Chris van der Drift begins with supremacy in French street races. Chris van der Drift signaled his speed in the streets of the French city of Pau during last weekends International Formula Master second raceweekend of the season. After gaining...
Chris van der Drift begins with supremacy in French street races.
Chris van der Drift signaled his speed in the streets of the French city of Pau during last weekends International Formula Master second raceweekend of the season. After gaining the fastest lap times in both test sessions and qualifying in pole position, it appeared the Kiwi driver was on track to have a fantastic weekend. However a technical problem with the cars gearbox spoiled his chances in race one. In race two, after starting from 23rd position, it looked highly likely that Van der drift would still be able to salvage some points from the weekend, before the race was red flagged prematurely due to a sudden downpour of rain at the end of the front straight caused many drivers to slide off the track.
After taking pole position and both race wins two weeks earlier at the opening round at Valencia, the New Zealander again showed his form by taking fastest lap times in Friday's test sessions and in the qualifying session he was dominant, achieving pole position with a margin of over 1.2 seconds. An unprecedented result on such a small street circuit such as Pau.
The first race was on a wet track just after midday on Saturday. Van der Drift was fortunate that the race was to be started under safety-car, as in driving to the grid he realized that he could not select first gear. After the rolling start the JD Motorsport driver opened up a gap from his closest pursuer by over a second per lap. However on the sixth lap disaster struck. Van der Drift found he could not change down approaching turn 3 meaning the end of the race for the New Zealander and a starting position of grid 23 for the following days race. "I could have won the race easily, but the gearbox gave me problems before the race started. We tried re-setting the electronics on the grid, but unfortunately that did not help. For that reason we were lucky to start the race behind the safety-car" said Van der Drift. "On the sixth lap more faults developed in the gearbox which meant I could not carry on".
A difficult task awaited the New Zealander on Sunday. Van der Drift began the second race held over 45 minutes with a great start from grid 23. Although passing on a street circuit such as Pau is virtually impossible, he had moved up to ninth position after only 3 laps and had in the process passed 14 (!) fellow drivers. However making another pass to get into the points eventually was not possible, after many attempts were thwarted by the narrow nature of the circuit. The race was prematurely shortened with eight minutes remaining when the circuit suffered some heavy rainfall which caused many drivers to spin off the track at turn two. Due to the early finish of the race only half points were awarded.
"The beginning of the race was great. At the start I managed to pick off two drivers, and in the first and second corners I managed to pass more cars. When the safety-car came out on the track I was in ninth, and all that in three laps!' said a thrilled Van der Drift. "I tried several times to pass Fabrizio Crestani in eighth, but I found it very difficult. Then it started to rain and several cars crashed out, but I managed to stay off the tyre wall and found myself in fifth. The race was declared then, but the officials took it back to the last completed lap meaning I was ninth overall".
The following race-weekend is to be held at Brno in the Czech Republic in two weeks time. Last year Van der Drift finished on the podium twice. "Considering the speed we have at the moment and the great job the team is doing, Brno should not cause too many problems" said Van der Drift who leads the championship after four races.
Chris van der Drift is proud to be one of New Zealand motor racing's Black Bullets.