My 2015 European Debut Wrap up
What an experience my 2015 Formula Renault racing has been! Firstly I would like to thank my family and management team for their dedication to me - the preparation, determination, professionalism and tireless hours of work to get me there has been immense.
I want to also thank the people who have partnered me on this journey:- Bausele Watches Australia, Beko, Betta Home Living, Allen Dodd, Jim & Libby, Daryl, Cooma Catering, Mitre 10 Cooma & Gullwing Racing Insurance. These people have given me the opportunity to race in Europe this year.
2015 has been ‘race experience’ – it was an introduction to racing in Europe, learning to travel around Europe, living away from home, learning a new race series and racing against some of the best young drivers in Europe, without the support of my family with me. Financially I was only able to compete in 3 rounds of Formula Renault 2.0, giving me the chance to ‘fly under the radar’ without the pressure of a full season; but my expectations were quite high and it was challenging with the positions I found myself in. This is something I had to learn from and channel it into positive energy which was quite hard at times; looking at the big picture - that this was all about setting myself up for next year in European racing - was the main focus.
I was consistently improving with every outing I had, as many of my competitors had a minimum of at least 7 months experience in the Formula Renault cars; for some of the front-runners it was their 2nd or 3rd year in the category. So, coming in on the later stage of the championship it wasn’t about running up front, but about building a solid foundation to set me up for 2016.
With my team Manor MP Motorsport, I learnt so much in 3 months it was unbelievable. I boarded with one of the team’s personnel at their home in the Netherlands. I learnt a little bit about the place I called ‘home’ for 3 months, and even though not everyone spoke English and my Dutch was very limited, everyone was welcoming and helpful. Dick & his wife, Pieta, were amazing to take me as a boarder. I met a lot of people and made some very good friends
I had started with the NEC (Northern European Championship) series at Assen; boy, this was a baptism of fire and I still have some of the burn marks from that! It really didn’t start the way it was planned, due to unforeseen setbacks with no proper testing prior to the race, this was about learning to drive a completely new and different car and ‘European-style’ racing , all in one weekend. So it was a bit frustrating to say the least.
Also with the regulations for the NEC series, there was only ‘official’ testing available and, as the summer break arrived, I came home for a few days. I had thought that I was a bit homesick when I was in Europe, but that was nothing compared to while I was home and realised how homesick for Europe I was!
Europe was like a hat that fits really well with me and I didn’t want to take it off . . . With the summer break over, I returned to Formula Renault 2.0, but this time it was in the higher ‘Eurocup’ category - not NEC. It started off with Nurburgring and a new engineer, Tony Shaw (he worked with Lewis Hamilton years ago) and a couple of new team- mates.
It was a wet and challenging race; many drivers had a horrid weekend. My final race was at Le Mans in France - this was a lot better as I had the same engineer and also managed to have radio contact with him while I was on circuit. It was a bit odd - I had expected radio contact with my engineer during sessions on-track, but had no contact whatsoever in the previous time out in the car. So upon discussion with the team boss, Sander, he enlightened me that was not something they normally do as many of the European drivers don’t like radio communication while on track. I told Sander and Tony that I was used to radio communication - especially in qualifying - otherwise I was ‘flying blind’, thinking things were OK.
Tony was used to radio communications and this made a massive improvement to things. In Europe, many things about a race weekend are done differently to back home and it is a big learning curve. I have enjoyed learning.
Manor MP Motorsport also have a GP2 team. I travelled to the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix with them and learnt about the GP2 series which is the stepping stone to F1 - this was really awesome. I know definitely this is where I want to be . . .
While I didn’t bring home the trophies I wanted to bring back, I brought back - more importantly - the experience and knowledge to ensure that I am better prepared for 2016. Now the hard work really begins, with trying to raise the budget for my 2016 European journey. Watch this space for future announcements.
My first Formula Renault 2.0 Weekend at AssenWednesday testing -
Practice at Zanvoort didn't really go to plan. Unfortunately, the car wasn't quite ready and we arrived late which saw me only get two 5 lap tests, then a final 10 laps. This wasn't really enough to learn the Tatuus F Renault 2.0 which is very different to an F3 car. This weekend's race meeting at Assen will be more like a practice session than an actual race weekend that I would be fully prepared for. Interesting times ahead.
Race weekend -
The weekend now over, it wasn't how I wanted it to be . . . I had high expectations of myself, even though it was only meant to be a 'learning and practice' weekend. On Friday we had two practice sessions and then qualifying in which I placed 22nd and 21st for the two races on Saturday and Sunday. I finished both races - 20th on Saturday and 20th on Sunday. With the cars all being the same it is really hard to gain ground when you qualify poorly. By the end of the weekend, I was getting more used to the car. The track was not the greatest, as off the race line there was a lot of sand and not much grip. It's been a tough weekend and am not happy with the results, but it is due to lack of time in the car.
It was definitely a trial by fire and character building, but now it is done and dusted. Looking forward to getting more practice and testing before the next round of the F Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, which will be on the notorious Nurburgring circuit in Germany in September.