28.04.10 | Thompson makes Japanese debut
Teenage single-seater star Gary Thompson made a confident debut in the Japanese Formula 3 series at Suzuka last weekend, running as high as fourth in Sunday’s second race before finishing a fine seventh.
The Dubliner had also finished seventh on his F3 race debut on Saturday evening and received plaudits from his team bosses for his ability to adapt to a series of trying circumstances throughout the weekend.
Without any pre-event testing at Suzuka, regarded as one of the most challenging venues on the Formula One calendar, Thompson was faced with the demanding prospect of learning the peculiarities of the circuit during Friday’s practice sessions in the wet.
As if that wasn’t enough, problems with his wet tyres made it difficult to keep the car on track and the best the former karting star could do was tip-toe around trying to become familiar with the track layout.
Saturday dawned clear and dry meaning that Thompson’s first dry weather laps of Suzuka came in the two fifteen-minute qualifying sessions for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday races.
Needless to say, the learning curve was positively alpine but Thompson attacked the task with gusto and by the end of each seven lap session had managed to put many more experienced drivers behind him on the grid for each race, qualifying ninth in class for race one and eighth for race two.
The 17-year-old featured extensively in Saturday afternoon’s first round TV coverage after stalling on the sloping downhill grid that necessitated a tigering drive back through the field to finish seventh in class, thirteenth overall.
In the process he whittled his lap times down to be less than a second shy of the class fastest lap of the 5.8km circuit.
He made no mistake in Sunday’s race start, rocketing off the grid faster than all his class rivals to put three cars behind him on the run to turn one. With a podium spot on offer on his debut weekend, Thompson pushed as hard as he knew how, only to run wide and drop back to the tail of the field from which he produced another impressive comeback drive.
Two seventh place finishes in the National Class was a satisfying return from a first weekend at International Formula 3 level for the Formula BMW Pacific Rookie Cup Champion and afterwards he declared himself content with the outcome.
“That was a tough baptism but we responded well to the challenges and came up with a couple of strong results,” said Gary afterwards.
“Friday was basically a bit of a write off with the wet track and the tyre issue and the first lap in the dry on Saturday felt like the first time I’d driven the place.
“With only seven laps in qualifying to learn the track I was happy to be able to put some guys behind me and I knew we’d be improving from then to the end of the weekend.
“The stall in race one came as I balanced the car on the brake and throttle with my right foot on the downward slope. I got it going again on the button and I was able to chase the field and put a bunch of guys behind me again.
“Sunday’s race was better and I was challenging for the podium when I ran wide. I wasn’t too bothered as the objective by then was to get some decent running and bring the lap times down.
“I think it was an encouraging start and I’m looking forward to the next event in Motegi next month as I’ve tested there and we shouldn’t be so much on the back foot starting the weekend.”
The 16-race Japanese F3 series resumes at Twin Ring Motegi circuit on may 22nd and concludes at Autopolis on October 17th.
For more details see: www.j-formula3.com