What a fantastic start to the season it has been! We are now six rounds into the fourteen round SEAT Leon Eurocup Championship and it has been such an experience so far. Having entered the season with extremely limited testing as a result of a last minute deal with BAPORO Motorosport, I’ve already had a podium finish and lie sixth in the driver standings.
Before the season started I didn’t quite appreciate the level of competition and the task that lay ahead in terms of learning the car and the circuits. Looking at the car first, the SEAT is vastly different from the likes of the Clio I was used to, with some 120bhp more power and a lot more grip. As a result of the power difference I’ve been trying to understand the amount of time which can be found on new tyres and the strategy required to preserve them throughout the race.
I started the season a little hot headed and quickly got into difficulty with damage to the car in the races. In fact in the first four rounds, I only managed to finish one race without any sort of contact! I’d like to say none of it was my fault but who knows.
As well as learning the car, it has been an uphill struggle to learn the circuits. I was confident heading to the first race weekend as it was at Paul Ricard, a circuit I competed at last year in Clio Eurocup. Unfortunately qualifying was wet and it was my first experience of driving the SEAT in the wet and so to qualify ninth out of 30 plus cars was relatively reasonable I thought.
I also managed to score points in both races (top eight positions are awarded points) and but for being rear ended in Estoril race one, I think we had the pace to have two more points scoring finishes.
Putting that aside, I learnt some valuable lessons at both circuits, and received some very good advice from both my engineer Fermin Fernandez and my teammate Pol Rosell (last year’s winner) which has been visible in my driving and approach to the races.
Heading to Silverstone I was looking forward to fighting on my home turf, despite having never driven the new GP circuit! Nevertheless, I continued to improve my qualifying and race performances to qualify in my highest position to date (fifth) and scored my first podium of the season (second in race two). Having finished in the top four in both races, I scored a healthy sum of points and lie sixth in the championship and I’m only six points behind fourth and fifth in the standings who are joint.
Looking at the championship itself, I have been amazed with the determination of SEAT to ensure everyone is on a level playing field, and also the efforts that go into promoting the drivers, teams and series. There are fantastic provisions in place to spread word about the series on social media and encouragement on the drivers to be pro-active.
The championships’ photographers and media team also create some amazing pictures and footage, all of which is great for fans and sponsors. Being the only British driver in the series, I have been gladly flying the flag for SEAT in the UK and can’t believe more of my compatriots haven’t considered the series.
I really saw all the efforts come to light at the Silverstone weekend as I had the opportunity to take the SEAT UK guests around the circuit in both the race car and round going version on Saturday and Sunday. I also got tasked with doing some pretty awesome filming in car and also out of the car to capture a day in my racing life. Hopefully I can get myself in to do a few more things like this as it was brilliant fun and great exposure for me. A couple of the videos are here:
Back to the racing though, with four race weekends to go, I know it is going to be a challenge to achieve my aim of finishing in the top five of the championship because I will be racing at two circuits I have never been to (Monza and Red Bull Ring).
I am confident however that my Clio Eurocup podium at Nurburgring last year and some pre-season testing at Catalunya will give me the experience I need to replicate my achievement at Silverstone!
Whatever happens, you can find out all about it here on my TCF blog and can see all the action live on the SEAT YouTube channel……