Current SEAT Leon Eurocup contender and TCF blogger Alex Morgan took time out of preparations for his home race to speak to TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk about his season so far. The 28 year old Welsh man made his Eurocup debut at the season opening round at Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track and since then has been hunting his first podium.
To start us off, Alex recapped the season so far.
“It’s been really good so far. Obviously it’s a big change from the Clio last year, it’s a lot quicker a car. There is a lot more set up options and with a lot bigger tracks. It’s been a great experience.
“The first race was at Circuit Paul Ricard in France. I raced there last year so I had the benefit of a little track knowledge but my testing in the SEAT pre-season was a bit limited due to a last minute deal. I went there in high spirits and was confident of scoring some points.
“Qualifying didn’t go to plan for us because it was a wet and I hadn’t driven this car in the wet until that point. I qualified ninth for the two races and I managed to score two points finishes and get onto the scoreboard. It was a good start to the season, especially as the grids were onwards of thirty drivers, so it was impressive.
“Then we headed to Portugal, to the circuit at Estoril. I had driven it before but the last time was in 2008 in a single seater so I had very limited track knowledge. I qualified eighth for race one and with the benefit of the reverse grid started on pole for the second race. I was happy to be making progress.
“In the first race after a really good start unfortunately a driver went into the back of me at turn 2 on the first lap which forced me to retire. In the second race I started off pole position and led for a couple of laps but an optimistic move from another driver caused damage to the back of my car which meant I was fighting a losing battle for the rest of the race. I hung on to sixth for the points heading to Silverstone.
“Obviously Silverstone is my home track but despite that I’ve only ever driven the old Silverstone GP before. So learning the new sections in just two 30 minute sessions was a bit tough but it’s all come together in the last minutes of the qualifying. I’ve qualified fifth for the first race so I’m third for the second race. I hope we can convert that into my first podium in the SEAT Leon Eurocup championship.”
After two years in the Courier Connections Renault Clio Cup and the Renault Clio Eurocup, the step up to SEATs was a logical one. We wanted to know how he is getting along with a bigger and much more powerful car.
“Considering how much power and torque is going through the front wheels the handling is absolutely amazing. It’s very stable and forgiving, even at high speed when you have a moment and the back end steps out it’s nice to control. To be honest I have got to grips with it quite quickly in terms of the handling, it’s in the setup that it’s going to take a bit more time because there is a lot more you can play with.
“It’s about building a relationship with my engineer and understanding how the car is affected by the slight changes that we make. It’s been a great experience so far and I am hoping to learn all I can in this season to prepare for next year.
“It would be a bit naive to come into the championship with such limited testing and expect to beat experienced, regular drivers. Guys who have been driving SEATs for years. But I have a championship winning team mate, he won last year, they both have been great to work with, explaining about the car.”
Picking a team to work with, and committing to that team for two years, is a big decision. Alex was keen to explain the thoughts behind the choice which could see him ready to step up onto the world wide stage.
“Yes, I am looking at a two year programme because in any championship at this kind of level you have to be prepared to put in that sort of time. You are not going to come into it and beat that level of competition so I am hoping that what I learn this year will help me be ready to hit the podium from the get go.
“Baporo Motorsport last year had the drivers in 1st and 2nd in the championship and they won the team championship too. For us it was a no-brainer to try and race with the team and a deal was done, but it was quite late in the day. It meant my pre-season testing was limited but it was good to know that the car wouldn’t be a worry. We just needed me to get up to speed before we were fighting for the front of the grid.
“All in all I think we made the right decision and I am just hoping we can make the most of the team’s experience and my team mate’s knowledge to gain experience and get podiums by the second half of the season.”
Of course when the podium Morgan sought arrived in the second race of the weekend we couldn’t leave it there. Here is what he had to say immediately after the podium celebrations.
“Today’s race was really good, obviously it was the reverse grid so I started fourth. Yesterday I took fourth place which was a good haul of points but I was really looking for that first podium in the championship. I am glad it came so soon.
“Like I said before it’s difficult in such a competitive championship, especially with such limited pre-season testing. It’s great that it came at my home track.
“Obviously it’s a little frustrating coming second but another British driver won. I found myself battling in front and behind at times so it was tough but I am really happy with the result.
“I really enjoyed the race, the first could of laps were really frantic but I managed to get ahead of a couple of drivers I knew were going to be quite aggressive. I could see them fighting it out behind me. From my point of view I knew I had to keep with Jonny Cocker and there were a couple of laps I got real close but I couldn’t make the move stick and I wasn’t ready to throw away a potential podium at this stage of the championship.
“I stuck with him and Jonny had such good pace at the end. I had my mirrors full of Jordi Oriola and all in all it was great to come home with a couple of good points finishes, a second and a fourth is a good result for the weekend and I’m looking to the Red Bull Ring now to improve upon that. Hopefully by the end of the season I’ll have that win to join this second place.”