DS Virgin Racing achieved a podium in Marrakech, with Sam Bird starting and finishing in second position, but not before a highly eventful day.
A strong performance in Super Pole meant Sam Bird was due to start the race from third position, but a grid penalty for a weight infringement moved Sébastien Buemi (Renault e.dams) down the order, leading to Bird starting the race from second place. A slick start from the leading pack saw early jostling for position. Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra Racing) retained first position whilst Sam Bird remained steady in second place.
The action amongst those drivers immediately behind the 29 year-old Brit began to hot up and on lap 15 Jean-Éric Vergne (Techeetah FE Team) passed Bird, pushing him down to thrid. When the leaders pitted but Bird and Buemi continued on track for an extra lap. The Briton exited the pits in 4th behind Rosenqvist, Vergne and Buemi. The additional pre-pit lap meant Buemi and Bird both had a significant energy advantage over the two leaders, and they proceeded to hunt first and second spots down accordingly.
When Vergne received a penalty for speeding in the pitlane, which he took on lap 24, Bird moved up to third. A superior energy reserves allowed Bird to catch and then overtake Rosenqvist on lap 31. “It’s great to get points on the board. There’s still work to do, but getting a podium is a win in itself”, said Bird at the post race press conference. “Up next is tackling Sébastien Buemi. He’s on his own level right now. Today there were 19 guys battling for second place. But I have some ideas as to how we can move that up in Buenos Aires.”
In the meantime, José María López started 13th on the grid, but lost a couple of places from his starting position during his first stint. Lap 29 saw the key moment of the race for López, with him passing Robin Frijns (MS Amlin Andretti) into tenth which the 33-year-old maintained until the end. “My target was to finish, gain more experience and get to know the motions of the series. I finished my second race with a point, so that’s a positive”, the Argentinian explained.
Director of DS Performance Xavier Mestelan Pinon pointed out that “we’re beginning to see the true performance potential of our team. The car’s performance shone through with the podium result. Marrakech was a more consistent day for us.”