As he bids to battle for glory in his sophomore campaign in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series this year, Nick Tandy is heading to a circuit at which he has never triumphed for the curtain-raiser this weekend – and his first challenge, he well knows, is to turn that statistic on its head.
The Englishman finished ninth in the drivers' title chase in 2008 with his family-run JTR outfit, with three late rostrum finishes to his name to set himself up well for 2009. Though he has no team-mate with whom to compare data, and though JTR is running with the Mygale chassis rather than the conventional Dallara mount, Tandy is optimistic of turning promising testing pace into on-track results.
“We missed the first test at Snetterton,” the 24-year-old reflected, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “The car wasn't quite ready at that stage – and we didn't think it was right to take it out not fully ready – but since then it's been going very well. It seems like the new '09 aero parts especially, from Mygale, have been very good and very successful.
“At Silverstone we tried a few new things, some of which didn't work as well as we'd hoped, but at the end of the day we know we can put it back to the baseline we were running earlier this year. We've got a top five or top six car that we've just got to develop at the track for me to drive hopefully to pole position. Fingers crossed.”
Pole position is something that has thus far eluded the former Formula Ford UK front-runner and Festival winner in British F3, and he is well aware that with the calibre of competition in the 2009 field – particularly in the shape of the Carlin Motorsport quartet – achieving one this year will be no mean feat either. That does not, however, mean that he will not be trying. Far from it.
“You've got to say the Carlin boys,” the Bedford-born ace responded, when asked as to who he believes his principal rivals will be. “From last year it was pretty obvious at the end of the year that they'd got to grips with the new generation of Dallara that they've got.
“Max [Chilton] and Oli [Oakes] have shown real speed in previous years, and obviously Daniel [Ricciardo] comes in with a huge reputation. We're yet to see his potential really, because I don't think a great deal of people have seen a lot of him, but his reputation speaks for itself with what he's done in the past, and like I say the other Carlin boys are all going to be up there.
“The only difference obviously is the change that some of the teams have had to the Volkswagen engine. We're still running the Mercedes-Benz, and we're hoping that this is the better engine. There are other teams that are still using the Mercedes too, and if it is the better engine you might see some of those right up at the sharp end.
“I'm confident. I wouldn't say we're going to be up there fighting for it in every race – I'm not stupid enough to think that – but we [as a team] are in our second year, I'm in my second year and I think I've got to grips with the car. Like I say, if what has been developed over the winter is as good as or better than what the other teams and manufacturers have come up with, we're going to be right there.
“It's difficult to tell from testing speed – different people play different games in testing – but come Oulton and that first qualifying session, that's when we're going to see what's really going on. I've never won a race at Oulton yet in my career, so fingers crossed this is going to be the first year.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE