Jordan Lee Pepper underlined his title ambitions in the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup with a commanding win in the opening race of the season, which he led from start to finish. The 17-year-old South African beamed from ear to ear as he stood on the podium at the Hockenheimring, where he was presented with the trophy by Pierre Casiraghi (MC). The son of Princess Caroline of Hannover arrived at the presentation ceremony fresh from thrilling fans at the circuit with an eventful race debut.
Pepper’s second victory in the environmentally-sound one-make cup, having previously won at the Nürburgring last year, crowned a flawless performance at the opening round of the season. Having set fastest times in practice and qualifying, he crossed the line at the end of the 11-lap race 3.2 seconds ahead of runner-up Victor Bouveng from Sweden. Pepper, who finished third overall last season, picked up the first 25 points in his pursuit of the title won last year by Kelvin van der Linde. Pepper’s compatriot lines up in the ADAC GT Masters this year, where he tops the table after the opening race weekend.
Third place in the first race of the season went to Manuel Fahnauer (D). Jason Kremer (D) was the series’ best-placed rookie, coming home fourth. The performance of Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky also caught the eye, as the Swede produced a spectacular fightback from 13th on the grid to end the race in fifth place. French driver Lucile Cypriano, who secured her start in the Scirocco R-Cup via a talent competition run by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, proved her ability with a very respectable 12th. Victory in the Junior class went to Marc Coleselli (A).
Attention was also focussed on Pierre Casiraghi (MC), who earned the respect of his 23 fellow drivers by breaking the two-minute barrier in qualifying. The member of Monaco’s royal family made a great start to his first ever race, immediately climbing five places. However, he subsequently dropped back to last place after spinning off into a gravel trap.
Finding himself at the very back of the field, Casiraghi showed his fighting spirit to make good two positions. Among his victims was Doreen Seidel (D), who he overtook after a slight contact shortly before the end of the race. The 2008 Playmate of the Year crossed the line in 23rd place. After the finish, Casiraghi was greeted by Volkswagen ambassador Jacky Ickx (B) and Stéphane Ortelli (MC) – both legendary drivers had played a role in preparing him for his successful race debut.
Six-time Le Mans winner and Formula One runner-up Ickx also congratulated Pepper, who always looked in control under the grey sky over the Hockenheimring. After a good start, the South African set about consistently increasing his lead at the front of the field. Only Bouveng and Fahnauer were able to get anywhere near to matching Pepper’s pace once they had overtaken Kremer, who started the race from second on the grid. The action further down the field featured plenty of wheel-to-wheel duels and spectacular overtaking manoeuvres in the world’s only one-make cup with natural gas-powered cars.
The opening race certainly whet the appetite: race number two of the season at the Hockenheimring gets underway at 16:25 on Sunday. Jordan Lee Pepper will once again start from pole position, followed by Jason Kremer.
Quotes after race one of the season in Hockenheim
Jacky Ickx, Volkswagen ambassador: “That was a successful race debut for Pierre. I am really proud of him! He improved continuously from practice to the race. Having said that, he did start from scratch in terms of experience in a racing car. He made a dream start in the race and things were almost going too well until the spin. However, mistakes are all part of the learning curve. It was admirable and shows his spirit the way he fought back after that.”
#26 Pierre Casiraghi
Qualifying: 22 – Race 22: “Absolutely fantastic. I had a lot of fun on my race debut in the Scirocco R-Cup. And now I know how it feels to be leading a race (laughs) – most of the time I had nobody in front of me. I was obviously nervous at the start, but even more so when I suddenly realised: wow, you’re right up there. The adrenalin really starts to flow when you have so many quick drivers both in front and behind you. I will go on the attack again in race two, thanks also to the help from Stéphane Ortelli and Jacky Ickx, who have helped me so fantastically throughout my first weekend in a racing car. I would like to apologise to Doreen Seidel, who I touched slightly during an overtaking manoeuvre. Thankfully there was no bad feeling on her part. She simply told me she would take revenge on Sunday.”
#17 Jordan Lee Pepper
Qualifying: 1 – Race 1: “Victory in the opening race of the season is always rather special! My coach Lee Thompson from Racecraft, who has been supporting me since my touring car debut, played a major role in the success. He worked with me a lot during the winter, and above all helped improve my performance in qualifying. I made a perfect start and was then able to open up a bit of a lead over Victor and Manuel. Let’s hope for more of the same on Sunday. Compliments to Pierre Casiraghi. When you consider that he had never even sat in a racing car before, that was really an extremely impressive performance.”
#23 Victor Bouveng
Qualifying: 3 – Race 2: “My first podium. I am super happy with my second place. The start was good. For the first few laps I thought I could match Jordan’s pace, but he was just a touch too quick. Congratulations to him! Hopefully I can back my performance up in Sunday’s second race.”
#20 Manuel Fahnauer
Qualifying: 4 – Race 3: “Given that the tests in Oschersleben did not go all that well, I was really happy with fourth place in qualifying. It was obviously very important that I was able to make up a position right at the start. I had to fight hard to defend third place against Jason Kremer, but was then able to open up a bit of a gap when he made a mistake under braking. To start the season with a podium is definitely a great result.”