A perfect 10th anniversary at the Singapore Grand Prix
It's been a very tough decade getting to the grid year after year in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia but there we were, lined up and ready to go at the Singapore Grand Prix for the 2018 edition of the legendary Marina Bay Circuit.
This season, I have been lining up for the Novu Racing Team in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, the same team that brought me to the Singapore Grand Prix even though I had not been driving in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia this year. Though Novu have branches in Singapore for their Medical Aesthetic services so it was a race that they wanted to compete in! It has been a privilege throughout the years to be able to drive the most mega circuit on the Formula 1 Calendar has I was excited in 2018 as I was when I first drove at our home event all the way back in 2009.
Though things were a little different this time! It was the first time in four years that I hadn’t lined up driving in Team Jebsen. It was the first time in six years that I had lined up without my longest partnership with an engineer in Minal Kanagasundaram. And most unfortunately, it was the first time I lined up without my mechanic Noel since 2009 and Charlie, another mechanic for the first time since 2012. So there were a lot of new changes!
This year, I was working alongside good friend and championship leader, Chris van der Drift along with his engineer Patrick de Groot and their other drive and arch rival for many seasons, Li Chao. Man these guys were a ton of fun!
We went out to practice one and the car was pretty much on it almost immediately. I set some great lap times from the beginning of the session and after about fifteen minutes, the circuit was feeling a lot better as we put some rubber down and some of the dust was removed from the racing line. After all, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia was the first category on circuit for the 2018 Singapore GP, so we knew it was going to be tricky!
The circuit got quicker and unfortunately on two quick laps, the red flag came out as I was setting green sectors. I expected to be over 1 second quicker than the time I had set. We finished in P3 in category. Not the best day but it was cool that Jay Chou rocked up to the Porsche Carrera Cup area and I have him a tour of the car and the pitlane for 30 minutes. Cool guy!
We all knew that more grip would be available to us tomorrow on circuit and made adjustments for that, getting ready for qualifying the next day. After all, the Marina Bay Circuit is a street circuit and you never know when someone has a shunt early in a session so being on it immediately was a definite target.
Qualifying was here. We started on high pressures so one warm up lap would get us immediately on pace and left the pitlane on our first of two new sets of tyres. I must admit, I could’ve been a little too cautious and was still over six tenths away from pole sitter, Francis Tjia and also behind championship leader, Bao Xin Long. I knew it to as the times were coming over the radio.
I decided it was time to pit and try again. The rubber was well over its best and I hadn’t capitalized on the full potential of the tyre. I needed to try again! We put on another new set and off we went again! There was more grip in the track and two laps later, I improved by 1.2 seconds and was on pole position! Oh yeah!
Race day. There was a little pressure on. Starting in front of category means I needed a good launch and stay in front, while making sure I don’t pass the category in front. It was GO GO GO and my big fear was happening as I got a great start and started passing too class A cars in front of me. I needed to give the positions back while not losing pace to the cars behind.
Our car was so quick in the first seven laps. We were flying with a gap of about seven seconds achieved which was phenomenal. Though our advantage slowly faded away as Francis Tjia and Bao Xin Long were catching me quickly. Tjia made a mistake carrying too much speed in a corner, as Bao capitalsied. He pushed me to the end but I was always in control. It was pole to victory and a perfect weekend for myself and the NOVU Racing Team! Was a great weekend and a great moment for the team and I hope to be back for an 11th occasion in 2019!