SAM'S FORMULA RENAULT SEASON FINISHES WITH BOTH HIGHS AND LOWS Sam Bird, 19, Claygate, had a wonderful start to the season finale at Silverstone -- he qualified in pole position for both Formula Renault UK races. On Friday, in free practice, he...
SAM'S FORMULA RENAULT SEASON FINISHES WITH BOTH HIGHS AND LOWS
Sam Bird, 19, Claygate, had a wonderful start to the season finale at Silverstone -- he qualified in pole position for both Formula Renault UK races. On Friday, in free practice, he finished the time tables in 3rd and 6th and was not exactly over the moon. "I know I can do better than this" he said following the practice sessions. "I was fastest in practice here earlier in the year, and we have to carefully look at the data to see where I am losing time today".
On Saturday, he had it sorted, and managed to qualify on pole position for both races. Despite the appalling foggy conditions early in the morning, the officials did a superb job in catching up with the weekend's gruelling schedule in order for all racing categories to qualify and race on time.
Filming for ITV and a meeting with Damon Hill, President of the British Racing Drivers' Club (of which Sam is a designated Rising Star)) all took time during Sam's weekend.
On Sunday, the fog had lifted and a huge crowd gathered to watch the final two races of the British Touring Car Championship package. Sam's first race was at 9am and the track was somewhat damp from the overnight conditions.
"I have just found out that being on pole at Silverstone is not the ideal position" said Sam "I almost wish I was in second place where I understand the grip is actually better than on pole. Anyway, I plan to make the most of my qualifying , get my head down, try to make the best start and pull away to head both races. I'm looking forward to a great finish to a great season"
Sadly, it was not quite as easy as that. In race one, as Sam almost predicted, the driver in second place (one of the title contenders) managed to get a better start and lead the race. Try as he may, and almost up the other driver's exhaust pipe, Sam couldn't find a way to regain the lead and finished in second place. "Not ideal" he said, "but at least I have extended my third position in the championship and all I need to do now is finish the next race in the top seven to retain that".
Race two saw an improvement in the weather conditions, and Sam again lined up on pole position with high hopes for a win in the championship finale at the Northamptonshire circuit. His Fortec team=mate, Seb Hohenthal, lined up alongside him in second place, and Seb was the other title contender. Sam could only hope for overall third, due to a disastrous incident earlier in the season.
Again, the bogey pole position did Sam no favours and Seb got the lead at the first turn. Sam was cleanly in second place when a three car collision forced the safety car into play. The cars were removed from dangerous positions and the safety car lights went out, after which it would pull into the pits.
"I made a poor re-start" said Sam "I was really caught napping, selected the wrong gear, and Seb got a flyer, leaving me inadvertently backing up the rest of the pack. I was a bit gutted because I know I have the pace and had still hoped to get a win this time"
Despite a huge push, Sam finished the race in second place and took his position on the podium enjoying the Fortec triple celebration -- 1st in the championship for Seb, 3rd for Sam and winner of the Graduate Cup for teammate Fabio Onidi.
Little did he know that the only other title contender had immediately lodged an appeal against him for "backing up" the pack, "allowing Sebastian to get a victory". Team orders were blamed and Sam was obviously the fall guy.
"I had no idea this was going on" said Sam afterwards. "I am not a paid driver, I pay for my drive, so I am racing for myself, not for the team, and although I'm delighted that Seb won the championship, I wanted to win this race for myself"
Sam was, sadly excluded from the race results, despite his statements that he did not deliberately back up the pack, and the protest continues.
However, he goes away from his rookie season in Formula Renault knowing that he has had the most number of pole positons, fastest laps, wins, podiums and a lap record to his name, more than any rookie before.
"I am pleased with my season, but saddened that the championship had to be decided in the clerk of the course's office" he said. "I just have to move on and look forward to my Formula 3 tests and next year"