King's Formula Renault debut a bruising experience - but yields 'a lot of positives' Everything was looking set for karting graduate Jordan King to show a clean pair of heels - or racing boots, perhaps - to some of his more ...
King's Formula Renault debut a bruising experience - but yields 'a lot of positives'
Everything was looking set for karting graduate Jordan King to show a clean pair of heels - or racing boots, perhaps - to some of his more experienced counterparts on his competitive Formula Renault UK Winter Series debut at Snetterton, but although a pre-weekend practice accident turned the event into rather a bruising experience, he left again with an encouraging top ten finish to his name and 'a lot of positives' for the future.
Having been forced to skip testing the previous week due to a prior commitment - the successful conclusion of his 2010 international karting campaign in Egypt - Jordan found himself at an immediate disadvantage when he arrived at Snetterton, with his only previous track time around the demanding Norfolk circuit having come in older machinery and a year earlier.
After determinedly working his way down to a scant two or three tenths of a second shy of the leading benchmark during pre-weekend practice and reporting that 'everything was sweet', the highly-rated young Warwickshire star then bolted on a new set of rubber on Thursday and was looking even swifter still.
Unfortunately, enthusiastically pushing just a little too hard, too soon on tyres that weren't yet fully up to temperature, he subsequently lost control of his Manor Motorsport single-seater at the end of the back straight and it spat him off sideways and sent him bouncing violently across the grass.
"I was confident in the speed we had," the 16-year-old revealed, "but equally I knew it was going to be difficult and that I couldn't underestimate anyone, so I was just aiming to go into it and give it my all. It took me a few laps initially to re-acclimatise to the circuit, and to re-adjust from karting the previous weekend. I like Snetterton; it looks fairly simple on paper, but it's actually quite difficult to master.
"The accident really shook me up, though - my back, neck and ribs are still hurting now - and with losing track time as a result it meant we were a further half-a-day down on everyone else, on top of what we had missed the previous week. We had been looking really good pace-wise until then, but the accident just knocked my confidence and dropped me down into the middle of the field.
"It was hard to get back into it again on Friday - both mentally and physically - and with my body hurting, that made it a lot harder driving, too. I reckon it cost me about a second in terms of lap time - a couple of tenths through one corner, which costs you another tenth down the following straight and so on. It wasn't a massive amount of time in any one place, but it all adds up over a complete lap."
In a field as close as it was - with 25 fledgling racing drivers all eager indeed to impress - that proved enough to drop Jordan a long way down the order. Still, on a wet-but-drying track surface in qualifying, the Stoneleigh-based speed demon was on-course for a top six starting spot and getting faster by the minute when he came upon traffic on his final flying lap just as conditions were at their best, frustratingly scuppering his gutsy effort and leaving him only 15th and 17th on the grid for the two races respectively, not representative in the least of his true pace or potential inside the car.
Despite the G-forces pounding his battered spine and the slippery conditions not doing anything to ease his aching muscles, the Princethorpe College student remained bullish about his prospects for the races as he knew he had the speed to move forward. He would do just that.
"In the first race the track was still slightly damp at the start, and I went up the inside into the first corner into about tenth place, but because that put me on the wetter line I lost grip and fell back down to 15th again," he recounted. "I then gained a few positions, and after there was a safety car period I settled into 11th and just stayed there to the end - it was good to finish and to have made some progress.
"It was useful to learn about the aero on the Formula Renault in racing conditions, too. When you get up behind another driver, you really do lose a lot of grip. When you're watching F1 for example on TV, you think it can't be that hard to overtake, but when you're in a car with aero grip yourself, you realise that it does genuinely make quite a lot of difference being in another car's dirty air.
"In the second race there weren't that many places I could go at the start to make up ground and I ended the first lap 16th, but later on our pace picked up and I began to catch people. The safety car came out again which bunched the whole field right up, and after that our speed was really good and I was able to overtake a few other drivers and finished tenth. By the end of the race we were really quick - I set my best lap time on the very last lap."
A far brighter end to proceedings than the manner in which the weekend had begun, it placed Jordan an eminently respectable tenth in the points standings and an excellent second amongst his fellow 'rookies' heading now to Pembrey for the final round - and having already spent a couple of days testing at the South Wales circuit, the Hugo Boss brand ambassador is in buoyant spirits and looking forward to the challenge ahead. Preparing to rejoin the fray 100 per cent fighting fit, the clear goal is to put in a much stronger performance - and correspondingly come away with a much stronger result.
"By the end of the weekend, I was feeling a lot more confident in the car and our speed had definitely recovered quite a bit," he mused on reflection. "I was much closer again to the level I had been at before the shunt, so there were a lot of positives to come out of it all.
"The team are really behind me and I get on very well with my engineer, Tony; it's hard for me with my lack of experience in cars, but it really helps that he knows exactly what he's doing and how to approach things to enable me to move forwards.
"It's good having four drivers in the team, too, because we can all share data and set-up information with each other and try more things out on the car, and we all push each other on, as well. Everyone in the team apart from me has had three years in cars, so they have a lot more experience than I do and I can learn from that. They're good benchmarks for me - and so far, I think I'm doing quite well relative to them.
"At Pembrey, I would like to improve upon the results I had at Snetterton, and I think we will be a lot nearer to the pace. Hopefully I can have a good qualifying session this time and start inside the top ten, and then aim for a single-digit finish in all four races. It will be important to be consistent, and it would be nice to end up as top rookie, too..."