America's Ryan Tveter had a breakthrough weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. The 19-year-old, who raced in Star Mazda lat season, recorded his first two top-five finishes in the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup series with a fifth on Friday and a fourth on Saturday in twin 25-minute races that supported the Spa 24 Hours endurance race.
Tveter's previous best finish in his rookie season in the training ground for future Formula 1 hopefuls was a ninth in the final race at Silverstone last month.
“It felt great to have a lot of hard work come together this weekend,” said Tveter, who hails from both Oyster Bay, N.Y. and Zurich, Switzerland. “I was able to push hard, avoid incidents in really challenging and competitive conditions, and get two solid finishes. The experience gives me even more confidence going into the next round.
“I want to thank my team and Autobau,” he added, referring to Fortec Motorsports and the automotive museum and conference center in Romanshorn, Switzerland that supports his racing efforts. “Fortec Motorsports did a terrific job this weekend in extreme weather that ranged from typhoon-like rains to sweltering heat. They were there for me all the way and I'm really grateful."
Tveter's weekend got off to a great start when he qualified third in his group in rainy conditions on Thursday, earning the sixth starting spot in both races.
Friday's race was held under dry conditions. He stayed in the sixth spot for the first two laps, but then Fran Rueda got around him. Tveter was consistently recording lap times that were faster than the young Spaniard's, though, so he kept the pressure on.
He advanced from seventh to sixth on lap 10 when Andrea Pizzitola dropped from fifth place to 20th, and on the very last lap Tveter nailed down fifth when he passed Rueda. He was 0.709 of a second ahead of Rueda at the finish of the race, which had 26 starters.
In addition to the strong finish, that race included another very memorable moment.
“During one lap, coming into the final straight, a marshal was out on the circuit going towards a disabled car, and he tripped and fell," Tveter related. "He got up and bolted while another driver and I were braking from about 140 miles an hour. The car in front of me just missed him by a couple feet!
"At the time I was completely focused on the race and getting by the guy in front, but after watching my on-board video I saw how close it really was. Everyone is so lucky the marshal wasn't seriously hurt."
Tveter's focus continued during Saturday's race, which was held on a track that was damp in some places but with racing lines that were in the process of drying. A major thunderstorm loomed throughout the race and there was even lightning, but the deluge held off until the checkered flag dropped.
Race 2 began with a bang, as there was contact among some of the competitors at the start. Tveter was able to miss the melee and drive his way to second place, behind only Matt Parry.
Two drivers in Tveter's tow were able to pass him a third of the way through the race after his brakes locked on some damp track while he was trying to defend his position. Tveter was still able to keep pace and maintain a very smooth fourth place until the checkered waved on lap 11.
“P2 just got away from me,” Tveter related. “I got a really good start and I was closing in on Parry, but Raoul Owens got a run on me in my tow down the straight after Eau Rouge. I worked to defend against Pizzitola, who was also right behind, but it was too late and he got by into the next corner after the lock up. I was hoping for a podium finish but that little mistake cost me. I learned a lot and my engineer, coach and I feel really good about my pace and consistency during the race.
"Spa is an amazing track, but it's challenging and unforgiving," he added. "Some of my teammates caught some pretty tough breaks. The NEC field is intensely competitive and these races were even more so with a number of Eurocup series drivers competing at the Spa event.
“With the Spa top fives I went from 25th to 15th out of 42 drivers in the overall point standings,” he added. “Among the drivers like me who are just running in the NEC series, I'm now eighth out of 27.”
"We are extremely pleased with Ryan's progress as a rookie in only the fourth round of the NEC championship," said Jamie Dye, general manager, Fortec Motorsports group. "Ryan's technical performance and pace were outstanding. He pushed very hard and never lost focus in the face of some very tough competition and even some track obstacles."
"Ryan is an extremely fast learner and his work ethic is second to none," added Steve Lynch, manager, Fortec Competition NEC, Tveter's squad within the Fortec racing group. "Fortec expects a lot from its drivers. Ryan is definitely delivering."
The next event is in Assen on Aug. 2-4. Tveter is really looking forward to it, especially since he tested there previously.
For more information on Tveter, see his website at RyanTveter.com and interact with him on Facebook at Facebook.com/RyanTveter and on Twitter at @RyanTveter. He has a YouTube channel too. The team's website is at fortecmotorsports.com
and the series' website is at necup.com