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DOUBLE WIN FOR FLEMING IN ESTORIL 

"Estoril was a track I had the opportunity to test at. I had raced there in the GT Winter Series earlier in the year so I went into the weekend feeling relatively confident. 

 

Testing and free practice sat me P1 and P2, providing confidence for everyone that if it all went well, we could qualify on the front row. 

 

SATURDAY QUALIFYING- SPLIT SECOND BEHIND

 

Saturday qualifying sat us P2, 0.024 seconds off of the pole sitter. Although it wasn’t the P1 position we had anticipated, it filled us with confidence that we were on the pace. It was also our best executed qualifying run up until this point and we were further positively fuelled from the progression made as a team.

SATURDAY RACE- FROM GRAVEL TRAP TO P1

 

Saturday’s race was not for the faint of hearted.

 

Despite the championship leader starting P1, myself and the team knew we had the potential to repeat the long game plan used in Misano and win. 

The start was perfect, we managed to break away from the pack and sat in second position. For the first 8 laps, I was firmly tucked up the rear of first position, refusing to allow a mental break and constantly applying pressure.

 

10 minutes into the race I was close enough to the leading driver to make a move. However, going into turn 10 the leading driver stopped harshly, therefore slowing me down and preventing me from getting a run out of the corner. 

Unknown to others, this painted a picture for me and I was able to calculate that if he were to suddenly brake again, I would be able to carry enough speed around his outside and therefore have the inside for turn 11. 

 

With 15 minutes to go, I did just that. 

 

I tricked the leading driver into the defensive line at turn 7, allowing me to carry more minimum speed around the corner and close the gap up significantly. He was therefore forced to defend through turn 8 and into turn 9 before the uphill chicane. Like previously, he slowed down harshly and I saw my opportunity to make my move around the outside for the lead. On the exit of the corner I had pulled along side, taking the race lead, only to be forced off the track moments later and into the gravel trap. 

 

After the contact I was pitched straight towards the barrier, but with some smart, quick thinking, I broke heavily to put all possible weight towards the nose of the car and fully locked my steering wheel to the right. This pitched my car away from the barrier, but the momentum was still carrying me towards it. Instinctively I accelerated, allowing me to straighten up and escape the gravel trap, maintaining my P2 position. 

An alert promptly came up on my display, I had a broken differential affecting my ability to steer and control the car, mainly under acceleration.

 

A safety car was released for a separate incident, allowing me to fill the mirrors of the leader once again. Thanks to the safety car conditions I was given a brief window of opportunity to understand how to drive the car with a broke differential before resuming racing. 

 

Race control issued a drive through penalty for the leader due to the contact that lead me to leave the track, which he then served on the last lap. I knew if I had a good safety car restart I had the potential to win the race despite what had occurred. 

The leader backed up the safety car restart, meaning it was extremely hard for me to get away. Despite this and my broken differential, I was able to maintain the lead and come home with another P1. 

 

SUNDAY QUALIFYING- TOP STEP

 

Sunday qualifying was the start of a grand slam. I qualified P1 by 0.142 of a second ; the first time I had done so in the Ferrari Challenge. 

 

From practice and the Saturday race I knew my race pace was extremely strong. We had full confidence that with a good start, we had a chance of winning the race. 

SATURDAY RACE- THE WINNER BY STRIDES 

The start went brilliantly, maintaining P1 into and out of turn 1. The rest of the opening lap was ensuring the driver in second place was unable to get by. 

The next couple laps were the deciding moments of the end result for the race, despite being very early on. I was unable to break away from the person in P2, and was constantly wary of the driver pushing very hard for an overtake. I knew as long as I hit my markers and stayed calm, I would be able to keep the driver behind at bay until their tyres had lost their peak performance.

On lap 7, exactly that happened, placing just over half a second on the driver in a singular lap. By the end of the race I was 9 seconds clear of P2, and 35 seconds ahead of P3. An incredible run, a lot more smooth sailing than Saturday. 

 

Estoril was definitely one to remember, and I credit a lot of it to the team and my sponsors who gave me the opportunity to test prior to the race."

-TF

Thomas Fleming celebrating ontop of his Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo
Thomas Fleming's Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo
Thomas Fleming's Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo
Thomas Fleming's Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo in the gravel
Thomas Fleming celebrating in Estoril, Ferrari Challenge 2023
Thomas Fleming leading the race in Estoril, Ferrari Challenge 2023
Thomas Fleming showing his appreciation to his sponsors, family, fans  and the team via Sky Sports.
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