Max Goff was once again the class of the field in the 2011 French SEAT LeÃ³n Supercopa Championship during its third meeting of the season at Dijon-Prenois, however a cruel run of bad luck meant the Zest Racecar Engineering driver left the F1 circuit with only a single top ten finish to his name.
Goff headed to the former French Grand Prix venue Dijon off the back of a frustrating meeting at Nogaro, where the quick Brit suffered his fair share of bad luck over the weekend. Practice at Dijon was spent trying out different set up options in his SEAT, though he was still able to set the fourth fastest time on old tyres in the 24 car field.
Next up was qualifying and not even rain shortly before the session could put off the 17 year old, as he enjoyed a strong session, as he explains: “We were quite confident going into the weekend, because we knew we'd had the pace at Nogaro – we just needed that little bit of good fortune. Dijon is quite hilly and undulating – definitely a challenge – but it was good fun to drive and we got to grips with it relatively quickly, and after just a couple of sessions we were pretty much already on the pace.
“We went out in qualifying on slick tyres on a damp-but-drying track, and within four laps we were 1.5 seconds quicker than anyone else, so we then came into the pits and sat out the rest of the session – and we still ended up fastest by almost two tenths. That put us into the Superpole session, and we were the only car inside the top ten not to put new tyres on. We went second-quickest, which we were really happy with, as it put us on the front row of the grid for the first race.”
The session preserved Goff's 100 per cent top ten qualifying record, though just like at Nogaro, Brigstock-based Goff had a race day to forget: “In the first race, I got a good start and managed to get around the outside of the pole-sitter through the first corner, but then we believe someone had dropped some oil down at the second corner on the formation lap – and when I got to the bottom of the hill there, I completely lost all grip.
“I slid off-track – as did pretty much everyone else inside the top ten – but because I was at the front of the field, I was carrying that little bit extra momentum and speed, which was enough to pitch me into the gravel. We had done so well in qualifying, and we knew we had the pace to win, so for it to all end so abruptly like that due to sheer bad luck left me feeling gutted for everyone at Zest.”
Fortunately for Max though, his car suffered only minimal damage, allowing him to start race two, albeit from a lowly 23rd on the grid. The MSA Academy member said: “I was so far back, I couldn't even see the lights and because of that, I got jumped off the line by the only driver behind me on the grid. I soon made the position back up again on the run down to the first corner, though, and over the course of the lap I picked off another two or three cars. After that, I just got my head down and concentrated on working my way past them one-by-one.
“It's quite a narrow circuit which makes it difficult to overtake, but I was able to keep lunging people into the hairpin and I came through to eighth in the end. We were really happy with that; we had been aiming for the top 12, because it's a competitive field and there were quite a few cars to come through – so to get into the top ten we thought was a brilliant result.
“That also meant that at least I could see the lights in the third race, and I got a really good start. I was sixth going into the first corner and then went around the outside of the driver in fifth. Later around the opening lap, I made a successful lunge to take fourth – and then I got my head down and began reeling in the three leaders. Four or five laps in, I got onto the back of third place – and then my tyre let go! Luckily, it happened as the wheel was unloaded, so it was just a case of pulling off to the side of the track rather than a big accident.”
In a weekend that promised so much, Goff was disappointed that he only got a solitary eighth place to his name, dropping him from third to fifth in the chase for the championship. However, he was able to leave Dijon knowing he was oncw again the class of the field and that if luck starts going his way, he could prove untouchable.
Goff concluded: “It was gutting, really, to come through from the very back in race two to what looked like it would have been a strong podium – or maybe even a win – in race three only to have another DNF. It's still just my first year of car racing, though, so the team is quite happy that we're on the leading pace – and there's no real pressure now that we've dropped a little way down the championship table. We're simply going to take it race-by-race from here, hope for a change of luck in the remaining rounds – and see where we end up.”