Sam’s first F3 Euroseries race turned out to be a true test of his racing skills and mental fortitude but the BP Ultimate Driver rose to the challenge, as he has done so often in the past, and came through in splendid fashion.
Having topped the time sheets in pre-season practice sessions, the CJ Motorsport managed driver was in buoyant mood heading to Hockenheim this weekend.
The practice sessions were held in appalling wet conditions, so much so that the qualifying session on Friday had to be postponed until Saturday morning. The track was still wet but drying out, and everyone knew that their best lap would be at the very end of the session. Sam was prepared for this and was about to do his last lap before the chequered flag, when “a muffin on slicks” (to quote a respected journalist) appeared out of the pits just in front of him, and being on the wrong tyres for the conditions, he baulked Sam’s best efforts and lost him a staggering 2 seconds. Despite brilliant 2nd and 3rd sectors, he had no answer to that 2 second deficit and ended up 23rd on the grid. As the official track timing would later show, a 1st sector time taken from any of his previous 4 laps would have put him 5th on the grid.
However, never one to let his head drop or shy away from a challenge, Sam duly lined up on the 12th row of the grid. As the first race of the season unfolded, the newly selected BRDC “Superstar” profited from a few retirements but more remarkably overtook 8 cars on the track, very much making the show, to eventually take the chequered flag in 10th position. “With the reverse grid format, I was desperately trying to get up to 8th” he said after the race, “which would have given me pole for Sunday’s race. However, with the safety car period, and being stuck behind a slower car which managed to make itself very wide, I didn’t have time to make up those extra two places. I feel I could have done it in different circumstances”.
Race day two dawned sunny at last, and Sam started in 10th slot. A race long battle with Gotz and Tsukakoshi was the highlight of the day and had the Hockenheim faithful on the edge of their seats. Sam eventually overcame both competitors to finish a remarkable 6th and in the points.
“It’s been an eventful few days” said Sam on Sunday afternoon. “After an unfortunate qualifying session, I bounced back and I’m quite pleased that I’ve opened my Euroseries account with a point. I had to dig deep this weekend but I’ve got a great team behind me in Manor Motorsport and I’m lucky to have the support of some great sponsors, BP Ultimate of course, but also my new sponsor Marc “The Edge” Ivey who was here to cheer me on.
The Euroseries is definitely very competitive but I always knew it would be and I’m enjoying every minute of it! I’m really looking forward to the next round in Mugello, another new track for me. ”
John Booth, Manor Motorsport’s team boss said afterwards: “Sam recovered brilliantly from a big setback in qualifying that was not of his own making. He drove superbly all weekend to get himself and the team into the points.”
Sam’s next race is at Mugello, Italy, on May 3/4