Alex Cascatău and team-mate Radu Tămaș secured a second-place finish over the weekend as the Junior Motorsport Black Sea duo battled at the sharp end of the busiest grid in the history of the Romanian Endurance Series.
It was a bitterly cold rendez-vous for Touring Division champion Alex Cascatău as he and the rest of the Junior Motorsport squad assembled at the Motor Park Romania track for the first of five scheduled RES rounds. The format was unchanged compared to what we’ve seen last year, with the practice sessions all on Saturday while the qualifying sessions and all of the four races were bunched up together on Sunday.
Practice and qualifying
It was during practice that the duo of Tămaș and Cascatău realized they were going to have to wrestle the freshly repaired and (still) ABS-free Peugeot 206 RC. The 175 horsepower hot hatch was entered in the A2 class unlike the team’s two other 206 RCs that would fill an already crowded A1 category. Moving the No. #111 car in the less popular A2 class was a strategic call by the team that expects to see car thoroughly upgraded over the course of the season. For the season-opener, however, the car was bone-stock apart from the somewhat sporty suspension setup.
In spite of the often unavoidable lock-ups and a trunk lid that kept unlatching itself and flying open to the dismay of the team, both Cascatău and Tămaș were noticeabily faster than the other two Peugeots reaching the 2:05 benchmark despite the grisly cold conditions. Amazingly, Tămaș was about as fast as Cascatău with the former Supercar Challenge champion ultimately edging out his much younger team-mate in qualifying (2:04.5 for Alex compared to Radu’s traffic-affected 2:06.7 flier). Alex’s lap was good enough for second place overall (half a second behind Eduard Anton’s A1-class Lupo) on the Race 1 grid while Radu’s lap would see the No. 111 Peugeot start fourth in Race 2.
Never has a Romanian Endurance Series race feature a 28-car starting grid and this was significant when you consider that Junior Motorsport came forth with a team consisting of (mostly) circuit racing rookies, some as young as 12 years old (namely Stefanos Ladopoulos and Ștefan Niculae in the No. 133 car). Cascatău just about nailed the rolling start in the first race, rapidly tucking in behind leader Dani Oțil, in the A3 class Peugeot 106.
The first stint was marked by hefty code 60 periods, and featured only about 9 laps of green flag running. By the time Alex handed over the car to Radu, the race was still under caution but this vital piece of information didn’t filter through to the 17-year-old who blasted down an otherwise deserted track only to slow down on what would’ve otherwise been his first flying lap. His antics meant that he’d lead the way come the restart but, on the other hand, race control was quick to hand out a sizeable 60-second penalty to Tămaș and Cascatău’s speeding Peugeot for obvious reasons.
In the end, Tămaș kept his wits about him and defended well to cross the line first, despite the fact that the ailing brakes would sometimes throw the car into a spectacular-yet-costly slide. After all the penalties had been added (there were many up and down the field), the No. 111 car was classified 10th overall and third in the A2 class respectively.
The second race was, surprisingly, incident-free meaning that many of the drivers had to be particularly easy on the loud pedal in the latter stages of the 60-minute-long afternoon heat. In fact, it was race leader Dani Oțil that had to retire his thirsty Peugeot that ran out of fuel on the very last lap. The incident handed over the victory to the No. 9 Renault Clio Cup IV, Dragoș Tănase thus rewarded for a feisty recovery drive from the back of the pack.
Frustratingly, the third-place-finishing Peugeot of Cascatău and Tămaș once again felt the wrath of the Race Director as they received a 15-second penalty for a pit stop that was deemed to be three seconds too short. Another third-place finish in A2 was all that Cascatău and Tămaș got but, when a three-way draw was ultimately resolved, the No. 111 crew was classified second in the A2 class behind the No. 55 ASOT Racing Renault Megane (Pascu/Trifonescu) but ahead of the Franken-Logan of Dan Ștefan. Radu Tămaș also topped the Junior (under-18) standings with the other two Junior Motorsport crews in sixth and seventh (which is where they stand in the A1 class standings as well).
The next race will take place in the first weekend of April at Transilvania Motor Ring.
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: „I am obviously pleased to have finished second in the opening round of the Romanian Endurance Series and I believe me and Radu can emerge as genuine contenders for the A2 title at the end of the year. I must say that Radu’s pace really impressed me from the get-go, as well as his car control that truly belies his age and lack of experience behind the wheel. To say that I’m also happy that the weekend went by without major issues for Junior Motorsport would be an understatement as we’re all working together to improve ourselves in what is a learning year for the whole operation.”