Max Goff enjoyed a sensational debut in the French SEAT Leon Supercopa Championship, picking up a hatrick of podium finishes at the LÃ©denon circuit. Despite only taking delivery of the car a few days before the meeting, the 17 year old beat many experienced rivals to leave the weekend second in the championship.
The Bridgstock-based driver had his first taste of racing a Leon at the 2010 Spanish SEAT Leon Supercopa finale at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona and was set to compete in the 2011 SEAT LeÃ³n Eurocup. However with that series being cancelled, he was forced into a last minute switch to the French series, which runs on the same FFSA bill as the French GT Championship.
Brigstock-based Goff said: “The competition was really tough. With the Eurocup being cancelled, all the drivers have flooded into the French series instead. There's a real mixture of experienced drivers who have been doing it for years, and young drivers like me trying to get into touring cars.
“It was a big grid, so we thought it would be brilliant if we could just finish inside the top ten, especially considering the limited timeframe we were up against and only getting to shake the car down for the first time during the official Thursday morning test session.
“The LeÃ³n is a really good car, and with it having paddle-shift gears and just two pedals, that makes it a lot more adaptable for me coming from karts. It's got 300bhp, so there's quite a bit of power going through the front wheels, and the weight-shift is quite hard to get used to, as well. It's just completely different to a kart, and a massive step-up for me. Supercopa is only one level below touring cars, so it's a very big championship – and a very big challenge.
“LÃ©denon is quite an interesting circuit; every corner is on a hill, so there are a lot of blind turns to get used to. I just tried to get as many tips as I could from more experienced drivers who had raced there before, and I gradually worked my way up the timing screens and by the last test session we were fourth-fastest, which was definitely a confidence boost.”
Despite having no testing time before the weekend and having never raced at the circuit, Goff managed to qualify an impressive fifth for the Zest Racecar Engineering team. He then went on to enjoy some superb races, as the MSA Academy member explains:
“The first race was 20 laps in distance, and the longest stint we had done in the car and on the tyres previously was seven, so it was all a bit of an unknown! I got a good start to move up to fourth straightaway, though, and then with just a few laps to go I managed to overtake the driver in third. To get a podium was fantastic, and a great reward for all the hard work the team had put in – it all paid off, and it helped me to prove myself and show what I could do, too.
“After that, I was more relaxed for race two. It was a reverse grid for the top six, so I started fourth, but I got off the line well and by the end of the first lap I was second. I then just tried to maintain a steady gap to the drivers behind me, whilst not using the tyres up too much as the third race was straight afterwards. It was brilliant to get another podium!
“For pretty much the whole of race three, it was just a pack of cars at the front constantly chopping-and-changing. With two corners to go I snatched second place, which was really satisfying, and to end the weekend with a hat-trick of podiums was just amazing for me and for the team. Zest Racecar Engineering is a brand new team and it was their first outing, but everyone gelled together really well. I'd like to thank the team, the MSA Academy and everyone who supported me throughout the weekend.”
He now lies just seven points off the top of the standings, but believes a championship challenge may be out of his reach, instead hoping for consistent podium finishes throughout the year for a solid top five championshop finish.
Goff concluded: “To come away with three podiums would have been just unimaginable for us ahead of the weekend. Everything was so last-minute, and in truth, we were treating the event as a glorified test session more than anything else so we could get used to everything and build on it from there – but now I really can't wait for the second round at Nogaro!”
Zest team manager Malcolm Cleland added: “It was our first time in the championship and the first time we had properly worked with Max, and I would have been happy with top five finishes, to be honest. To get on the podium in all three races was absolutely fantastic!
“We're extremely pleased with Max. There was a lot of pressure upon his shoulders, but he performed brilliantly. He is a very mature guy for his age, he worked well with the engineers and the rest of the team members – and ultimately, he delivered, which was a real credit to him. The team was formed quite late, and it felt like a little bit of a rush to put everything together in time, but operationally, it all gelled well. We're just looking to move that forward now to Nogaro.”