Just when I thought that after over 100 Porsche Carrera Cup race starts, I had seen everything. Apparently not!! The season opener of the 2017 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia season was anything but that.
The target is simple this season. We at Team Jebsen want to win the Pro Am championship after 2016, which saw increased performance as a team, but some unfortunate results that robbed us of the results we wanted. Though that was last year, and this is 2017 so the team have regrouped, and we have been preparing for our new campaign.
We arrived at the opening weekend of Asia’s Premier one make series supporting the Shanghai Formula 1 Weekend with great hope. We had crossed all of the T’s and dotted the I’s in pre-season and I have also put some mega effort into my physical fitness condition over the off season, so we were ready to go!
The weather looked like we were to face intermediate conditions all weekend. Rain or shine, we were ready to go!! The start of a new season always feels like the first day back at school. Some new faces, and some old ones too!
In 2017, there is now a new format whereby we are having 45 minute practice sessions instead of the traditional 30 minutes, to give drivers a little more time to condition themselves to the circuits. It is undoubtedly going to be pretty fun us as drivers, though we are going to have to drive consistently to be sure not to pinch off tyres. More minutes on circuit, but tyre allocation is going to be the same!
The weekend started off fantastically for me, setting the fastest lap in practice in category, just inching out another new comer that is over a decade younger than me and bloody fast too in Evan Chen! There’s always someone young and fast when we are trying to win!
Qualifying was more of the same as we took pole by over four and a half tenths. To be honest, I remember going back to the weighing scales for my weight after qualifying feeling pretty annoyed that I didn’t get the maximum out of the car but pole position in the pro-am was a saving grace. Though things were just about to get a whole lot worse!!!!
Our car came in for scrutineering and the car went on the scales. When we went to look over the weight which is just a habit, we found the car to be under weight. What the hell had happened? We didn’t know. A first time for this in nine years with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. We were disqualified from qualifying and as a result, needed to start off the back of the grid for both races in Shanghai. It was going to be an uphill battle.
It would’ve been easy to start playing the blame game in a fit of rage but I was very proud of the way in which the members of Team Jebsen handled the situation. We kept our cool, panicked slowly, and after three hours had found the problem. The scales inside the Team Jebsen garage had been calibrated, though calibrated incorrectly. This problem had been inside our system since January without any knowledge. Like the Challenger Space Shuttle of the 80s, we were doomed from the start. Both Jebsen cars were impacted but only mine was weighed. That sucked but as they say, anything can happen in motor racing; and it usually does!
Race 1 started and I got the best career start ever in a Porsche Carrera Cup car. It was awesome. By turn 2, I had leapt some eight places up the grid which was a great way to start!! We continued till lap 5 where my Akash’s car let go, spraying fluid all over my car causing me to spin. I got on the radio to the team getting pretty pissed off saying this is the worse day ever in motor racing. I was being a bit dramatic admittedly but damn, it felt good to complain!!
On the next lap, other cars spun and I found myself up into 5th place which was a miracle. As I climbed up the grid, a few cars in the race sustained damage and the safety car came out. The cars in front of me were bunching up!
After another two laps, it was green lights and the race was on again! I battled hard, getting past two more cars and finishing in 3rd in category. It was a small miracle. I was bloody happy to be on the podium. That evening, I found out the winner was penalized for contact to another car. I was bumped up into 2nd. Race 2 finished with a 5th place and all of a sudden, I was in the equal lead of the championship.
Oh my gosh, I love this sport! Ups and downs. Just keep pushing, and you never know what may happen. To Japan next!!!