Liam Venter made a promising start on his maiden outing in the European Formula 3 Open championship during round one of the Winter Series at Paul Ricard in France this weekend, despite nursing a back injury.
Venter, who hails from Johannesburg in South Africa, will race in the Copa class this season having signed a deal with Team West-Tec over the winter.
The 18-year-old used the opening two practice sessions on the Friday to get to grips with his F308 Dallara, before then starting to push in sessions three and four. Liam then continued to up the ante in Saturday's final practice, but was unfortunately hindered by an electronics issue in qualifying.
However by now the problem with his back had got steadily worse and the decision was taken to sit out the race.
“The back muscle strain flared up this week. It was a shame, but we were determined to try and do as much as we could and despite missing the race we learnt a lot,” Liam said.
“On Friday we had four practice sessions and we spent the first two, each one was an hour long, just bedding everything in, myself included. In the third and fourth sessions we were free to push and straight away we were quick.
“My team-mates and I were relatively close, but we were very competitive compared to the other guys and considering most of them have been at this for around about two or three years, it was a good start."
“Final practice on Saturday was also great,” added the Accelerate Driver Development Ltd (ADD)-affiliated youngster. “Straight away we jumped into second place in the class. We had new tyres on, everyone put on new tyres, and I was on a very, very good lap, but I lost it in the last sector. It was a bit unfortunate, but we knew we were quick going into qualifying and the sector times and everything looked very positive.
“Then in qualifying we had a bit of trouble. There was an electronics problem and it meant I was driving blind for the whole session. It was very tricky, as you learn to rely on the electronics, especially when everything is new. But despite that handicap, it also went quite well, and again we were very happy with the sector times.
“However we decided not to take part in the race because of my back. I want to thank my team for all their support this weekend and Craig Dolby, my driving coach, for all his advice. We all felt though, that missing the race was the most prudent course of action to take. We have the whole season ahead of us and the speed shown this weekend gives us lots of cause for optimism.”
Liam's focus now shifts to the second and final Winter Series round at Jerez in two weeks time (March 1-2) and he is determined to build on all he learned at Paul Ricard.
“It will be another new track for me, but I am looking forward to it. I think over this weekend we have shown loads of potential, but never had the chance to put in a lap or show it on the timesheets. I am confident I can do that at Jerez and get back in the rhythm of things and be at 100 per cent,” he concluded.