Jerez WSR: The paddock notes and reflections

Formula Renault 3.5 appeared for the final time as part of the World Series by Renault at the final round of the 2015 championship in Jerez. It was, in many ways, the end of an era which cumulated in the separation of RPM Racing and Renault Sport after a successful 11 year partnership.

There is no denying that the atmosphere was different last weekend and it was not the hovering rain clouds. Instead, there was a definitive sense that change was on the horizon. All members of accredited media and the press officers were noting all the ‘lasts’. The last Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup press conference with RPM’s involvement, the last FR3.5 race before adopting the new moniker Formula 3.5 V8 and the last time the crowd could enjoy the noise of the 3.5 litre engines as part of the free-to-view WSR package.

Rowland in a league of his own

2015 FR3.5 champion – the last under the guise of the World Series by Renault – Oliver Rowland has been a dominant and consistent force for Fortec Motorsports since entering his second year with the British outfit. A record-setter with eight wins in a single season, the British champion kept his team on top with yet another win and an additional podium on the wet circuit. Fully indebted to the championship, Rowland was quick to thank Renault and RPM for their successful partnership during Sunday afternoon’s press conference. “Thank you to all of you organisers, the media, and the photographers who, along with the teams, make this such a great championship” he said to rapturous applause.

De Vries breaks his duck
In 2013, the McLaren Junior Team secured a 1-2 in the shape of Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne. Subsequently, there was an awful lot riding on Nyck de Vries when he débuted in FR3.5 as the then-reigning Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup champion. All season, the Dutchman was consistent to become a fixture on the podium on five occasions. However, it took until the final race of the final round of the final FR3.5 showing to take his maiden win and  finish third in the championship as highest rookie. “Let’s get the party started!” shouted the 20-year-old upon collecting 2013 and 2014 champions DAMS Racing’s first win since Paul Ricard in 2014.

Orudzhev never far away
While he lost out on top rookie status in the final moments, it was a great showing for Arden Motorsport’s Egor Orudzhev. A two-time race winner and 133 points haul, it was a year to remember for the Russian. His calm and shy exterior hides a steely determination to win and he has achieved just that under the guidance of Pierre Gasly’s former mechanics at the Christian Horner owned outfit. With the Red Bull junior’s telemetry acting as a crucial aid, Orudzhev was far superior to team mate Nicholas Latifi in his rookie season. Since his stunning campaign, the youngster is now hot property but expect him to stay with Arden for a second year. This kid really is a worthwhile investment for the team and his main sponsors SMP.

Ellinas: The forgotten race winner
Tio Ellinas finished fourth in the standings this year but was not the talk of the weekend. A two-time winner in his own right, the Cypriot showed quite why Strakka Racing has taken him under their wing in both a team and managerial capacity. After several years of financial troubles, the former GP3 race winner appears to be back on his feet and with a likely future at the helm of the Silverstone-based team World Endurance Championship squad in the coming years. In what was a close fight all year, Ellinas was just two points Orudzhev’s superior all season.

Team reshuffles
We are mere days in from the separation and much has changed already. There are now 12 teams confirmed for the new season with three changing guise before the start of their campaign. RP Motorsport has joined DAMS’ successors Teo Martin Motorsport and Spirit of Race – formerly known as International Draco Racing – but only the latter is appearing at the post-season test. Matthieu Vaxiviere is providing some much needed experience to the new Italian-owned, Swiss outfit ahead of their formal début next year. While the Frenchman is not expected to sign for a full F3.5 V8 – having finished as runner-up in his second FR3.5 year – the team is performing well in post-season testing this week.

Now a new chapter awaits in the former of post-season running, hosted on a much drier track than the race weekend offered – there are simply not words to describe that rain. Vaxiviere has momentarily ditched the notable back and gold colours of Lotus for a plain, white car. Orudzhev and Pons Racing newcomer Yu Kanamaru have been the new team’s greatest threat this week. After a weekend of finals, it is time to introduce a week of ‘firsts’ for the RPM-endorsed championship. When the new championship begins at Moorland, Aragon in 2016, one of a 22-strong grid will become the inaugural F3.5 V8 champion.

More from the weekend:
–  RPM announces provisional 2016 F3.5 V8 calendar (Crash.net)
Watch the races (Renault Sport Media)
– All new stories/race reports (Crash.net)
The new F3.5 V8 Twitter feed (Twitter)

As always, I extend my gratitude and thanks to a group of people who make these weekends possible. To Renault Sport, RPM Racing, Crash.net and the World Series by Renault, I will be eternally grateful for their consistent hospitality and belief. I know I will see all of you again one day. It is not farewell, it is just goodbye for now. With the end of an era comes the start of a new chapter.

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