Alex Cascatău Grabs RES 500 Podium, Takes Over Class Lead
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
Alex Cascatău made his return to the Romanian Endurance Series after missing the third round of the season, his first time racing on the reverse layout of Motorpark Romania coinciding with his second participation in the blue-riband RES 500 endurance event.
Seven years on from hosting its first-ever endurance race, Motorpark Romania, the venue that sits closest to Romania's capital, Bucharest, was still holding some cards close to its chest. At least, that's what Romanian Endurance Series A2 champion Alex Cascatău realized upon arriving at the location on Friday, August 26th, when he first got to sample the experience of driving the track in the counter-clockwise direction. Most often, it is run in the clockwise direction although the organizers do sometimes run races the other way around to spice things up.
With this being the third running of the 'RES 500', a 500-kilometer-long race that stands as the only endurance-style event on the 2022 calendar, it was deemed necessary to alter things compared to the 2021 running of the event. While the previous edition saw the race split in two equal halves, each run on the clockwise layout of the course, the 2022 running of the race featured no split as the 30 competitors fought eachother for some 4.5 hours of intense, on-track action.
Three Peugeot 206 RCs represented Junior Motorsport, just like last time out. Alex shared the wheel of the No. 111 Junior Motorsport Black Sea Suppliers Peugeot with Radu Tămaș who'd previously contested round three of the season on his own. He battled through a myriad of technical problems that the team was decided to firmly put behind with a strong showing in the RES 500.
Alex and Radu would face a healthy field in the A2 class with a total of seven cars signing up, including CUBE Performance's new BMW E90 sedan and WCR's BMW E36 that Alex had driven in last year's RES 500. Also there was the class-leading ASOT Racing Team Megane which was vying for more class wins, as well as the AB Motorsport Peugeot 206 RC and the Renault-engined DIRR Racing Dacia Logan.
Practice and qualifying
Friday’s test day helped Alex get up to speed on the counter-clockwise layout, the former GT & Prototype Challenge champion underlining the flowy nature of the track as run this past weekend. While only using scrubbed semi-slick rubber, the team's drivers recorded competitive times in preparation for the official track sessions on Saturday, August 27th.
The only timed free practice session came and went without a hitch, Alex still getting to grips with the newly installed and broadly functional ABS system. Dipping into the 2:05s may not have shown much, but the team kept a set of slicks at the ready for the qualifying session that would follow.
With the best rubber available in place on the car, Alex set out to get the A2 class pole and wasn't too far off in the end. With a 2:02.631 the No. 111 car was fifth amongst the touring cars and third in class behind a couple of way faster BMWs. Alex reckoned he could've gone even quicker as he set his fastest time on his first flyer which was marred by traffic. His subsequent laps, while seemingly faster, didn't see the car improve on its position despite there being a lot fewer cars around. It seemed as though the car was running out of steam as the laps went by and this lack of power would manifest itself again in the race, throwing a wrench in the works of the crew.
Sunday’s race (which kicked-off not long after 11:00 AM local time) got off to a clean start, the 26 touring cars behaving themselves in the shadow of the way quicker GTs and prototypes. As the laps wore on, an enthralling battle for the lead in the A2 class developed between Alex in the No. 111 Peugeot and Radu Dumitrescu in the No. 402 CUBE Performance BMW. While the latter had the legs on the straight, it was the 206 RC that was the nimbler car in the twisty bits.
The pace was good for the first 50 minutes with Alex stringing laps in the 2:02-minute bracket with ease while some of the competition failed by the wayside, namely the ASOT Megane and the pole-sitting No. 74 CocoRabbit BMW which suffered an engine failure. However, by the time Alex was preparing to come in for the first of four planned pit stops (each mandated to last no less than four minutes), the car had already begun to show signs of wear and the lap charts showed it with the No. 111 no longer dipping below 2:05s.
The first pit stop came and went without a hitch and Radu took over from Alex, the soon-to-be 18-year-old also incapable of lapping below the 2:05 mark and gradually getting slower throughout the race. The team soon realized that this first stop was too short and, to make matters worse, the same mistake time-keeping mistake would happen again, thus forcing the crew to complete two additional four-minute pit stops.
After all was said and done, the added pit stops lost Alex and Radu about seven minutes or, in other words, three and a half laps on track. With a number of cautions coming in quick succession towards the latter part of the race, and the car's engine not showing any signs of rejuvenation, there was little that Alex could do to claw his way back to the sharp end of the Touring division.
The race ended just before 16:00 local time, Alex and Radu crossing the line in sixth place overall and fourth place in the Touring division. They were only beaten in the A2 class by the No. 268 WCR BMW that benefitted from the other crews' misfortune to grab an unlikely win.
While a better result was certainly on the cards if not for the two added pit stops, Alex and Radu still managed to take over the top spot in the A2 class leaderboard courtesy of bagging 30 points for P2. They also got a healthy number of points for fourth in the Touring division and they'll look to fight for the A2 class title come the season finale at the end of October.
Until then, here's a thought: the overall Touring division victory was entirely within reach if all had gone to plan with the gap between the division-winning BMW and Cascatău's Peugeot being - you guessed it! - three laps. Away from the ifs and the buts, the race, run in sweltering heat, showcased the team's great preparation as all three crews reached the finish line despite facing adversity.
The Romanian Endurance Series' calendar for 2022:
Motor Park Romania / March 5-6
Transilvania Motor Ring / April 2-3
Transilvania Motor Ring / June 25-26
RES 500 @ Motor Park Romania (Endurance round) / August 27-28
Motor Park Romania / October 29-30
Alex Cascatău: „Tackling the longest and toughest race on the RES calendar with Junior Motorsport proved to me that joining the team was the right call. The car was resilient all throughout the event and my team-mate Radu kept going in what can only be defined as Hell-defying temperatures. To come home with a top 6 finish overall is amazing, as is the fact that we now lead the standings in our class and have a genuine chance to bag the title in October.”