Welcome back to my third blog post for The Checkered Flag. I hope you all had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year! After such a long time since round one and two in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I’ve had a long break and some time to recharge the batteries before round three in Santiago. The prep hasn’t stopped though… Let me tell you what I’ve been up to.
A Quick Trip to Bahrain
Last time we spoke, I was about to head off to Bahrain for the World Endurance Championship 8-hour race (I dovetail my Panasonic Jaguar Racing commitments with WEC). Racing for both series is a real honour and I find that both styles of racing enable me to enhance a wide variety of skills. Whilst they are entirely different styles of racing, the skill set you need is totally interlinked and I bring forward a lot of what I’ve learnt from endurance racing to Formula E.
Christmas break and some time to reflect
After racing in Bahrain I headed to Dubai with my family for some downtime prior to Christmas. Dubai is an amazing city and very luxurious so it was a real treat to just switch off by a pool for a few days and give my body a rest from all the travel and racing. 2019 was a huge year for me and the break also gave me time to reflect on all the highs and lows and how much I have achieved. I am so grateful for all the support you gave me over 2019 and it has helped me become a better and faster driver. I am very fortunate to be able to do what I absolutely love as my career. Bring on 2020 and more success!
After Dubai I headed back home to Penarth, Wales to spend Christmas with my wider family. I spent time on my KMT bike and I was able to capture some awesome videos of me thrashing around on the off-road tracks near my home. Go check them out on my Instagram… they’re pretty cool and give you an idea of how fast the bikes go. Given we are in the midst of Formula E’s season six, I was wary not to fall off and injure myself. I had a lot of fun at home and a great Christmas with my family. Now it is time to hit the ground running with round three of Formula E in Santiago fast approaching…
Preparation for Santiago
Before heading out to round three of the E-Prix in Santiago, I had a few weeks to prepare for the race. Given we have had such a long break between round one and two in Saudi Arabia, it has given me plenty of time to bring forward my learnings from the last race – and trust me there were a lot of them. Going forward, I realise how important qualifying is and given the one-shot nature of those races, I am now ready to go in hard, take some risks and assert my authority on the track early on. Also, I know I have the skill and ability to overtake – in Saudi round one I gained eight places and in round two I again gained eleven places (after the FIA formally announced the penalties). I have the capability, it’s now just about growing my confidence and electric racing finesse and this will come in time.
I have spent a lot of time in the simulator with the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team and I have been getting back into the rhythm of FE racing. I had a great day at the factory where I got a new seat fitted, which will hopefully really enhance my racing. Ensuring the seat is perfectly measured for me individually is important, not only because it ensures I am comfortable whilst driving, but it enables me to have better vision and general car control.
On the engineering side, the team have also been working hard to prepare the Jaguar I-TYPE 4 for the race in Santiago. I’ve been working closely with my engineer Phil Ingram to try and improve some of the features of the racecar. In Saudi, I had a few issues with steering, so we have been working hard to resolve those aspects. I often mention this, but the provision the team provide me with is great and I am so grateful to have such a vast support system behind me.
Otherwise, I have been training hard, both physically and mentally ahead of Santiago. Being able to switch off over Christmas was perfect in terms of resetting in order to bring forward a fresh perspective. Reflecting on the highs (and learning from the mistakes) of Saudi has enabled me to enter the next race prepared to take on any challenges thrown at me.
Racing in Santiago
After the bleak weather in England, the South American climate was very welcomed and it was great to feel the heat. The temperature was as high as 33 degrees – scorching! On Wednesday I spent some time chilling in Santiago and getting a feel for the city. The following day, the team filmed a bunch of content with Mitch and I in Skycostanera, a glass-walled observation deck, 984 feet high. There were incredible 360º panoramic views of Santiago and it was an incredible experience. We did a few shoots up there, followed by some more in the city centre. As always, look out for these on my social channels – I hope you like the content!
On Friday, the day before the race, I spent a lot of time with the team prepping for the race. We had a track walk early in the day, which was incredibly valuable. I spent 2 hours with the team getting used to the track, assessing the corners and visualising the race. I always find the track walk helps me settle my nerves and gives me a boost of confidence ahead of the race because I can figure out how I want the race to play out. After the track walk, we did a few interviews in the media pen and I spent some time getting my head in the game, ready to go out.
On Saturday morning, I woke up early and made our way to the track. When we arrived, I was immediately ready to focus on the sessions ahead of me. I had an in-depth meeting with Phil Ingram and we went through our race strategy and any ‘watch out’ learnings from the track walk. During qualifying, I had a compromised hot lap as I only just managed to cross the line to start my qualifying timed lap with two seconds to spare, which ultimately meant I was stuck in a lot of traffic. Had I had a bit more time, I might’ve been able to back up a bit to ensure I had a bit more space to do my hot lap and challenge for a place further up the grid, but regardless, the Jaguar I-TYPE 4 performed amazingly on the day.
After qualifying, I was eighteenth on the grid. As the lights turned green for the race, the I-TYPE 4 flew out the blocks. Over the race, the racecar consistently performed really well on the track and I managed to gain 10 places, coming in at eighth when the chequered flag fell.
I secured four points for the team, putting me in at joint thirteenth on the driver standings and the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team in at fifth on the team standings – an amazing achievement. Shout out to Mitch who came in at third and was on the podium. He had an incredible qualifying starting pole position and managed to secure 19 points for the team – a massive achievement. All the hard work from the team is paying off and we are achieving our season goals: points, podiums and hopefully soon some wins. I had a brilliant time in Santiago and it was great to achieve some points for the team keeping us in a competitive position for the continuing season.
I’m now back in the UK and starting preparation ahead of the next E-Prix in Mexico City on 15 February. I have some days in the sim planned and some training session to keep my fitness up. Going forward, I know I need to work on my qualifying performance, but this takes time and practice. Undoubtedly the weekend was positive and I will continue to push for the podium – it is just a matter of time.