Welcome to the next instalment of the 2012 Season Review. Heading on the flight to Hong Kong in May, I knew that what I was going to experience in that year would be eye opening, challenging, but most of all, rewarding – but nothing could have prepared me for my first night in Hong Kong! Eating dinner with the 25 richest families in HK, eating bird nest soup (sparrow saliva!) and mixing it with celebrities, personalities and successful businessmen alike. It was like nothing I had experienced before and it was just the beginning…
I was called to test at Zhuhai on May 28/29 (the latter being my birthday!) and we started our limited pre-season program (unfortunately my race engineer for the year couldn’t be present at the test so it was just myself, the team manager John O’hara, and Raul and Joburt, my fantastic mechanics. It was thanks to the golf day held at Hamptworth Golf and Country Club, organised by John Rattue and Nat Cole, that I was able to do this two day test. Things didn’t go entirely smoothly given it was our first time of running the car – but we managed to iron out a few issues and we were ‘ready’ to enter our first race weekend!
With support from VISA Global Logistics and BAM Motorsport Promotions, we headed to Shanghai a few weeks later. I met my race engineer, Andrew Winsall, for the first time on the Thursday – just before the first race. We came out the weekend having led a race, ultimately finishing 2nd to the 2 second a lap quicker than anyone Shota Kiyohara. I managed to hold him off / reovertake him for 3 laps in a row – but at a circuit like Shanghai, and with 6 laps remaining, it was an impossible feat but we still came out the weekend happy with how things had gone considering we had had significantly less mileage, without my race engineer, compared to the other teams.
The next month was spent meeting as many people in Hong Kong as I could – we had a radio interview with RTHK and Phil Whelan on the morning show which helped, and my average working week was about 12-15 hours a day, 7 days a week of networking and meetings. I managed to meet quite a few people in this time – and thankfully managed to put a business deal together (I can’t tell you all the details though!) which confirmed my participation at Round 2 of the Championship in Ordos, Inner Mongolia. It was quite a nerve wracking time in the run up to the event though as the details of the business deal took slightly longer than I would have liked!
As we arrived in Ordos, my approach for the weekend was just to enjoy the racing as I felt that in Shanghai I put too much pressure on myself – I had only driven 2 days in about 6 months and wasn’t quite settled in again. As soon as I went out for practice on the immensely dusty, narrow but fun Ordos circuit, I felt right at home. This showed throughout the weekend – 2/3 pole positions, 2 wins and a 3rd place (we started this race from pole on wets, but the two on slicks at the back came through to beat me!). It was the best feeling I’ve ever experienced – to be standing on the top step of the podium 7,000 miles from home, having made a leap of faith… I was the happiest guy alive. We scored 50/55 of the points available that weekend and we were now leading the Championship against the hugely experienced 5 car Eurasia outfit. It was even more satisfying that we won both races by over 5 seconds and set fastest lap after fastest lap, about 0.5s up on everyone! That evening my whole team were sat in the middle of the most bizarre street I’ve ever seen – eating the most extreme foods (OK, I wasn’t, but Andrew Winsall for sure was!), having a good laugh and relax after a great weekend. This is where some say I ended up pole dancing in front of 50 sweaty Mongolian men in a night club… But I won’t go into that too much!
I hope you have enjoyed Part 2 of my 2012 Season Review, in the next instalment I will be talking about the struggles of raising a single seater budget, a little bit on my fantastic partners, Choctails (www.choctails.org.uk) and also how even when starting from pole position and being half a second quicker than anyone in testing still doesn’t guarantee a race win! See you then.
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