Triple R deserved a lot more reward from a great performance at the first ever round of the SEAT Leon EuroCup at Valencia last weekend, although its drivers Tom Boardman and Liam McMillan both made their mark in Spain with some brilliant racing in very difficult conditions.
The brand new EuroCup has a very similar format to the FIA World Touring Car Championship, with one qualifying session determining the grid for Race 1. That race begins with a rolling start, and the top eight finishers go on to start Race 2 in reverse order, with a more traditional standing start procedure.
Tom qualified 5th for Saturday’s opening race, and once the race got underway he quickly overtook Michal Matejovski and Fredy Barth to move up to 3rd. Tom could see Oscar Nogués and Marin Colak having a very close battle for the lead ahead, and experience was telling the talented 24-year old driver from Forton in Lancashire to patiently bide his time and wait for the ideal overtaking opportunity. Unfortunately, a sudden torrential downpour of rain began on lap four, creating havoc for all 28 cars who were racing on slick tyres. At the same corner, Nogués ran wide and Colak spun – hitting Tom’s Special Tuning UK Ltd-backed SEAT Leon Cupra and breaking the steering arm. While most gingerly headed to the pits to change onto wet tyres, Tom could only nurse his car back to the pit garage for retirement.
Liam was near the end of the lap when the rain started and was one of the first drivers to pit for wet tyres. The 18-year old driver from Wisbech near Peterborough made the most of his advantage and despite starting the race from the back of the field, finished a superb 6th.
Race 2 took place on Sunday, and whilst there were dark clouds overhead, Round 2 of the EuroCup took place on a dry track.
Tom started from 23rd position and quickly carved his way through the field. He was one of the fastest drivers on the 2.5 mile MotoGP track and had worked his way up to 9th before getting stuck behind Colak, who was driving very defensively. Tom made a number of attempts to overtake, but decided not to risk another collision and a second possible damaged-induced retirement. The decision paid off, because although Tom finished the race in 9th place, he was classified 5th after cars ahead were awarded penalties for various racing offences.
Liam started Race 2 from 3rd place on the grid, but in the sprint to the first corner he was hit from behind by Antonio Aristi. At over 100mph, Liam’s Leon Cupra spun completely sideways across the track and then backwards into the gravel trap, with all 26 rapidly approaching cars miraculously missing him.
Tom Boardman said: “I feel we were very unlucky in Valencia this weekend. I could have won the opening race, but when it started raining Oscar Nogués ran into a gravel trap and Marin Colak locked up and blocked me going around the corner. If we hadn’t have touched and my steering hadn’t broken, I’d have been the first one out of the three leaders into the pits and the first one out on wet tyres, and I’d have been away. Race 2 was pretty exciting because there was a lot of overtaking, but when I caught Colak he was driving very defensively. He was holding everyone behind him up and I tried to get my nose alongside him a couple of times but each time he closed the door very hard. I needed the points after non-scoring in Race 1, so I held position. It’s a bit frustrating because I wanted to win the opening rounds of the EuroCup, but instead we’ve come away with just a few points and little to show from a good performance. It’s just a case of what might have been.”