The 2022 season of the Romanian Endurance Series has come to a close last weekend at MotorPark Romania. Alex Cascatău's chances to retain the title in the A2 class were still very much alive after RES 500 but not much came of it.
Racing can often be cruel and Alex is all too familiar with the curveballs that motorsport can throw your way, sometimes at random. With four rounds already in the back of his head, the Constanța native returned to Romania on the back of a successful weekend in the Ardennes where he and Thomas Piessens scored the Nova Proto NP02's first-ever win in the GT & Prototype Challenge. Now, however, the challenge would be different.
Alex would once again team up with Radu Tămaș for one last push aboard the Junior Motorsport Peugeot 206 RC that was in contention for the title in the A2 class of the Touring car division. The standings prior to the fifth and final round of the season showed the No. 111 Black Sea Suppliers-sponsored car leading in A2 with a total of 84 points, just one ahead of No. 34 AB Motorsport 2 entry and six ahead of the defending champions, the No. 268 West Competition Racing car. With six cars on the entry for the pair of one-hour races, the winner of each race would be awarded 11 points and that was Alex's target.
The weekend got underway on Friday with a few private on-track sessions. The car ran largely according to plan, having been given a makeover following the tough RES 500 endurance race at the end of August. It was during that race that the engine started to feel quite stale and the team tried addressing that by changing the camshaft amongst other fixes.
Friday's running yielded no major issues although the car didn't feel particularly refreshed and it was more of the same during Saturday's free practice and qualifying sessions. A 2:04.666 was the fastest time recorded in the first qualifying sessions which meant that the No. 111 Peugeot started race 1 in sixth place overall, beaten to the class pole by the No. 268 WCR BMW. The times weren't as good in the second qualifying session and Radu couldn't go below a 2:06.378 which put the car 10th on the grid.
After qualifying, the team got about trying to rectify all the gremlins troubling the No. 111 Peugeot. It was almost all-nighter for the mechanics who were still hard at work, both under and over the car, come race morning. Their efforts were applauded by everyone in the paddock.
The first race got off to a good start for Cascatău who immediately moved up the order. Sadly, it wasn't to last. The No. 111 was gapping the AB Motorsport 2 entry, the main rival in the battle for the title, in spite of an ailing motor. The gap had gotten up to over 4-5 seconds but then, out of the blue, a trail of blue smoke started pouring from the back of Alex's silver Peugeot which then dove into the pits as the engine literally blue in a huge cloud of white smoke.
And that was the end of it. Alex wasn't entered on any of the team's other two Peugeots and, as such, his title bid was effectively over and he would lose the lead in the A2 class by the end of the weekend. However, the maths show that Alex and Radu still retain P3 in the class.
It comes as a pale consolation after the team showed bursts of real pace throughout the year, often being denied outright Touring car division victories due to a litany of penalties that came as the entire operation got to grips with the series and all the regulations. Still, Alex will be back next year and the team as a whole will have surely learnt from its mistakes.
What's equally certain is that the tin tops have put on the best show during each of the five Romanian Endurance Series weekends this year with grids almost always exceeding 25 cars in total. Battles happened at just about every other corner, up and down the field, and the spectacle firmly dwarfed the otherwise pitiful display put on by the more expensive GTs and prototypes. In short, 2023 should be very interesting and Alex will be back in the mix with Junior Motorsport.
Alex Cascatău: „The final RES weekend was, a kick in the teeth for both me and the team. I had high expectations for these last two races as we had consistently proven ourselves throughout the year to be the class of the A2 field and our slim advantage didn't make me feel threatened by our rivals. Sadly, the engine expired early which, in a way, is better than to see the whole thing go up in smoke on the last lap of the last race. So at least there's that and, moreover, we'll have plenty of time to analyse what went wrong and to improve ahead of what will certainly be a very busy 2023 season.”