The reigning GT Sport and McLaren Shadow World Champion, Igor Fraga, took his maiden Formula Regional European Championship (FREC) win this weekend.
Brazilian Fraga has been driving in the championship since April, in a McLaren Shadow and Gran Turismo-liveried DR Formula by RP Motorsport F3 car. Last weekend’s races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria marked the halfway point: four rounds and 12 races completed.
Given the list of other racing celebrity names in the grid, Fraga had been doing reasonably well. He entered the fourth round in fifth place, behind countryman Enzo Fittipaldi (grandson of Emerson) and David Schumacher (Ralf’s son). Of the previous nine races, Fraga had managed to stand on the podium twice — both third places at Le Castellet, also known as Circuit Paul Ricard.
Of course as a Gran Turismo player, Fraga should be familiar with Red Bull Ring, the first of three tracks FREC will visit that are also in GT Sport. That certainly seemed to be the case when he qualified his #17 car second for races two and three, behind championship leader Frederik Vesti of Denmark.
Race 1 saw Fraga improve his best ever championship result. Vesti made a poor start, allowing Fittipaldi, Schumacher and Fraga to all challenge for the lead. Eventually Fittipaldi made the position stick, with Fraga just behind. Vesti and Fraga traded places through to a safety car period, before the Danish driver caught his Prema Racing teammate napping and allowed both drivers through. That gave Fraga his first second place of the season.
The second race was less to write home about. A first lap error, likely caused by light rain, saw Fraga hit the rear of Vesti’s car, with Fittipaldi leaving the circuit to avoid the incident. That was compounded by bad timing on a safety car, which meant he couldn’t serve the drive-through penalty and bunched the cars up. Emerging in 11th, Fraga did eventually end ninth, with Vesti winning his seventh race of the year.
Fraga made no such mistake in the final race of the day. The Brazilian jumped Vesti at the start, sparking a tussle that lasted until a mid-race safety car. Championship leader Vesti thought he’d pulled the place back through turn one, only for Fraga to sweep around the outside again at turn four.
The safety car period ended up pitting Prema vs. Prema, as Fittipaldi tried to take second from Vesti. Any hope that’d distract the Dane long enough for Fraga to get clear didn’t last as Vesti seemed to take the lead again on the last lap. However, on the drag down to turn four, Fraga kept his nose ahead to keep the lead. He took the checkered flag by 0.477s from countryman Fittipaldi.
There’s a short break in the championship now until it returns at Imola in September. Vesti leads the championship with 243pt, ahead of Fittipaldi on 188. Schumacher and Fraga — the only two non-Prema drivers to win a race this year — are third and fourth on 123 and 113 respectively.