For Jordan King, it was very much a case of making the best out of a bad situation as the Formula Renault UK Championship visited Rockingham for its eighth meeting of 2011 – but a gritty effort has nonetheless seen the talented young Warwickshire car racing rookie close in on sixth spot in the drivers’ standings.
Jordan headed to Rockingham boosted by strong form there during pre-season testing. He duly carried that over into Friday’s two practice sessions, but unfortunately, his eye-catching pace would disappear somewhat in qualifying – and to make matters worse, he was not entirely sure why.
“Rockingham is very different to other circuits in Britain with its banking,” reflected the highly-rated Stoneleigh-based speed demon. “There isn’t very much grip at all, and it demands a totally different driving style because of that – but I felt I had got used to it pretty well, and on old tyres in practice, we were fastest by a couple of tenths.
“As soon as we put new tyres on for qualifying, though, everything suddenly changed and it was really hard to get a lap time out of the car – I felt like I was having to push a lot more than usual. It was frustrating, because we couldn’t really put our finger on what was wrong – it was no one particular thing. We ended up fifth in the first session, but when we looked at the data afterwards, we felt that with a 100 per cent perfect lap – with everything on-the-limit – we could probably have been second and maybe even challenged for pole.
“I held position off the line at the start of race one, but then I struggled to keep up with the top four. Later on, I had the championship leader on my tail for a few laps, and with the speed he had, I was actually surprised I managed to keep him behind me for as long as I did. I made a little mistake, though, and ran wide, which dropped me down to ninth.
“I was really fired-up after that, and over the remaining three laps, I chased down and caught the driver ahead. If we’d had just one more lap, I feel pretty confident we could have overtaken him... Our relative pace wasn’t actually that bad; I was just disappointed at having thrown away fifth place.”
That pace was underlined by the fact that Jordan set a best lap time a scant eight thousandths of a second adrift of that of the runner-up, but his chances in race two were immediately stymied by a grip-less second qualifying session that left the 17-year-old BRDC Rising Star a lowly 11th on the grid.
“I got a good start, and everyone seemed to bunch up on the inside heading into the first corner,” he recounted, “so I went for the outside. It was pretty tight, but I ended up gaining two places there, which was good. I then got another two positions from a coming-together ahead, and over the first few laps, we were really on it and caught the driver in sixth – but his speed seemed to pick up as ours dropped away. From then on, I was in no-man’s land, just pushing on in the hope that something might happen. It was quite a lonely race, to be honest.”
Given where he had begun and the notorious difficulty – nigh-on impossibility, even – of overtaking in Formula Renault UK, seventh was an admirable outcome at the chequered flag, but Jordan conceded that ‘it was just annoying that we started as far down as we did, because some of the drivers who finished ahead of me I know for a fact I can beat’.
As he looks ahead now, though, to the final two outings on the calendar around the legendary Brands Hatch GP circuit and Silverstone – the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ – the Princethorpe College student and Hugo Boss brand ambassador is optimistic of better fortunes. Sitting eighth in the points table, he is only three markers shy of sixth, with fifth position not altogether out-of-reach, either. And there is also, of course, the intra-team rivalry and honour of being the best-placed Manor Competition contender come season’s end.
“We’ve been the team leader all year, really,” he mused in conclusion. “There have been so many races where we could have finished inside the top five and been the top Manor driver by quite a way, but for one reason or another, things haven’t worked out. Where we are in the championship doesn’t reflect the speed we’ve had at all – if we hadn’t been robbed of the win at Snetterton, for example, it would be a different story now entirely.
“I’m the least experienced driver on the grid, so I’ve always been on the back foot a little bit in that I haven’t raced around the circuits before whereas a lot of the others have – but I have raced at both Brands Hatch GP and Silverstone, so hopefully we should be able to hit the ground running there. I definitely want another podium before the season’s out.”Click here for the Official Renault Sport web site - designed and built by Racecar