Thomas Hylkema enjoyed a positive outcome to the penultimate event of the2011 GP3 Series at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium at the weekend, 27th/28thAugust, by securing a pair of strong race finishes despite a series oftrying set-backs.Although hampered by a tyre problem in the sole pre-event practice session,being badly baulked at the start of race one by a spinning car and thenhaving to serve a very unfortunate drive-through penalty following someconfusion at the beginning of race two, the Dutch racer still managed topost consistently good finishes - 22nd in round 13 and 21st in round 14."This was a weekend where I really noticed my confidence build", explainedThomas, "I didn't make any mistakes on track in the races, anything thathappened was through no fault of our own, and I achieved my aim of rackingup two good finishes. Our pace in qualifying was encouraging too so I'mquite pleased with the way Spa turned out."Testing for this event was limited to one 45-minute session and,disappointingly, the Tech 1 Racing driver's preparations were hit early onwhen a problem with the pressure valve on his left-rear tyre causedmonumental oversteer. Following a pit-stop where the issue was identified,Thomas headed back out on track but no sooner had he done so than it startedto rain.With little in the way of proper testing under his belt, the 23-year-oldwent into Saturday's qualifying session - which was wet - blind in many waysbut produced a fantastic run and was just outside the top 20 on the grid asthe session neared its conclusion. On his final lap though, a slight erroron the brakes into La Source prevented an improvement and so he ended thesession 27th fastest.Beginning a rain-affected race one from 25th on the grid, because of twodrivers incurring penalties, Thomas made a good start and looked set to gainat least one position on the run out of La Source and down the hill towardsEau Rouge.
Contact between a couple of cars just ahead though resulted in CallumMacleod being pitched into a spin directly in front of Thomas, meaning theDutchman had to back out in avoidance which dropped him to the tail of thefield. In the end, he finished in 22nd position after a spirited drive.Unfortunate mix-up leads to drive-through penalty...Sunday's encounter began with more troubles when, ahead of the formationlap, the dashboard read-out on Thomas' Dallara-Renault informed him therewas a hydraulic problem. In order to try and rectify the issue, whichaffected the clutch, he shut down the system and fired back up again but thewarning hadn't cleared.Retrying the shut-down, this time the issue appeared to have righted itselfbut marshals had already attempted to push Thomas' car as the rest of thegrid pulled away onto the installation lap. Radioing back to his team to askwhether he should start from the pitlane or join the back of the grid, aftersome deliberation and confusion he was told to follow the train of cars andstart at the rear.This wasn't agreed with by race officials though - they deemed his startshould have been from the pitlane as Thomas initially thought. He wastherefore served with a drive-through penalty which ruined his chances of amidfield challenge. Even so, he drove well and finished in 21st position."We didn't have a chance to work on anything in the practice session withthe tyre valve problem but qualifying started well, I adjusted to theconditions and improved a lot", said Thomas, "The track started to dry andthe team asked if I wanted slicks but as I was still finding more time Iwanted to stay on the wets. I made a slight mistake on my last lap though sodidn't go quicker at the end."In the first race I made a reasonably good start and held a good positionthrough the first corner and down the hill to Eau Rouge but two cars aheadclashed and one of them spun in front of me so I had to avoid it and droppedto last. After that I just concentrated on getting as much experience as Icould and I was quite pleased with how things went. We've had quite a fewtechnical problems this year already so it was really frustrating to get thehydraulic pressure warning in race two...these things happen!"Just one more event now remains on the GP3 Series schedule with theworld-famous Autodromo Nazionale di Monza hosting the final two rounds ofthe season on 10th/11th September.