Valencia, 20 May 2007 - Chris van der Drift had hoped the opening race weekend of the new International Formula Master at the circuit of Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo (Spain) would have gone better. However this was not to be, with the New Zealander experiencing mystifying electronic problems from the time he went onto the track in the new race car on Tuesday (15th). The problems persisted throughout the official two day test session, into the official weekends test sessions on Friday, and resulting in a DNF in the first race held on Saturday, after completing only 7 laps of the scheduled 19 laps of the 4,005 metre long circuit. After a dramatic qualifying session, the Kiwi driver made a spectacular impact on the race field in both the weekends races, making up 11 places in the opening phases of Race 1 and 20 places in the opening laps of Race 2 !
The only thing that Van der Drift could do was to persist in his efforts while his race team did all they could to track down the elusive problem. However this also meant that fine tuning of the car's handling wasn't possible as the car's electrical system was intermittently turning itself off. The Kiwi's efforts were rewarded with a 9th quickest lap time in the first Friday test session of 45 minutes followed by a 7th quickest lap time in the second session, falling 0.429 second short of the quickest time. Not the hoped for results, but great under the circumstances.
Unfortunately Van der Drift's hopes of having the problems rectified quickly didn't eventuate and he had to go into the one and only late afternoon Friday qualifying session with the knowledge that his car could stop at any moment. And problems he had, destroying any possibility of a quick qualifying lap, the 2006 Formula Renault Eurocup runner-up only achieving a qualifying lap quick enough for 23rd spot for race one.
The very first race in the history of International Formula Master began just after midday on Saturday afternoon. The unleashed JD Motorsport driver demolished 11 of his competitors within the first lap to be in 12th position. Van der Drift was able to pick up another position before the electrical gremlins re-surfaced on lap 7 cutting off the system power. The Kiwi was now in the history books as the first ever driver with a DNF, not something that he wanted to claim fame too. In addition that gave him the very last grid position for the following day's second race.
Starting from 31st, the Kiwi driver had an extraordinary start to his second race. Despite an impressive race one start picking up 11 positions in the first lap, this was nothing to the New Zealander, this time passing 20 of his competitors in the first lap ! And finding himself in 11th position. A lap later he was 10th remaining in this position until lap 8 picking up 9th spot, keeping the leaders in sight. The lack of time spent on car setup now became evident, the New Zealander experiencing tyre pressure and handling issues, and thereby releasing his hard fought 9th position. After a two lap safety car situation in laps 15 and 16, allowing Van der Drift's tyres to cool down, and with 3 race laps left to run, he was once again able to attack re-gaining 9th spot and now with a realistic chance of 8th position and a championship point. However the tyre pressure issues re-occurred so common sense prevailed and the New Zealander passed the finish flag in 10th position overall. Importantly the electrical gremlins had been dispatched and hopefully never to be seen again, Van der Drift's team spending countless hours in solving the problem.
Team-mate Kasper Andersen won this race, starting from grid 4.
Chris van der Drift: "Luck was not on my side this weekend. I experienced major electronic problems that destroyed any chances of scoring any points. During the first race I was able to make up some good positions from my 23rd start position, and had it not been for the DNF my weekend could have turned out quite differently. The driver behind me at the time of me stopping went onto finish 6th in that race, meaning he had a grid 3 start for race two. In race two I had nothing to lose from 31st and I pushed like crazy. Without any noticeable problems with the car I was already 10th by the end of lap one. I couldn't quite believe that I had been able to pass so many drivers in one lap. I was able to just keep pushing and after the safety-car period I put everything in trying to claim 8th position and a point. Unfortunately this was not to be so I had to finally settle for 10th place. I truly hope all my problems are now finished. The following race in Pau, France, a street race, in two weeks will be very important for me.
Thanks to my team, especially my mechanic Alberto and my engineer Roberto."