Podium on Nissan Micra Cup Debut

 Race 1 Podium: After putting it all on the line just to be on the grid there was one key emotion. Relief. (Photo: Nissan Micra Cup Facebook)

Race 1 Podium: After putting it all on the line just to be on the grid there was one key emotion. Relief. (Photo: Nissan Micra Cup Facebook)

The 2017 Nissan Micra Cup season began at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport) Ontario as part of the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend on the 19-21 May. While it was a relief to finally be able to focus on racing for a few days, there were still plenty of questions to answer as I headed into the weekend. Regardless of the story so far, at the end of the day RESULTS are what matter so it was a big relief to finish on the podium in Race 1 and be 4th in the championship after Round 1.

Session by session summary

Thursday Practice

  • Session 1: 7th
  • Session 2: 5th
  • Session 3: 8th

After the limited running at the Official Nissan Micra Cup test day two weeks earlier, the goal for Thursday was to firstly make sure the car was running at 100%, then focus on the basics of learning the track and understanding how the car behaved on the Pirelli tyres. Mosport is a challenging track to learn with big elevation changes and multiple (FAST) blind corners which definitely reward commitment and bravery. Add to that the fact that most of these fast corners can be taken FLAT in the Micra, it definitely took a few laps to find the limits. While I still had a little speed to find, I was content being able to complete plenty of laps and felt much more confident in the Nissan Micra Cup Car by the end of the day.

Friday Practice

  • Session 1: 8th

While we had almost perfect sunny and warm conditions on Thursday, we were greeted with overcast conditions on Friday with ambient temperatures almost 20 degrees cooler than the day before. We decided to again use the session to experiment with tyre pressures and ultimately found a setting that I probably won't try again! The positive was that even though the car's handling was less than ideal, I was still able to set a lap time that was faster than my best on Thursday.

Qualifying (30 mins)

  • Qualifying for Race 1 (1st 15 min): 3rd
  • Qualifying for Race 2 (2nd 15 min): 7th

The 30 minute qualifying session was essentially split into two halves, with your best time from the first half of the session determining your grid position for Race 1, and your best time from the second half of the session for Race 2. Unfortunately an incident for fellow Micra Cup debutant Vincent Doyle (car 3) at turn 4 on the out lap brought out the red flags before any times were set and the delay meant the first half of the session turned into a 1 lap shootout.

The timing of the red flag meant I was the second last car in the queue leaving pit lane so I had to push hard and pass some cars on the out-lap to get good track position and find someone of similar speed to draft (which is so important in these cars) which I was able to do. A clean lap on cold tyres was good enough to qualify P3 for my first ever Micra Cup race.

In the second half of the session I wasn't so fortunate with track position and had to back off to find clear track space. While I was struggling a little with the balance of the car as the tyres came up to temperature (we were still testing tyre pressures at this stage) and doing the lap on my own without a draft, I was able to qualify P7 for Race 2.

 2017 Nissan Micra Cup Race 1 Start (Photo: Nissan Micra Cup Facebook)

2017 Nissan Micra Cup Race 1 Start (Photo: Nissan Micra Cup Facebook)

Race 1 (30 mins)

  • Start: 3rd
  • Finish: 3rd

In what was my first rolling start since my last go kart race almost 4 years ago, I was able to get away cleanly and hold 3rd position behind Jean-Michel Isabelle and Kevin King until the safety car was called during lap 2 after an incident involving the pole sitter Stefan Gauthier and Brian Maske.

The race was restarted on lap 8 and I was again able to hold 3rd position before attempting a pass on Kevin for 2nd into turn 3 on lap 9. Unfortunately another safety car had been called just as I was making the pass due to an incident involving Samuel Rowe and Frederic Bernier at turn 8. It was deemed the full course caution was called before I had completed the pass so I had to give the position back to Kevin and drop back to 3rd.

Due to the severity of the incident the race finished under safety car conditions.

 2017 Nissan Micra Cup Race 2 Start (Photo: Nissan Micra Cup Facebook)

2017 Nissan Micra Cup Race 2 Start (Photo: Nissan Micra Cup Facebook)

Race 2 (30 mins)

  • Start: 6th
  • Finish: 4th

Heavy rain just before the start meant the race would be run in wet conditions from start to finish. A penalty for the pole sitter Stefan Gauthier for causing the incident with Brian Maske in Race 1 meant he would have to start from pitlane meaning everyone would start one place higher than where they qualified.

Starting on brand new green wets and being my first ever wet session at Mosport, I was cautious for the first few corners dropping one place to Normand Boyer, but was fighting to get the position back from lap 2. After a frustrating few laps stuck behind Normand, we both caught and passed Valerie Limoges on lap 7 elevating me back to 6th, before I was finally able to make the pass stick on Normand on the following lap, elevating me to 5th.

Over the next 7 laps I was able to close a 7 second gap to 2015 champion Olivier Bedard and Kevin King who were fighting for 3rd place, setting the fastest lap of the race along the way (lap 14) and catching them as we started the final lap. Knowing I had much more speed I was able to pass Olivier around the outside of turn 3 after he had run wide in turn 2 elevating me to 4th. With half a lap remaining I was able to get a run on Kevin up the back straight and almost draw alongside, but a yellow flag at the end of the straight meant I couldn't pass and had to tuck in behind him. With only three corners remaining before the chequered flag I wasn't able to find another opportunity to attack Kevin but was able to hold off Olivier and finish in 4th.

Championship Position after Round 1: 4th

If it wasn't for the timing of the yellow flags in both races, I could have been as high as 2nd in the championship, but I'm content to come out of my first weekend in the Micra Cup with the Race 1 podium and know I'm immediately on the pace of drivers with previous Micra Cup experience including the 2015 & 2016 champions Olivier Bedard and Xavier Coupal.

Round 2 of the 2017 Nissan Micra Cup will be held at Mount Tremblant, Quebec from 26-28 May.