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DOUBLE PODIUM FOR FLEMING IN FIRST ROUND OF FERRARI CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP 

"The first round of the Ferrari European Challenge championship finally arrived in the south of Spain. With temperatures reaching 30+ degrees Celsius, it was the perfect weather for a motor race. In this event, I made my debut in our main championship for the season, whilst also making my debut in the pro category against some of the best Ferrari drivers from all corners of Europe.

 

FREE PRACTICE 1&2

Practice went by trouble free on Friday, completing all race programmes with time to spare to be prepare us for the weekend ahead despite a red flag midway through the first session for a beached car. In both practice sessions, we placed 2nd overall with a very promising amount of race pace in particular.

 

SATURDAY

QUALIFYING 1 - COMPUTER PROBLEMS

With 16 minutes to go in the qualifying, we decided to come out the pits and start our procedures. After a couple laps to warm up the tyre, I spent the second half of lap 3 pushing to prepare for 3 flying laps. Unfortunately coming round the last corner, the car went into limp mode with a large influx of warning messages from the onboard computer. This meant the car would top out at 50 km/h and is obviously not ideal for setting fast laps. I returned to the pits straight away in hopes we could solve the problem and head back out. With 7 minutes left to go, we decided to turn the onboard computer off and on again which seemed to relieve the issues temporarily. As we headed out once more, the warning messages popped up again and prevented us from setting any sort of competitive lap time. This meant we would start last in the pro class and 16th overall.

After some diagnostics, the cause of the issue was a wheel sensor which had seemingly snapped midway through the session and without the sensor working, the car went into safety mode. There wasn't actually anything wrong with the car, but because the computer lacked information, it shut down the car. All we could put it down to is some pretty bad luck.

 

RACE 1- LAST TO PODIUM 

Starting P16, it was going to be hard to charge through the entire field and reach the other ultra competitive Pro-class drivers due to it being a spec series.

After a brilliant first lap, I moved up into 10th place but with a lot of ground to make up if I wanted to challenge the cars in front. Lap after lap of solid, consistent and fast lap times we reached the tail end of the pro-class. One by one I was able to pick them off and by the chequered flag, I came across the line in an outstanding P2! An extremely impressive drive made for some incredible viewing for the thousands of spectators as well as TV views on the Skysports F1 channel - a perfect message of intent.

I was extremely happy to have claimed for first podium in my debut race. It had been 9 months in the making and all of our hard work had paid off, despite some of the hurdles that we had to overcome. Towards the end of the race in clean air, we were actually the fastest car on track which gave myself and the team a lot of hope going into Sunday.

SUNDAY

QUALIFYING- WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

Contrary to the first qualifying session, qualifying on Sunday had been running very smoothly and according to plan. After setting a good banker lap and with the tyres in the perfect operating window I had one lap to use the tyre's grip at its best condition - this lap would be our best lap.

Sector 1 and 2 saw us improve by a total of 1.2 seconds, and with more grip than the lap before, our third sector had more potential for more time improvement. This lap had the potential go for pole position, or a very comfortable P2, but unfortunately three drivers in the last sector sat on the racing line at 50 km/h and impeded my lap. 

The cause for this was down to the marshals not placing blue flags onto that section of the track according to the head steward. Produce a competitive lap time, we had to do an additional 3 laps which took a considerable amount of tyre life out of the car. We finish the session P4 overall.

RACE 2- DIRTY AIR 

Starting from P4, my action plan was to get into P2 as quickly as I possibly could and then attempt to carry out pace from the latter stages of race 1 and try pressure the leader. 

At the start, I was caught out by the car in front still driving slowly and fell to P5, yet quickly gaining it back the following corner. By this point, due to the set back, the gap I had intended to close had opened a lot more than I had hoped for. On lap 2, I made a good move for P3 and set about catching my way up to second place. 

It took only a handful of laps to reach the back of second place, but due to the wind direction on that day, it meant following was extremely difficult, and a move on a similarly paced car seemed impossible. For 25 minutes I pushed as hard as I could to enforce and error or set up an overtake, but to no luck. Due to a lack of fresh air and older tyres from qualifying, it had meant that with 2 minutes to go I encountered "the cliff". The point of which the tyres lose a considerable amount of performance. With that, the car became less predictable and more loose. The change of characteristic meant that I was caught out by the car, and in my attempts to recover a slide, I exceeded track limits.

Across the line, I came home for another podium which was subsequently taken away from me due to the track limit penalty, ending up P4 overall.

With everything set and done, I am extremely happy with my debut in the Ferrari European Challenge. We overcame adversity and put on some brilliant performances which was shown live on TV! As a team we understand the creases we have to iron out and we head to the second round of the championship in Misano, Italy, with lessons learnt and prospects to achieve the top step of the podium.

I'd like to thank FF Corse, Bobby Thompson and HR Owen for their belief in me as well as their support and I look forward to more trophies this year."

 

-TF
 

Thomas Fleming's Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo
Thomas Fleming inside his Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo
Thomas Fleming celebrating on the podium
Thomas Fleming's Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo
Thomas Fleming's Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo
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