Well one of the busiest, if not the busiest season of racing is over for me. It has been an incredible year and the biggest learning curve I've ever experienced. The trend of the season was massive improvement every weekend and sure enough we stayed true to that in the final two GP3 weekends of the year...
Last time I checked in I was just getting ready for GP3 at Spa-Francorchamps. First of all, what an absolutely incredible circuit. As soon as you get there and look up at Eau Rouge, your mind is blown! No simulator or game does it justice, as soon as you get on track and experience the real deal its an incredible feeling. However, I must say that in the dry, it is very simple for the GP3 cars to get Eau Rouge flat, simply because we don't really have enough horsepower to make it extremely challenging. During our one and only practice session for the weekend I think it rained 10-12 times (maybe a small exaggeration) so I definitely experienced the typical Spa weather pretty early in the weekend. Practice was a lot of fun though because of the conditions. It started dry and I was able to take Eau Rouge flat on lap 2 (I know, should have been lap 1...) but after about three laps the rain started coming down. That was an entirely new learning experience!
Qualifying was where things got really interesting. After one session on a new track for me, it was time to throw down for pole. The session started wet but with each lap the track got a bit more dry. With about 12 minutes left we were in the pits thinking about going to slick tires. There were two cars who had just gone to slicks but they were struggling. We decided to put on scrubbed slicks and go out.
It was really sketchy because half of the track was still considerably wet but half was pretty dry. Now Eau Rouge was a challenge. It was a little damp and on slick tires it was one of those times you just held your breath going through the corner and hoped for the best. The very last timed lap was going to be my best, considering we'd have the most temperature in the tires and the track would be at its driest. So when I approached Eau Rouge on my last lap I had to take it flat. Sure enough I got it done with a bit of opposite lock, of course, but, hey, it worked. That lap ended up good enough for my best qualifying result of the season with sixth. I was pretty stoked to get out there and race!
After watching the weather go from wet to dry another hundred times during the day on Saturday it was time for Race 1 and the sky decided it wanted to rain. It was a great rain race, though. The guys at the front were all pretty equal, so it made it difficult to make up many positions but I had a great race with Alexander Sims and got a lot of experience with defending my position. At one point coming through Blanchimont (the fast corner before the bus stop), Sims was right behind me and the rear stepped out in a big way and I did my best Ken Block impression to keep the car going straight. That was fun. I ended up finishing fifth, which was my best finish of the season.
For Race 2, I'd say the track was about 95 percent dry. I started fourth and heading down the straight into Les Combes on the first lap Tom Dillman, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and myself were three wide and I was on the inside. However, as we got close to the braking zone I saw a bit of a mist of water being tossed up by the rear diffuser and I knew that wasn't good...
As soon as I hit the brakes, I was backward. I did a good 720-degree spin and straightened the car up as I jumped over the sleeping policemen in the run-off. Fortunately, I only fell back to ninth. So, from then on, I just worked on trying to learn the track in the dry! I really only had around four laps on the track in full dry conditions, so every lap I found myself finding more speed. Unfortunately, the balance of the car was not good considering we had very little time to work on the dry weather setup. I wasn't able to do much because we lacked some pace but I ended up finishing seventh right outside the points. Still our best weekend of the season and I just couldn't wait to continue improving at Monza for the final weekend of the season.