Van der Drift's NEC Formula Renault championship chances scuttled by fellow Kiwi Salzburg, Austria, 14 September 2006 -- Chris van der Drift's target last weekend at the Salzburgring in Austria was to re-secure the championship lead in the...
Van der Drift's NEC Formula Renault championship chances scuttled by fellow Kiwi
Salzburg, Austria, 14 September 2006 -- Chris van der Drift's target last weekend at the Salzburgring in Austria was to re-secure the championship lead in the final round of the Northern European Formula Renault championship from Portuguese rival Felipe Albuquerque. However the chance of regaining the title was taken away from the 20 year old Kiwi driver after he took a hit from behind by Red Bull driver, and fellow Kiwi, Brendan Hartley in the first corner and first race of the weekend. Overall, Van der Drift finished the NEC Formula Renault championship season in second position and best "rookie".
Despite the fact that the New Zealander had never driven on the Salzburgring, the weekend commencing Friday started well. With a second quickest timed lap in free practice to Sebastien Buemi and quicker than Albuquerque, it was a good start. As the Kiwi needed to make up seventeen points on Albuquerque, it was important to be quicker than the Portuguese driver.
Saturday's qualifying sessions however proved to be significant as for the first time troubles emerged. Van der Drift commenced the two twenty minute qualifying sessions with high expectations, however in the last four minutes of the first session two of the upper bolts attaching the left rear wheel assembly to the cars gearbox parted company, resulting in a very slow drive back to the pits for repairs. Unfortunately the break occurred just as Van der Drift was to commence a hot qualifying lap, leaving him with a fourth best qualifying time in an earlier lap. In the ten minute pause between sessions the car was repaired and with three minutes of the second session still to run, the JD Motorsport car veered off the track, this time with a mechanical failure in the right front of the car. Again there was nothing more than a grid four start position.
The championship was however decided in the first race of the weekend. Van der Drift's chief rival, Albuquerque, started beside him on the grid, but Van der Drift was able to go outside him and pass towards the first corner. However this was short lived as fellow Kiwi Brendon Hartley hit Van der Drift's car from behind damaging the rear wing and bending the left rear wheel supports, necessitating a visit to the pits for repairs. Once repairs were made and a new rear wing fitted the New Zealander returned to the circuit with the hope of salvaging some points, and with an outside chance that his rival might experience problems also. However this was not to be the case and Van der Drift passed the finish in twelfth position. The difference in points between the two rivals was two points too much and therefore it was impossible for Van der Drift still to become champion.
In the second race the Kiwi started in fourth position and finished in the same position. In spite of a disappointing weekend with mechanical problems the talented New Zealander finished as best "rookie" driver and second overall in the new Northern European Championship, with four victories.
Chris van der Drift: "I came so close to winning and for the championship to finish in this way is really disappointing. I couldn't do anything, but that is how it is. I am now totally focused on the more important championship, the Eurocup. At the moment I have the lead in this super competitive championship and who knows what might happen there. I really want to thank my team, JD Motorsport, Alberto my mechanic, and Roberto my engineer for the commitment and encouragement they have given me over the season. But being second overall is a great result especially for a 'rookie' and it has made people wake up to who I am."
Chris van der Drift is proud to be one of New Zealand motor racing's Black Bullets. To find out more about our Black Bullets go to www.blackbullets.com
Chris van der Drift drives for the Italian race-team JD Motorsport, based in Vespolate west of Milano in Italy.