European podium 'another tick in the box' for impressive King He may be only a handful of meetings into his maiden campaign of European competition, but Warwickshire karting star Jordan King is already making significant waves by showing the way...
European podium 'another tick in the box' for impressive King
He may be only a handful of meetings into his maiden campaign of European competition, but Warwickshire karting star Jordan King is already making significant waves by showing the way to many of his more experienced rivals - and a rostrum finish in his latest outing, he acknowledged, was 'another tick in the box'.
Though some had suggested 2009 would be a learning year for Jordan on the European stage given his paucity of experience there - just two one-off appearances towards the end of last year - he has always been adamant that he intended getting to the front of the pack as quickly as possible. So far he has been every bit as good as his word.
A superb victory in the pre-final of the previous round of the hotly-fought WSK International Series at Sarno in Italy - his breakthrough major success at international level - sent the reigning British Mini Max Vice-Champion heading to Castelletto near Pavia with his tail up and aiming to further demonstrate his outstanding potential. Up against 79 KF3 class rivals of the very highest calibre around, he recognised that it would be no simple task - but then equally, he has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
"I knew it was going to be hard," acknowledged the JRP Maranello ace, "but I felt I could do it again. We had been there testing the week before; it's the same layout pretty much as PF International in the UK, with long, fast straights but also some quite tight, slow sections. It's a real power circuit and that's where we had been struggling really on the test day, but I wasn't too concerned.
"When we got there for the race weekend the kart felt good; we were maybe lacking a little bit on the grip front, but we sorted that out pretty much straightaway. On the Thursday afternoon we were fast, but then on the Friday we dropped off the pace a bit. We did well in qualifying with new tyres on, though, and ended up fourth in group which was quite good. I was pleased with that, because although we were still missing a little bit of power, it showed we were quick and right up there."
Just over a tenth of a second shy of the best time in his group equated to 13th overall in the intermediate ranking, less than three tenths off the top spot. From there he would convert four third row starting positions into fourth, sixth, seventh and tenth places in his heat races, despite being fired off the circuit in two of them and left with much work to do to battle his way back up the order again. A fastest lap time a scant three hundredths of a second away from that of the race-winner in heat three sent out a warning of just what he was capable of.
"The aim for the heats was to get four solid top ten finishes to score some good points towards the grid for the pre-final," Jordan explained. "They were pretty fun races, and I was pleased to get four good results. As everyone at the front is so close on times - all within about half a tenth of each other - and so similar in terms of engine power, you have to make the time up in the corners. With the gaps remaining so steady it just tends to yo-yo, so whilst I would catch them into the tighter bits, they would pull away again down the straights."
With the emphasis thus placed firmly on talent, skill behind the wheel and cornering and braking techniques, the 15-year-old was proving that - lack of experience or not - he was every bit as strong as his more established competitors, and he would begin the pre-final tenth out of 34.
"We still weren't massively quick," he stated, "so I knew it would be important to have a good first few laps and get as high up as I could as quickly as I could. I was starting on the outside and got hit from behind in the first corner, which caused my engine to cut out - when I put my foot down nothing happened.
"That left me down in 15th, and I managed to come back through to ninth in the end, which became eighth when one of the drivers ahead got excluded. I was quite happy with that, because with everyone so close in lap times, it's difficult to overtake and make your way through. It didn't help, either, that my bumper had been pushed up and bent in the first lap knock, which left it rubbing against the wheel throughout the race."
A better fastest lap than the winner this time nonetheless went to show that the pace was most definitely there - damage or no - and beginning the all-important grand final from eighth place, hopes were high. Justifiably so.
"We were still lacking a little bit of power, but I was hoping to finish in the top five," the Harbury-based speed merchant reflected. "I was on the outside of the grid again and didn't get a great start, so I conceded quite a few places there. After that I began to work my way through and I got up to third. I managed to pull a gap out over the drivers behind me and caught the leaders up with a handful of laps to go. I was lapping two tenths quicker than anyone else on the track; the kart felt good and I was driving well.
"I got by into second with two laps to go, but he got me back again before the end of the race and I had to settle for third in the end. I think if the two leaders had started to battle each other I could maybe have stood a chance of doing better; even when they weren't fighting, I was taking consistently two or three tenths a lap out of them. It was still my best result in a WSK grand final, though, my first podium and another step forward. I was very happy; it felt really good. Now I just want to keep moving forward every weekend."
Just a second off the win in the end and with the honour of fastest lap and both top Brit and top Maranello driver to his credit - 'another tick in the box', he joked - the highest step of the podium, assuredly, will come. The pair ahead of him at the chequered flag - Nyck de Vries and Carlos Sainz Jnr - each have more than a year's experience of KF3 racing in Europe, whereas Jordan has just six meetings under his belt.
Looking ahead now to round four of seven on the 2009 WSK schedule at Genk in Belgium - a circuit he knows very well from a number of starring appearances there in Formula Kart Stars, the same series that first set none other than defending Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton on the fast track to future glory - the Repton School pupil is lying a challenging fifth in the points standings, and knows that he is getting better by the race.
"If we keep getting the results we can close the gap a bit," he affirmed. "The aim is just to get as far up as we can."