Jordan King battled against persistent tyre-warming woes in his first competitive outing of 2012 to come away with a podium finish in the Formula Renault Northern European Cup curtain-raiser at Hockenheim – and with his reputation as a title contender very much enhanced.
With no official pre-season running and having not been to Hockenheim since his maiden test there towards the end of 2011, Jordan returned to the famous German Grand Prix venue not quite knowing where he would shake out in the pecking-order. Right from the outset, he would be a leading protagonist.
“It’s an enjoyable circuit to drive, with some tricky corners and several overtaking opportunities,” revealed the talented young Warwickshire single-seater ace. “That makes it fun to race around, and it didn’t take particularly long to settle back into it in practice. The field was massive, and the top ten were all extremely fast – most of the European front-runners were there, so it was never going to be easy.”
Be that as it may, Jordan mastered the wet-but-drying track surface during qualifying to seal a superb third spot on the 39-strong starting grid for race one – both top Brit and comfortably best-placed of the six Manor MP Motorsport entrants – with the only two drivers ahead of him benefitting from better conditions right at the very end of the session.
“We struggled all weekend to get the tyres up to temperature sufficiently quickly, so I wasn’t able to pressurise the top two for the first few laps,” recalled the highly-rated Stoneleigh-based speed demon of the opening encounter. “After the car came on, I moved up into second but then it began to rain and the race was stopped because quite a few drivers crashed.
“We had the same scenario again with the tyres at the re-start, which meant I was unable to make any impression on the leader. I was happy to get a podium finish and good points to start the season, but just a little disappointed we weren’t able to push as early as we needed to.”
With the combination of slick tyres and a wet track surface invariably highlighting which drivers possess the best car control, Jordan excelled, revelling in the unique challenge and lapping less than a tenth of a second adrift of the outright benchmark. Sadly, from seventh on the grid in race two, his tyre troubles would return to haunt him.
“I made up two positions at the start into fifth, but then as I went for a move on the driver in fourth, it looked like he was going to turn in on me, so I was a little bit hesitant and that caused me to run wide, costing me a couple of places,” recounted the 18-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star and MSA Academy member. “I got one of them back when somebody ahead spun, before the safety car came out because there were a number of people off in the barriers.
“At the re-start, we then had the same problem again with the tyres, and although I was gaining on the guys in front by the end, it was too late. Fifth place represented more good points, but we had the pace for another podium.”
A succession of ultra-competitive lap times ably bore that conviction out, and Jordan would go on to begin the final race of the weekend from fifth place.
“I held position initially, and then passed two drivers in one corner as they were fighting,” related the Princethorpe College student. “They were both sticking tight to the inside line, so I outsmarted them around the outside to move up to third. Unfortunately, it then began raining quite heavily and I spun 100 metres before the safety car appeared.
“I had backed right off because of the change in conditions, but I must have just ever-so-slightly touched the kerb and it turned me round. Although I recovered it pretty quickly, I still lost three positions and when the racing resumed, it was difficult to overtake because there was only one dry line. I regained one place on the last lap when the driver in front of me made a mistake, but it could so easily have been another podium...”
Lapping second-quickest – impressively, more than six tenths faster than the winner – the end result might not have been what Jordan had been hoping for, but it has left him fourth in the title standings heading next to legendary Belgian Grand Prix circuit Spa-Francorchamps, and well in the hunt. What’s more, there were all manner of positives for the Hugo Boss brand ambassador to take away from Germany, not least his eye-catching pace and racecraft around a circuit at which he had never previously competed.
“I was disappointed that we couldn’t get the best out of the car, and our tyre issues hindered us quite a bit,” he mused in conclusion. “It was frustrating from that point-of-view, but when the car was on-song, our lap times were really encouraging. Spa is a circuit that I love and one where I have raced before, so we shouldn’t be on the back foot there – and this time, the goal has to be to win!”