Vallelunga, Italy (October 15, 2013) — Although the Vallelunga circuit, which is located northeast of Rome in Italy, presented several challenges to American Michael Lewis this past weekend, he managed to fight valiantly over the three races of the ninth round of the 2013 FIA F3 European Championship, and earned a 10th-place finish in the weekend’s third race.
Although this weekend marked the first time the FIA Formula 3 European Championship visited the 4.085-kilometer Vallelunga Piero Taruffi Racing Circuit, Michael Lewis is a veteran of the Italian track, where he competed in the 2011 Formula 3 Italia series.
Due to scheduling conflicts with the race track, the ninth round of the 2013 FIA Formula 3 European Championship had a more condensed schedule than normal, with practice, qualifying and the weekend’s first race taking place on Saturday, October 12. Races 2 and 3 of the weekend were scheduled for Sunday, October 13.
Saturday began with 27 Formula 3 drivers taking the track in the morning for two 40-minute free practice sessions. However, rain dampened the track, so the cars were fitted with wet tires. During the session, the rain stopped with the sun appearing, and about two-thirds of the field drove into pit lane to replace their wet tires with racing slicks. Driving the K&N Engineering and Eibach Springs-sponsored orange kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport Dallara F312 with Mercedes power, Michael hovered in the top 10 when everyone had wet tires on. As the track dried and drivers changed to slick tires, Michael’s times did not improve to the degree of the other drivers, and he finished P-16 at the close of the first 40-minute free practice session.
After a 10-minute break, the drivers returned to the race track for another 40-minute session. This time all the cars were on racing slicks even though the track still was wet. Toward the end of the session, Michael was given a new set of tires to bump up his practice times. With just two laps into his run, the red flag came out because a disabled car could not be removed from the track. Michael was unable to record a faster lap time with the new tires and he finished the second free practice session in 18th.
After a three-hour break, the 27 drivers brought their cars to the pit lane to begin two 20-minute qualifying sessions. Just as the cars were brought to pit lane light showers began so qualifying took place under wet-dry conditions. Early in the first qualifying session a red flag condition occurred, which substantially reduced the time left for all the drivers to qualify. Because the drivers were battling for the best position under a shortened qualifying session, Michael had difficulty finding clear space on the track. On the last lap, he turned his best lap of 130.356, which placed him P-20 for Saturday’s Race 1. His second fastest time of 130.913, placed Michael in the 24th starting position for Sunday morning’s Race 2.
After a 10-minute break, the drivers participated in the second 20-minute qualifying session on a completely dry track. Michael improved his qualifying effort with a time of 1:30.000, and would start the third race of weekend on Sunday in 17th position.
After a day filled with rain showers, the weather cleared in time for the 4:45 p.m. start of Race 1. The kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport team brought Michael’s K&N Engineering and Eibach Springs F3 car to his assigned grid position of 20th. As Michael anticipated the start of the race, the red lights went out and he made a strong launch. He immediately avoided contact with the car directly in front of him that had stalled on the grid. Even with this evasive maneuver Michael picked up a couple of positions and then passed another car. After the first lap, he had already worked his way up to 15th position. From that point on, Michael was at the tail of a four-car train featuring positions 12 to 15 that battled the entire race. However, when the checkered flag waved, Michael finished Race 1 in 15th position.
After the previous day of inclement weather, picturesque southern Italian weather arrived for Sunday’s final two races at Vallelunga for the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. Michael Lewis anticipated the extra effort ahead of him for the day’s races as he wanted to move up through the field from his starting positions.
“My kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport team and engineer Peter Flückiger had been working all weekend on my car setup,” said Michael. “We worked out a plan for Sunday’s races and I was excited about the opportunity to see what would happen and how we could finish the race well with this particular program.”
As the race cars lined the starting grid Sunday morning before a front straight grandstand filled with spectators, Michael placed his kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport K&N and Eibach Springs-sponsored Dallara F312 powered by Mercedes in 20th. A veteran at gaining spots at the start of races, Michael focused his attention on the perfect launch to make up as many positions as possible for a better finish. All the drivers kept their cars on their rev-limiters while waiting for the starting grid lights to go out. At the race start, Michael lurched forward and managed to avoid a stalled car in front of him. He weaved his way toward the fast Turn 1 right-hand corner passing cars in the process. Half-way through lap one, Michael had climbed up to P-14 and was approaching the infield left-hand hairpin. He chose the outside line as cars were bunched up entering the hairpin and then suddenly a driver swerved to the right and bumped Michael off the track and into the grass. Michael recovered but re-entered the track after the entire field passed by. Fortunately, the safety car came onto the track due to another incident. This gathered together the field and allowed Michael to catch the tail end prior to the re-start. Michael was determined to gain positions, and passed a number of cars to finish the 24-lap race in 15th.
