I was annoyed before this race started. In warm-up another driver had stopped exactly on the racing line as soon as the session ended and I had no time to react so had myself a beautiful car contact penalty for no reason whatsoever. He apologized, and I didn’t say anything, but it irked me and the feeling stuck with me throughout the race ahead.
I ran a quick qualifying session on Friday, setting a 2:12.646 laptime that I was fairly pleased with. I knew I was probably capable of 2:11, so was really looking forward to racing over the weekend.
As things turned out I didn’t have time during the weekend and had to race on Monday. After joining the session and saying hi to Steve Claeys I had the unfortunate incident mentioned above. I then joined the grid for the race in second-place. Steve was starting first and the person I had the warm-up issues with lined up in third.
I got a good start but third-place Matej Sagmeister got a better one and took second from me around the first turn. It took until lap four before I managed to take second-place back.
Matej drove very aggressively to defend his position and with what had happened in warm-up, coupled with the fact that I’d started to get annoyed with him driving defensively, I had basically wound myself up. So when I had finally passed on lap four I continued to think about his driving rather than concentrating… This backfired on lap six when I spun after running wide in the first turn – this dropped me to fifth-place.
Starting lap seven I gained a position as Thomas O’Dowd spun ahead of me. Meanwhile I was pushing hard to catch Andrew Cherry and Matej ahead of me.
By lap eight I was closing in on Andrew in third-place. He had run wide before the esses and by the time he recovered I was glued to his gearbox. We started lap nine and both braked very late for turn one: I had to turn really tight to avoid running into him and managed to avoid contact as I took third-place.
I now had to push really hard to catch Matej who was running comfortably in second-place. I set my fastest lap of the race, a 2:12.433 on lap ten and I lapped just as fast until lap 13 when I caught up with him.
I started to move around a lot in an attempt to make Matej make a mistake and luckily for me he ran off the road on lap 14, handing me second-place. At the time I was glad to have taken the place without having to fight past defensive driving.
So I am happy with a second place finish, but know I could have won.
In those early laps I was going three-seconds slower than my basic race pace because of Matej and at the time that really annoyed me. I’m glad that I didn’t say or do anything at the time though because I normally don’t have any problem with defensive driving of that sort, my mood was obviously tainted by the warm-up incident, which I think he learned from – judging by the apology. Now I look back on it, hours and hours later, it was actually a really challenging race and that’s why we do this, isn’t it? He made me drive totally differently to how I had intended to, he got into my head, he kept me behind him and forced me to make a mistake even after I passed him. Watching the replay in those early laps it’s actually really interesting to watch what I was doing because without even realizing it I kept moving around in his mirrors and trying to make it look like I was going to pass when I had no intention to, and on lap four that is exactly what forced him into an error at the esses and led me to eventually pass at the end of the lap. Good fun!