Motor racing, like many other sport is full of ups and downs and the 2016 season for me has definitely been one of highs and lows.
Though for me, motor racing goes one step further to bring its drivers, teams and fans to their edge of their seats creating moments of incredible elation and other moments of indescribable terror. As the famous saying goes, ‘that’s racing!’ Easy to say, but so very hard to hear if you are the one in the bad spot.
It was always going to be difficult for me to win back to back titles though this was the target. After a season that was filled with massively good luck in 2015, 2016 has dished out something different; sometimes awesome, sometimes terrible. It’s been one hell of a ride.
Going into the season finale of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2016 season, the target was simple. Finish on the podium for both races and secure our 3rd place position in the championship. We had plenty of pace over the 4th placed driver in our category championship hunt so I thought all I had to do was cruise.
The race weekend, a support race to the World Endurance Championships started well as I went 2nd quickest in practice so things were great. Team Jebsen had prepared for us a lightning fast car, arguably the best set up car on the grid for the season finale. Handling was fantastic and top speeds stood out from the rest of the competitors. Everything was going well!
As qualifying quick approached, I managed to put it 2nd in category, battling hard as the target was simple. Let’s try getting pole position in category as it was another bonus point for the championship, and allowing myself to stretch my points lead to 4th place. Things were still going great as I was a tenth away from Yuan Bo and clearly ahead of Vutthikorn and rival Wayne Shen by over a second a lap. Everything was going according to plan.
Raceday came which comprised of two races and having qualified 2nd for both, I knew I was in with a chance. Race 1 was GO GO GO as the lights went green, and I managed to get one of the best starts of the 2016 season. I rockets passed Yuan Bo and was leading the category race. I had a chance of winning this one as I only managed one win this season in the previous round in Malaysia. We were making a gap while Yuan Bo dropped further back.
Though on turn 5, things were just about to go all wrong. While Yuan Bo was two cars away from me, he desperately lunged into the corner, t-boning my car and retiring us from the race on the first lap. It was a heartbreaking moment for me as the podium was lost. I was well on my way to the worse result in the championship table for me, since 2012. I had higher expectations coming to the season finale.
Yuan Bo was penalized heavily although it didn’t take anything from my DNF. It was a hard moment and the championship podium spots were out of my hands. I had no points on the board, dropped to 4th on the table and only a miracle with the top 3 hitting each other out would result in something good for me. We were deflated and not at all amused. We are angry.
As I got hit, I vented my frustration, furiously punching and kicking in the air. After walking off the circuit, I decided to go back on just to give a wave to Yuan Bo and a sarcastic ‘thank you very much’ to him as well for decided my fate this season.
Race 2 on the other hand saw one of the best performances the team and I had put out all season, as I finished 2nd while chasing Porsche Junior Driver Zhang Da Sheng and eventually managing to get past the childhood wonder. We had an intense battle that went down to the second to last lap. The car was great, with only a little understeer toward the end and we didn’t get caught up in the tangle.
Strange things happen in motor racing. While I was up front, championship leader by a massive 17 points was Vutthikorn, and he only needed an 8th place to win the title. There being no way you could write a better script, lap 1 saw Vutthikorn take a stone into his radiator, disabling the cooling system, and forcing himself into retirement. It was Yuan Bo’s year and the title was in the bag though as Bo didn’t know that Vutthikorn had retired behind, Bo pushed hard throughout the race through to the last lap with me just a whisker behind him. It was a good end to the season after a tough round 11.
Our fastest pace in any season mixed with some questionable results made 2016 a difficult year and in the worlds of The Verve, a Bitter Sweet Symphony. Luckily for us at Team Jebsen, the team and I will be together for the 2017 where winning will be the only target. Follow us on the off-season as we share other parts of the motorsport community!