Brilliant Belgian podium hat-trick sees Jordan King close in on championship lead

Brilliant Belgian podium hat-trick sees Jordan King close in on championship lead

29.07.2013: Jordan King annexed a superb podium hat-trick as the prestigious British Formula

Jordan King annexed a superb podium hat-trick as the prestigious British Formula Three International Series made its first overseas trip of 2013 to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, where the talented Warwickshire single-seater ace’s second victory of his fledgling F3 career enabled him to home in on the championship lead.

Having stunned observers with an extraordinary points-scoring Formula Two debut at Spa in 2011 – entering the sport’s history books as the youngest driver ever to compete in the championship – King returned to the legendary Belgian Grand Prix venue eager to maintain his burgeoning momentum during the course of what is an increasingly impressive F3 rookie campaign.

“Every driver loves Spa,” he enthused. “It’s just a mega circuit – one of the best in the world – and I’ve always enjoyed driving there. It’s got some really long, flat-out straights and some ultra-quick corners like Eau Rouge, Blanchimont and Pouhon, as well as a heavy-braking zone into the chicane. That much variety makes it a real challenge, and when you succeed in putting a strong lap together around there on new tyres, it gives you an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement.”

In the ballpark right from the word ‘go’ as he lapped second-fastest in practice, the highly-rated Stoneleigh-based hotshot replicated that stellar form in qualifying as his Carlin team locked out the top three grid slots for races one and three. Unfortunately, having kept dry up until that stage, the famously fickle Ardennes weather then threw a curve ball as the heavens opened with a vengeance.

“Qualifying proved we had a good handle on the car around Spa, which was hugely encouraging for all the guys both at the track and back at the factory in the UK,” King underlined. “What’s more, I set my best time without the benefit of any tow, which made our performance even more pleasing and left me feeling extremely confident.

“That said, facing three wet races after entirely dry conditions in practice and qualifying is never ideal; all your references – everything you’ve worked towards – go out of the window. Your lap times are 20 seconds slower so you need to completely revise your car set-up – it’s just all so totally different. Worse still, it seemed that the championship leader had been struggling in the dry, so the change played into his hands somewhat.

“I got away pretty well in race one to pass the pole-sitter, but Antonio Giovinazzi pulled alongside me into La Source on the inside line. I think he must then have locked-up under braking, because he slid wide and couldn’t make the corner properly. That forced me wide, too, and allowed several other drivers to undercut both of us, which meant that instead of emerging first and second, we came out only fifth and sixth.

“That was really frustrating, but I got my head down and had regained my starting position by the end of the opening lap. Whilst I couldn’t quite catch the leader after that, second still represented excellent points towards the championship.”

Taking the chequered flag just over a second adrift of his quarry, the McLaren Autosport Award finalist, British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar and MSA Academy member proceeded to fairly scythe his way through the spray – and past his rivals – in race two, storming from seventh on the reversed grid to magnificently tally his second F3 triumph as he flawlessly fended off the infinitely more experienced championship leader.

“I got a good start and by dint of holding a really tight line into La Source, I exited the corner in third place,” King recounted. “I then went all the way around the outside of the driver in second coming out of Pouhon later that same lap, and after homing in on the leader, he made a little mistake going into the chicane halfway through the race. That gave me a run, and I was able to pick him off into Turn One and repel his counter-attack on the exit.

“Although I later had the championship leader right up behind me and hounding me – closing to within just a couple of tenths in the tow on the final lap – I always felt reasonably comfortable and held him off to the flag. It was fantastic to get the win having started down on the fourth row of the grid.

“In race three, I didn’t release the clutch quite quickly enough when the starting lights went out, which cost me three spots, but I subsequently recovered fourth around the outside of Eau Rouge; when I thought back to the manoeuvre after the race, it actually struck me as pretty brave stuff – but you don’t tend to consider that when you’re in the heat of battle and the adrenaline takes over!

“I then caught my team-mate Nick Latifi in third and was lining him up for a move when it absolutely chucked it down and I was suddenly driving blind – I couldn’t see a thing. I had to back off quite a lot and dropped almost ten seconds to him, but after rapidly closing in again, he made an error under braking for the Bus-Stop Chicane which gave me the chance to fight my way past heading up to Eau Rouge on the last lap.”

Completing his trio of rostrum finishes, the 19-year-old Hugo Boss brand ambassador’s fine effort saw him vault from equal-third up to second in the title chase – and narrow his deficit to the top of the table from 24 points to 19 as he switches his attentions to the remaining two rounds.

“Our speed and results at Spa confirmed that we are progressing in the right direction,” he concluded, “even if there was a slight tinge of disappointment in that I felt we should really have come away with at least two wins. Saying that, I was the top points-scorer over the meeting, and had it stayed dry, maybe the outcome would have been different.

“We’re only midway through the season, and I’m really optimistic about the second half. We displayed strong race pace at Brands Hatch in European F3 earlier this year, and I’ve had good results at the Nürburgring in the past. It’s tight at the top of the standings and we need to keep the pressure on – because it’s all still to play for.”

- Russell Atkins,  photos Jakob Ebrey


29.07.2013 / MaP

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