After a breakthrough in my season at Silverstone, whereby I took a fourth and second place finish at my home race in the SEAT Leon Eurocup Championship, I knew I needed to keep up the momentum to finish well in the series.
I was up to sixth in the championship standings and with a top five finish in the Championship being my target in year one, I knew I had to have some pretty big performances considering the quality of the competition.
Heading to the Red Bull Ring, the challenge I faced would be even greater as I had never been to the circuit before. To make matters worse, my weekend was plagued somewhat by a mysterious gearbox issue and I was ultimately left with my worst qualifying of the season. I was stuck with starting in 14th place for both races which really knocked the possibility of fighting into the top eight for the point scoring positions.
Nevertheless, I knew my starts had been good so far and so anything was possible. In race one I made a really good getaway from the line and fought my way up to 11th by the end of lap two. I pushed hard throughout but by the time the flag dropped, I could only make it to P9 and frustratingly one place off the points.
I was determined in race two to score championship points and the start was one of the most intense battles I’ve ever been in! After everything had settled, I had somehow worked my way into fifth by the end of lap three.
I had however sustained front end damage in the opening laps and despite maintaining good pace, Stian Paulsen was too quick for me as he fought his way through the field and he overtook me on lap eight. I managed to hold sixth until the end of the race however and scored some crucial points for the championship.
Despite the weekend starting off badly, we managed to salvage something from a circuit, which I had not previously been to. I knew this would be one of the toughest weekends this season and so I was relatively satisfied to have walked away with some more points.
With that in mind, I knew the next weekend at the Nurburgring was one of my better opportunities to score big points on the back of my podium finish there in the Eurocup Clio Championship in 2014.
As the weekend approached, confidence was running high. Unfortunately, the gearbox issue I had experienced at the Red Bull Ring came back to plague me in testing. As free practice drew to a close I could only manage p16 and my chances of a good weekend looked very bleak.
After a few intense hours before qualifying, my engineer and I worked hard on analyzing the data to see where I could improve, and also tried to find a solution to minimize the gear issues I was having when down changing.
After the first two runs in qualifying, I was still outside the top ten and so for my third and final run, I had just two new front tyres to use and a chunk of time to find. I knew sector one was my weakness but managed to nail it on the single lap. I also pieced sector two and three together to go 0.8s faster than I had previously lapped the circuit and stole eighth from my teammate.
I knew this was a crucial moment for my weekend as the reverse grid meant the top eight would switch for race two and I would therefore be starting the second race on pole position!
Race one however did not go to plan at all. I made a good start and after fighting to fifth, an incident with Fran Rueda resulted in me receiving a drive through penalty. I was so frustrated with the decision and my race was effectively ended. More frustratingly I had lost the opportunity to score points when some of championship rivals were experiencing difficult weekends.
It was tough to put race one behind me but I knew Sunday was another day and I had to focus on getting a good start if I stood any chance of taking my maiden win in the series. With the pressure on, I managed to get away cleanly off the line and lead the pack into turn one. Unfortunately my teammate Pol Rosell got hit off on the first lap and a safety car was deployed.
I knew the restart would be crucial and I timed it to perfection pulling out a 0.7s gap by the line with a further 1.5s to third place. With nine laps remaining I pushed as hard as I could but Mario Dablander used his ETCC experience to slowly cut my advantage to as little as 0.25s in the closing laps.
Despite mounting pressure I managed to keep my pace up and brought my Baporo Motorsport car home for my first win in the series! I was so ecstatic when I crossed the line, and it was an amazing moment pulling into the pits to see my team, family and friends to celebrate.
The win meant so much as it was not only my first win in the series, but it was my first outside of the UK. The result also propelled me into joint fourth in the Championship and with just four races to go, I am really pushing for more podiums and a top five finish in the series.
The next race takes place at Monza which is another circuit I haven’t been to and so with only two 30 minute sessions to learn the track and find a good qualifying and race setup, it is going to be a tough task to score well but I’m ready for the fight.
The final two races of the season will be at Circuit de Catalunya and this is a circuit I know very well. With this in mind, the stage is set for a big battle all the way to the drop of the final flag!
Stay tuned for more updates, and remember you can watch the races online here:
Nurburgring Race 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WemEiq-vgeU
Nurburgring Race 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RY89m8FRH8