Jordan King proves overtaking prowess on 'challenging' Belgian weekend
Jordan King might have departed Spa-Francorchamps with just three further points towards his 2014 FIA Formula 3 European Championship tally – but the swashbuckling, indefatigable manner in which he achieved them left nobody in any doubt about his racecraft and raw pace.
King travelled to the legendary Belgian Grand Prix venue – affectionately nicknamed the ‘Ardennes Rollercoaster’ – off the back of a disappointing outing at the Hungaroring three weeks earlier. After taking the chequered flag a strong fifth in race one – right in the wheeltracks of the podium duel – the gifted Warwickshire ace then suffered an engine failure on the opening lap of race two, ruling him out of the rest of the weekend and delivering him a sizeable setback just as he had looked well-placed to come away with a big haul of points.
At Spa, King was a consistent top ten contender throughout practice in the fiercely-disputed series, underlining his potential by lapping an excellent second-fastest in the morning session amongst the 26 protagonists – the indisputable crème de la crème of young racing talent at F3 level.
Unfortunately, after repeatedly stressing in the build-up to the meeting how important it would be to secure a good grid slot in the light of costly recent struggles, qualifying once again dealt the highly-rated Stoneleigh-based hotshot a blow as a puncture left him stranded out on-track – and plum last in the pecking-order ahead of race one.
A thrilling 20-minute session to determine the starting spots for races two and three initially saw King light up the timing screens behind the wheel of his Carlin-prepared, Volkswagen-powered Dallara single-seater, but Spa’s notoriously changeable climatic conditions subsequently turned proceedings into a lottery and a misguided call sent the 20-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar, MSA Team UK protégé and former McLaren Autosport Award finalist tumbling to an eventual 15th.
Immediately setting about clawing his way back, King gained no fewer than nine positions within just four laps in race one, going on to cross the finish line tenth to snare the final championship point on offer following a stunning charge justifiably rated as one of the undisputed performances of the day.
Notwithstanding a knock from a rival that left him grappling with handling issues, race two yielded the same result – hot on the heels of the scrap over seventh – whilst a stall at the start of race three demoted the F3 sophomore to the rear of the field once more. A superb recovery enabled King to snatch tenth on the very last lap, placing him ninth in the standings heading next to Germany’s Norisring and upholding his record of having scored points this year in every race he has finished.
“It was a challenging weekend to say the least!” reflected the reigning British F3 Champion and Hugo Boss brand ambassador. “Spa is fast-and-flowing and a circuit that everybody loves because it tends to generate exciting, entertaining racing and plenty of overtaking. Eau Rouge is probably the most famous corner in the world and it’s flat-out in an F3 car, which is awesome. It’s just a proper drivers’ track, and immensely rewarding.
“We looked in really good shape after practice and I was confident we could qualify inside the top five, but then obviously we got the puncture in the first session. In the second session, we simply didn’t judge the conditions right – we thought it was going to rain more, but it actually dried out instead.
“That’s one of the characteristics of Spa; the weather can change so quickly and you’re never quite sure which way it’s going to go. Ultimately, we got it wrong and it cost us. I ended up the highest of the five Carlin drivers in 15th, which in the circumstances represented the best of a bad situation.
“The car felt good in all three races and the first one was really enjoyable, although to put in all that effort and still come away with only one point was hugely frustrating – with the pace we had, we should have been battling for the podium.
“In race two, I moved up into the top ten on the first lap but then had to cut the chicane to avoid an accident ahead and lost all the ground I had gained. I also picked up some front wing damage and a bent wishbone after another driver tagged me, which left me with wayward steering.
“It was my mistake at the start of race three and I hold my hand up to that. Whilst the fightback was fun, I would much rather have a boring time on my own at the front than be racing wheel-to-wheel down in the pack – this weekend was certainly the hardest I’ve ever had to work for just three points!
“Things still haven’t come together for us this year, but we’re not even halfway through yet and we will get there. All we need is a trouble-free weekend – and once that happens, hopefully we can start getting our season back on-track.”