward to driving there.”
The Nürburgring event is the weekend of April 20-21.
For more information on Tveter, see his website at RyanTveter.com and interact with him on Facebook at Facebook.com/RyanTveter and on Twitter at @RyanTveter. He has a YouTube channel too. The team’s website is at fortecmotorsports.com and the series’ website is at necup.com.