After Michael’s strong performance in Race 2 coming from dead last after the incident at the hairpin, he and his team were optimistic for even better results in Race 3. Michael’s car was lined up in 17th place on the grid. Michael managed another perfect launch and headed toward Turn 1 passing two cars immediately. For the full 24 laps Michael concentrated on getting by car after car while turning competitive lap times. When the checkered flag waved Michael brought his kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport car sponsored by K&N and Eibach across the finish line P-10.
“The changes we made worked,” said Michael. “I had a car that was fast even as the tires lost grip, so I could keep pace with the lead cars. It was fun out there today with plenty of action on every lap as I moved toward the front.”
The final round for the 2013 FIA Formula 3 European Championship season will take place this coming weekend at Hockenheim, Germany, with the last three races.
“I am looking forward to coming to Hockenheim as it is a demanding track, but I plan to push hard for strong results to conclude the season on a high note,” stated Michael Lewis.
Michael Lewis’ 2013 sponsor lineup includes K&N Motorsports, Eibach, Mercedes-Benz, ASE, Cometic Gasket, GoPro, Bell Helmets, Puma Motorsport, Subè Sports, Braille Batteries, Klotz, and Racing Electronics.
For more information about Mücke Motorsport and photos to download, visit www.muecke-motorsport.de.
Meredith Kaplan Burns
Background information of the German Team kfzteile24 Mücke Motorsport from Berlin:
Peter Mücke started in Formula motor sports with his team in 1998 and nowadays it is the one of the biggest and most successful private racing stables in Germany and it is involved in the DTM since 2005 as well. Already at the first year in Formula sports his son as the newbie in the field, Stefan Mücke, got the title for Mücke Motorsport at the Formula BMW, and at the offspring series there were three further titles, last time with Pascal Wehrlein in 2011 at the ADAC Formula Masters. The driver from Worndorf got the sixth Rookie title one year later as well as the fifth vice championship at the drivers ranking since the access of Mücke into the Formula 3 in 1999. Attached to that there were two wins at the Formula 3 Masters in Zandvoort as well as position two in 2012 at the Formula 3 Grand Prix in Macau of the Swede Felix Rosenqvist, who was championship third last year as well and who fights for the European Championship title in the actual team as well. Now in 2013 the team has four Dallara Mercedes at the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, as well as six Formula ADAC powered by Volkswagen at the ADAC Formula Masters.
Car master craftsman, car and bike shop owner Peter Mücke is involved in motor sports for about 40 years already. The 66 year old got more than 500 wins himself and has been Auto Cross European Champion three times in his self built Buggy as well as GDR Champion eleven times (seven times Auto-Cross, four times circular track) and is still behind the wheel of his Ford Capri RS at some Youngtimer races, if there is the time. His good feeling for talented drivers made his team to a well-known offspring team that offers the whole range, from rookies and beginners of motor sports up to the advancement into the royal league of the Formula sport. Until now, six former drivers of Mücke Motorsport started at the Formula 1. And one of them is the threefold World Champion Sebastian Vettel from Heppenheim. Five further drivers that were engaged in the offspring school of Mücke Motorsport in different series, also succeeded to drive at the Formula 1: Sergio Perez (Mexico), Robert Kubica (Poland), Sébastien Buemi (Switzerland), Christian Klien (Austria) and Markus Winkelhock (Germany).
Stefan Mücke (31), who is the consultant of his father’s team as well, switched 2007 to the sports cars scene after his time as Mercedes pilot at the DTM. In 2009, he was the champion of the Le Mans Series in the LMP1 sports car prototype, in 2011 vice champion at the FIA GT1 World Championship and in 2012 vice champion with his Team Aston Martin Racing at the FIA World Endurance Championship. At the WEC, the Berlin is behind the wheel in 2013 as well and this will be his sixth year in a row as an Aston Martin works driver. In June he took part at the famous 24 hour race of Le Mans for the seventh time.