Cameron Twynham continued to make progress along Formula Renault 3.5’s steep learning curve at Paul Ricard last weekend (September 26-28), where the Briton was making only his third series appearance since stepping up from EuroFormula Open mid-season.
After encountering several new experiences during visits to the Nurburgring and Hungaroring with Comtec Racing, the Market Harborough teenager’s confidence was high heading to a circuit where he had claimed victory in last year’s F3 Open Copa class.
However, the BRDC Rising Star’s on-going efforts to adjust to the Formula 1 feeder series were made increasingly difficult by ill fortune both on and off-track at the former French Grand Prix venue.
Friday’s free practice didn’t get off to a great start for Twynham after an alternator issue limited the MSA Academy member to a single run, immediately putting him on the back foot.
The afternoon wasn’t much better after a driveshaft failure denied Twynham the chance to make up for lost time, leaving him 21st after an early run on scrubbed tyres had placed him sixth.
Saturday morning’s 30-minute qualifying period gave Twynham a first chance to demonstrate his potential on fresh rubber. Despite lining up 22nd, a three-second improvement in pace over Friday’s running – while only 1.6secs from pole – represented a job well done for the 18-year-old.
A typically great getaway in race one elevated Twynham to 18th after the first turn. However, his Michelin tyres were severely flat-spotted on Paul Ricard’s abrasive run-off areas after twice taking avoiding action when Pietro Fantin and Jazeman Jaafar spun, leaving him to manage the issue for the remaining 21 laps.
Some overnight improvements from Twynham and the British squad put him in good spirits for second qualifying. However – despite setting personal bests in the first two sectors that gained him 0.6sec – a late stoppage caused by Zoel Amberg’s off not only cost Cameron any chance to improve, but also denied him another flying lap.
Nonetheless, Twynham’s progress was demonstrated by consistent lap times during Sunday’s contest, which – allied to a now-perfected pit-stop procedure – enabled him to jump two places during the mandatory change of rubber en route to 18th at the chequered flag.
And with Cameron becoming increasingly confident with the Dallara chassis, his hopes for a promising showing at Jerez’s season finale have been boosted after his first all-dry, albeit frustrating, FR3.5 outing at Le Castellet.
“It was just one of those weekends where we were on the back foot from the beginning,” admitted Twynham. “We had a brand new engine for the weekend, so it was disappointing to lose so much running due to the alternator issue. This hindered our programme for second practice where, after problems with laying rubber in the pit-box, the driveshaft snapped, meaning we had no running on new tyres until qualifying. But sometimes these things happen.
“Considering our lack of preparation, qualifying went smoothly and the team did a brilliant job of getting us back on track. I wasn’t quite sure where to push in places, but to finish only 1.6secs from pole is a great achievement for me. It was unfortunate that I was forced to take to the run-off area in Saturday’s race, which damaged the tyres, but in the end I was happy with the result considering no prior long distance running.
“Encountering a red flag during what was to be my fastest lap in second qualifying was typical of our luck I suppose! But we did all we could in the race. Once again, I gained a few positions at the start and the whole team performed excellently, particularly in the pit-stops, where I managed to jump three cars.
“Now we just need to ensure we work on qualifying pace ahead of Jerez, which is a circuit I’m really looking forward to. Once again, I must thank everyone at Comtec for all their efforts during a tricky weekend, and all my sponsors for their ever-loyal support.”
The ninth and final Formula Renault 3.5 Series round of 2014 takes place at Jerez in Spain on October 17-19.