Jordan King was pleased after he claimed an overdue podium finish in the Formula Renault North European Cup at Most in the Czech Republic.
The Formula Renault UK regular had proven his pace but been unlucky in terms of results at his previous two appearances in the NEC at Oschersleben in Germany and in Zandvoort in the Netherlands.
Despite having absolutely no knowledge of the circuit upon arrival in the Czech Republic, King made use of two practice days to run towards the top of the timesheets.
“I really enjoyed the track,” he said. “It's a fun circuit to drive. It has a blend of low and medium-speed corners, which allows you to actually overtake, and every corner seems to lead onto another, meaning you can size a driver up and position yourself through one turn to get the run on them through the next.
“I got used to it pretty much in the first session, to be honest, and we were the quickest straightaway. The car felt really good and I was driving well, too, and after Thursday practice, we felt very confident. We were fastest by quite a margin at the end of the day, and even though the top drivers weren't there at that point, we still had to beat all the others.”
Traffic affected him in the first qualifying, leaving him a disappointed fifth on the grid for the first race. Things came together in the second session, as King qualified second on the grid.
He lost out on the opening lap of the first encounter, but fought his way into contention for a podium spot.
“I got a good run down to the first corner, but then there was a bit of contact into turn two, which cost me several places and I fell to eighth,” he recalled. “I made one spot back to seventh before the safety car came out, and then I got another one on the re-start. We were really quick and caught the next group, and I sat behind my team-mate for a few laps. When he made a mistake, I was able to get past and then the driver ahead made a mistake as well, which moved me up to fourth.
“After that, there was quite a big gap ahead to third, but I kept pushing hard and set my quickest lap of the race and before long, I was right with him. With two laps to go, I went up the inside, but he tried to hang on around the outside and squeezed me onto the kerb, and there was contact.”
The incident left him down in 20th place, from where he would be forced to start the third and final race. Before then he had the second race, where he was starting from the front row, between the Red Bull-backed duo of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat, who were fighting over the title.
“My initial launch off the line was good, but then I changed up to second gear too early and the engine bogged,” he said. “That meant I lost out to Kvyat, but after that, our pace and racecraft were really good and I was the only one who managed to keep up with the two Red Bull guys throughout the race. The three of us were all lapping at pretty much the same speed, and I was never more than about a second-and-a-half away from the lead and seven tenths away from second, with a big gap behind to fourth place.”
King was enthused to be able to be close to matching the Red Bull duo and was also happy to bag a podium for his MP Motorsport team.
“[Sainz and Kvyat] are dominating the championship, so to be the only driver from a different team to stay with them was really encouraging. The team were really pleased with that – they hadn't had a podium in a while, and it was good to show that we can compete with Sainz and Kvyat, given all the money Red Bull are spending. MP Motorsport didn't have half as much track time as they did over the winter, so to be right up there with them was great.
“I looked at the various lap times after the race, and I had been about half-a-second quicker than the drivers who finished between fourth and tenth, and anything from one-to-three seconds quicker than the rest of the field. I'm usually pretty good when it comes to overtaking, too, so I knew something could be done in race three, even from 20th.”
King had some task ahead of him to get to the front from so far back on the grid, but he gave it his best shot.
“I got a brilliant start and made it all the way up to tenth halfway round the first lap – I kept weaving in-and-out of the traffic and going for gaps, and it all worked out perfectly. We were really rockin', and I felt like a lot of the hard work had already been done at that point – and I wasn't too far behind the Red Bull boys, either.
“Unfortunately, though, towards the end of the lap, I tried to turn into a fast corner but went straight on and onto the grass. It was down to a combination of factors, I think – low tyre temperatures, a bit of dirt on the track and I was tucked right up behind someone at the time, which causes you to lose all front-end grip – and I just went flying off the road, which cost me six or seven places.
“I got back on again and set about regaining ground, but then when I went to the inside of another driver, I don't think he looked in his mirrors, because I was fully alongside and he kept turning in. I was on the kerb and I hit the brakes until I was practically stationary, but he just turned across the front of me.
“His rear wheel hit my front wheel and wing and he bounced off me; I was able to carry on, but the tracking on my car was bent. Overtaking is always a 50/50 thing – you have to rely on the other person giving you a bit of room, but some people unfortunately don't seem to understand that concept.”
Although he was only classified 16th in the final race, King could take heart from setting the third fastest lap time, being the closest driver again to the Red Bull pairing.
“I was very surprised by how quick we were in race three – I hadn't even been pushing particularly hard because of the damage,” he said. “The two Red Bull guys have maybe still got a couple of tenths on us, but the speed we have now is good enough to start winning races once everything comes together. We've got nothing to worry about pace-wise – or on the racecraft front.
“We're moving forward, and that's really encouraging looking to the remainder of this season and next season as well. The results are starting to come – and if we can just have a good winter, next year we can really crack on!”